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Surveys Reveal Best & Worst Airlines

Before you fly over the holidays, you need to hear what frequent fliers are saying about air travel.

"Early Show" contributor and CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg shared the results of two recent travel surveys and gave tips on making your holiday travel a festive occasion.

A Smarter Travel survey, conducted on 7,400 readers, found that the cleanest airplane cabins were found on Southwest Airlines, JetBlue and Continental. And the dirtiest cabins? Greenberg said those belonged to U.S. Airways, American Airlines and United.

Smarter Travel Reader's Choice Survey

Greenberg said, "(It's) not necessarily that surprising when you consider the fact that Southwest Airlines only flies one kind of plane, and the flight attendants are always going through the cabins, cleaning them up. Same thing with JetBlue. And Continental having a newer fleet."

As for the best on-time service, according to the Smarter Travel survey, Southwest, JetBlue and Continental ranked the highest among readers.

Greenberg also discussed a recently released Zagat airline survey, which covers 16 domestic and 73 international airlines, as well as 30 domestic airports. The survey, conducted on ZAGAT.com, incorporates the opinions of 5,895 frequent fliers and travel professionals (e.g. travel agents) who collectively took 97,600 flights in the past year.

The best frequent flier programs, the survey found, are serviced by Virgin Atlantic, Alaska Airlines and Southwest.

That means, Greenberg said, "If you earn the miles, you earn the points, you actually redeem them in a reasonable amount of time."

Also, the best airline Web sites, according to the survey, are Virgin America, Southwest Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.

Zagat Airline Survey

As for the airlines' luggage policies, Southwest ranked No. 1, followed by JetBlue and Continental.

When you're traveling, you should also keep your health in mind, as well, Greenberg said, by being "your own best cop" on the plane.

"Take your handy wipes, get your disinfectant wipes, and touch everything you're touching," he said. "The head rest, the armrest the seatbacks, tray tables, wipe them off. You'll be amazed what comes off those tables."

As for the complimentary pillows and blankets, Greenberg recommended staying clear of both during your flight.

"That blanket would need a hazmat suit to touch. It goes up in the overhead rack. Never look at it, touch it. Same thing with the pillow. Even if the pillow is wrapped in plastic, get rid of it."

In the realm of luggage, Greenberg said it's better not to check a bag, but rather use a door-to-door carrier service to ship your items to your destination to avoid airport headaches.

"There are only two kind of airline bags, carry-on and lost, let's be honest," he joked. "… I save two and a half hours of my life every time I travel by not checking a bag. I Fed-Ex my bags. You can U.P.S. Them. There are 15 other services that do door-to-door courier service."

Greenberg also addressed how to avoid travel delays this holiday season. But he said you can't go by best and worst airline rankings.

"You cannot judge an on-time airline by an airline. You have to do it by individual flight and route," he said. "If you're on the one flight that's late 96 percent of the time, that's no longer the on-time airline."

Greenberg recommended the U.S. Department of Transportation's Web site, which publishes monthly reports on airline routes and airlines.

U.S. Department of Transportation Monthly Airline Reports

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