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2010 Leading Edge Awards

© Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Philadelphia at Penn's Landing
It's not easy to serve up excellence in the travel business. In 2010, we honor the companies that still manage to deliver true value to customers.

Best Frequent-Flier Program—Africa/Middle East/South America/Other

Gold: Aeromexico Silver: Air Canada Bronze: Emirates Airline

Best International Airport

Gold: Seoul-Incheon International Airport Silver: Hong Kong International Airport Bronze: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Best Luxury Hotel Chain with Locations Outside North America

Gold: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group Silver: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Bronze: Ritz-Carlton Hotels & Resorts

Editors' HONORS Virgin America

Virgin America’s entry into the U.S. airline market in 2007 was a bold move. Since then, the low-cost carrier has gradually added routes (it now serves 12 cities), and this summer, Virgin America introduced nonstop service from Toronto to San Francisco and Los Angeles. In addition, the carrier’s onboard experience sets it far above its peers—particularly in coach, where the competition comes up short.

Editors' HONORS Sheraton

Starwood recently completed a global overhaul of the Sheraton brand, with admirable success. The three-year project upgraded the Sheraton properties with the new Sweet Sleeper bed, a social lobby concept built around technology (the link@Sheraton), refurbishment of existing properties and shedding of properties that weren’t up to snuff. All told Starwood invested more than $6 billion worldwide on the brand. We say that’s money well spent.

Editors' HONORS Southwest Airlines

In April, two-thirds of Southwest’s fleet began flying with satellite-guided cockpit technology. The airline invested $175 million in the technology and has retrained more than 6,000 pilots—an effort that Southwest bets will pay off when it can expand to fly more direct routes and use more gradual approaches to airports, saving time and money. Honorable mention goes to Alaska Airlines, the first airline (albeit smaller than Southwest) to make a commitment to equipping its fleet with this NextGen technology.

Editors' HONORS NYC & Company

New York City’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization has been innovative and aggressive in promoting the city. Case in point: It recently inked a partnership with American Airlines, which will increase the carrier's commitment to New York City (such as adding 13 routes in 2010). In turn, NYC & Company will promote the airline and attract more visitors to the city. Win-win situations like these benefit the most important partner of all: the traveler.

Editors' HONORS India Luxury Lodging

The hospitality industry in India is spectacular, particularly in the luxury category. Companies such as Leela, Oberoi and Taj have developed extraordinary properties that capitalize on local beauty and bring forth an eastern service sensibility. As business travel rebounds, the world’s fascination with the east continues and India’s business economy flourishes, these properties will create a hospitality environment that’s second to none.

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