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Snake clings to wing of Qantas flight

Enduring minus 12 degree temperatures and winds of up to 400km/hr a snake clings to the wing of a Qantas plane on the way from Cairns to Papua New Guinea. Vision: Robert Weber.

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The year 2013 proved once again that when it comes to travelling, there is one thing Australians are obsessed by: airlines.

It's not that surprising – unlike travellers from many other parts of the world, if you want to reach another country from Australia, you have to fly there (or take a cruise ship).

But it is the more unusual air travel stories that prove most popular with Traveller's readers and this year was no exception.

Cold country, warm reception ... Iceland has been rated the world's most welcoming country for visitors.

Cold country, warm reception ... Iceland has been rated the world's most welcoming country for visitors. Photo: Getty Images

The most-read story this year was the tale of the snake on a plane. But this was no serpent on the loose in the cabin, it was something even more unusual than that. In January, a python climbed on to the wing of a Qantas plane in Cairns and stayed there after the plane took off, much to the surprise of passengers. Although the snake valiantly held on to the wing in the whipping wind, it ultimately failed to survive the trip.

The story and accompanying video and photos went viral around the world, making it the number one most-viewed Traveller story of the year.

The second most-viewed article also concerned air travel. When Samoa Air announced in April it would start charging passengers by how much they weighed, the airline made headlines around the world. The story received plenty of comments from Traveller readers, who regularly cite overweight passengers that don't fit into their seats as a frustration for their neighbours.

The snake as seen on the wing of the Qantas flight from Cairns to Port Moresby. Click for more photos

Snake on a plane

The snake as seen on the wing of the Qantas flight from Cairns to Port Moresby. Photo: Robert Weber

  • The snake as seen on the wing of the Qantas flight from Cairns to Port Moresby.
  • The snake as seen on the wing of the Qantas flight from Cairns to Port Moresby.
  • The snake as seen on the wing of the Qantas flight from Cairns to Port Moresby.
  • The snake as seen on the wing of the Qantas flight from Cairns to Port Moresby.
  • Passengers photographing the snake stuck on the wing of the Qantas plane.
  • The snake as seen on the wing of the Qantas flight from Cairns to Port Moresby.
  • The snake as seen on the wing of the Qantas flight from Cairns to Port Moresby as it lands.
  • A snake as seen on the wing of a Qantas plane during a flight from Cairns to Port Moresby after landing.
  • Qantas crews reaction to the snake stuck on the wing of the Qantas plane after it landed in Port Moresby.

Which is the most friendly country in the world? According to a study released in April, it certainly wasn't Australia. We managed to rank only 27th on the list, behind Yemen, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Iceland came in at number one in the third most-read Traveller story this year, followed by our neighbours in New Zealand.

Qantas had a tough year, with the recent announcement that the airline is facing a loss of $300 million for the first half of the financial year. But the Flying Kangaroo had better news in June in our fourth most-read story, when it climbed back into the top 10-rated airlines in the world at the annual World Airline Awards. Emirates was named the best airline in the world, with Qantas climbing to the number 10 spot, up from number 15 the previous year.

Our fifth most-read story was less of a travel story and more of an anti-travel story, because the places featured will never be visited by tourists. Our extract of 10 places from the book by Daniel Smith, 100 Places You Will Never Visit, was a huge hit with readers, revealing fascinating places that are off limits to the public, from US military bases to Brazil's Snake Island which is, you guessed it, overrun by snakes.

The piece inspired Traveller contributor David Whitley to take a look at the places in Australia that are also off-limits, and he came up with an equally fascinating and surprising list.

The top 10 most-read stories on Traveller in 2013

1. Snake hitches a ride on the wing of a Qantas jet (January).

2. Samoa Air announces plans to charge passengers by how much they weigh (April).

3. Study names Iceland as the world’s friendliest country (April).

4. Qantas soars back into top 10 in best airline rankings; Emirates named world’s best (June).

5. Secret spots: 10 places around the world you can never visit (March).

6. British, Finnish and Swedish passports named the best for travellers (October).

7. TripAdvisor names Lampedusa island beach as the world’s best (February).

8. The truth about being an international flight attendant (July).

9. World’s most expensive cities for tourists named (June).

10. Ben Groundwater on how Gen Y sucked the fun out of travel (May).

What were your favourite travel moments of 2013, whether in the media or personally? Leave a comment below.