It has been said that Third Culture Kids feel far more loyalty to airlines and airports than to nations and governments, so with that in mind when Jet Blue banners fly across my computer screen with $44 fares highlighted in their familiar blue I always look. The flights are cheap, you get one checked bag at no cost and their boast of “extra leg room” is entirely accurate.
I flew before I walked and can’t count the number of flights I’ve taken, or airlines and airports I have had the privilege to meet. At the risk of sounding annoying and “remembering the good old days”, when it comes to airlines, it was the good old days.
International flights often included overnights in major cities world-wide at the cost of the airline. All inclusive packages with meals and transportation vouchers to and from the airport were the norm. In-flight meals, drinks and toys were complimentary and we even got little wing pins to proudly place on shirts or jackets that said “Fly the Friendly Skies“. Extra baggage didn’t come at an exorbitant fee and you could often talk your way out of the cost through smiles and thanks.
Consider the average flight today where a grumpy airline employee checks you in, or you check yourself in, and then wander over to make sure your luggage will get on as well. You wait, sometimes for hours with no information, to find out your flight is delayed and once you finally leave, peanuts, pretzels and drinks are thrown at you across the aisle.
But even in the current abysmal state of the industry there are those airlines that rise to the top and get high marks for everything from flight schedules to customer service, so today I bring you the “Oscar” awards for airlines
For domestic airlines in the United States the Oscar will be shared, going to Jet Blue and Southwest. Both offer great prices, generous luggage allowances, credit cards to help you build miles and all in all a good flying experience. News this past fall that Southwest has purchased Air Tran put a smile on my face!
Bottom of the barrel – no doubt American airlines with their frequent cancellations and rude interactions, and NO – getting an email telling me that my flight scheduled for 8am will be leaving at noon is not ok. United is right down there too, with equally bad schedules, although perhaps not as quick to change flights.
If flying internationally the Oscar goes to Swiss. With their hot towels to refresh you in economy class and their attention to detail and comfort, even with a delayed plane, they rise to the top. A stop in Zürich, particularly if you have young children, is a treat as the airport has a fully equipped play room/nursery with a special room just for babies. Memories of hours in that nursery remind me that it saved us from what could have been miserable times of waiting by gates during long lay overs – we owe this airport our sanity. A close runner-up could be British Airways as I have always had lovely flights on British Air.
Virgin Air gives a cheap but uncomfortable flight to London, and if you are patient you can usually find British Air tickets for almost the same price. I have heard that Singapore Air could probably get a world-wide Oscar for the best airline (which I tend to believe as the efficiency in Singapore is legendary) but I can’t speak from experience on the airline. Lufthansa could be up there as a competitor, though not winner, and after our recent trip to Egypt, we would swear by the Egypt Air New York/Cairo Nonstop flight.
I’ve been told that Iceland Air is the bottom of the barrel internationally so I will not be swayed by their cheap prices, realizing I will pay the cost some other way (like having to make sure of change in my pocket in order to use the bathroom). I assure you I am not being dramatic – Ryan Air out of Ireland does have a “pay when you go” policy on using the loo.
So what about you? Who gets the Oscars from your experience? Would love to have you weigh in – Favorite Airlines, Worst airlines, Worst airline stories – we want to hear it all!
- Ever heard of a $450 bag fee? Now you have! (cbsnews.com)
- Watch out for flight changes, tight connections (cnn.com)
- Field Trip to the Airport (communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com)
- From Brochure to Beach: Anticipation in the Art of Travel
- I Flew Before I Walked!