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It’s easy to find “Best” and “Worst” lists for airlines scattered throughout the internet. What some of these lists don’t answer is Best according to whom? What may be best for one traveler could be a deal-breaker for another.
Each airline will sell itself as being the overall best option, but peer opinion can help determine where some airlines fall short. When booking your next flight, it will be helpful to know how an airline ranks according to your personal travel needs and which ones stand out from the fleet.
For Frequent Flyers
For those who travel often, it is a wise idea to become a Frequent Flyer member of your favorite trusted airline. If you’re going to spend so much time in the sky, you may as well reap the benefits of it. For these types of travelers, it may not be so much about the airline, as it is about the benefits that the airline provides.
For top performers, Delta Skymiles continues to impress year after year with perks like no expiration on miles, partnerships with other airlines (meaning you can earn and redeem or transfer your miles), free checked baggage, priority boarding, and more as you move up the ladder. Other programs at the top of the list include Hawaiian, which offers the highest value of rewards, and JetBlue whose miles also don’t expire.
Whether you frequently travel domestically or on international flights, joining a program that is part of one of the major airline alliances will have extended benefits. Be sure to check which alliance your preferred airline is a member of because you will be able to transfer and earn points between many carriers. The partnerships include Oneworld which has 15 partner airlines, Skyteam, which has 19 airlines, and Star Alliance, which is the largest with 27 members. Not only will this give you a chance to check out different airlines, but it will also broaden the number of places you can travel to with your Frequent Flyer membership.
Additionally, you may want to consider using credit cards which give you Frequent Flyer miles, just for spending money! You don’t want to go into debt, but if you have credit cards anyway, institutions such as Capital One, American Express, and Lufthansa Credit Card sometimes offer sign up bonuses, and each one is good for various travel purposes.
We’ve all been on a flight with a crying baby or an unhappy toddler. As a passenger, it may be frustrating, but imagine the effort it takes from the parents and staff. When traveling with little ones, there are many things your family will need to consider, including in-flight entertainment, food options, and reliability.
Qantas has movie and TV channels that are specifically for kids as well as family zones in many of their lounges. JetBlue and Delta are great for families with little picky eaters, while Alaska, United JetBlue, and Delta receive much appreciation for their early family boarding. Etihad Airways even has a flying nanny who will provide games and entertainment for your children!
Spirit lands at the bottom of the list due to added fees and no guarantee that your family will all be able to sit together. Poor customer service and flight delays make for a travel nightmare when it comes to flying with children.
Consideration for the Disabled and Elderly
When it comes to disabled and elderly flyers, we can all agree that the more manageable the flying process is for them, the better it is for everyone. Special care and attention need to be paid in order to ensure that they can get the service they require.
It can be as simple as early boarding on flights which is offered by airlines such as Delta, United, and Alaska Airlines. Whether you’re moving a little slower these days or are temporarily unable to deal with the pushing and bustle of other flyers, these airlines will let you have a head started so you don’t have to deal with the stress of trying to rush yourself out of the way. Take your time, and your stewardesses will be happy to help if needed.
An extra bonus for Delta and United is that they offer senior citizen discounts. When flying is so expensive, every little bit helps. British Airways, Southwest and American Airlines also offer senior discounts.
Virgin Atlantic and British Airways both have wheelchair-accessible restrooms, while JetBlue has been praised for their consideration and onboard help for those in wheelchairs.
Budget Conscious Travellers
Want to jet around the world on a dime, or take a last-minute flight back home? Then budget airlines were made for you. With the travel industry’s growing popularity, some budget airlines have truly gone the extra (air) mile to ensure your comfort. After all, just because you want a deal doesn’t mean you want to feel like you’re in the cheap seat in the back!
Are you trying to keep costs low on your great European adventure? Try Ryanair for “no-frills” flying. Looking for cheap travel in the Southeast Asia sector? Scoot Airlines can get you around to 18 countries. Thinking of heading down under? Jetstar will have you hopping around Australia, and you can even use Qantas Frequent Flyer points. If you aren’t worried about all the extras and don’t mind a little less legroom, these airlines are your best bet!
When booking budget airlines, remember that the idea is to save money. Beware of certain airlines that appear to be easy on your wallet, but then hit you with hidden fees. Spirit Airlines will usually have prices that are too good to be true, and that’s because they are. Watch out for extra charges such as carry-on baggage or weight restrictions as well as fees to reserve your seat after you have booked your flight.
Of course, we’d prefer every flight to be smooth and comfortable, but when it comes to international flights, the comfort level needs to be sky-high. You might be able to get by being crammed into a seat with no leg room for two hours, but a long-haul flight from Houston to Sydney, Australia is a whopping 17+ hours on United Airlines, one of the longest trips you can take without a layover.
With international flights, it’s essential for the airline to get you to your destination with comfort and safety, but you also want it to be competitive in pricing and have extra perks, both in-flight and on the ground.
Singapore Airlines and Emirates consistently score high on the list. With comfortable seats, good food, and fantastic customer service, you might just forget that you’re on a plane!
For those who can afford to add a little more comfort when it comes to flying, being in first or business class can mean the difference of feeling like your flight was either way too long or not long enough. Whether you’re flying for work or pleasure, there are a few airlines out there that have really proven that the sky is the limit.
For starters, airlines like Qantas and Lufthansa have great first-class lounges with the latter offering its very own first-class terminal in Frankfurt, Germany and a chauffeured driver to the airplane in either a Mercedes or Porsche. It doesn’t get much more important than that!
Business-class flights with United Airlines, Qatar, Delta Airlines, and Singapore have been noted to have comforts such as extra legroom, ultra-comfortable seats, restaurant-quality meals, and more privacy.
Because there aren’t many differences between flying business or first class (versus economy), many airlines, such as Delta, are choosing to eliminate first-class altogether and make business class the combination of both worlds.
Need something a little flashier? Perhaps you want to treat yourself or your family to an extra unique vacation. If you know you want to truly fly in style, but aren’t sure which airline is the best option, maybe the answer is one that isn’t a commercial airline at all. It’s becoming slightly more popular than years past with charter companies available worldwide.
If privacy and luxury are what you’re after, try looking into a private chartered jet. In addition, you will have the convenience of flying on your own schedule, rather than being limited to an airlines timetables.
Eleventh Hour Adventurers
Perhaps you like to fly by the seat of your pants. Or maybe you have a last-minute reason why you need to be on the next plane out. If you need to figure out how to get the best deal without too much planning ahead, there are a few options for you.
It’s important to remember that standby flights aren’t what they used to be. Where you used to be able to show up at the airport and receive discounted tickets on flights that weren’t full, if you plan to fly standby these days, your best bet is to have a friend in the airline. Even then, be prepared to wait.
If you aren’t connected, you aren’t entirely out of luck. With a full-priced ticket, if you arrive early, you may be able to take an earlier flight. Some Frequent Flyers will have a little more luck with this option. Additionally, if you miss your own trip, you can fly standby for the next flight.
Sites like Skyscanner.com are good for overall deals and price watching no matter how far out you plan to buy your ticket. By following these tips, you might be able to score some decent last-minute deals.
- Sign up for price alerts
- Follow your favorite airlines on social media
- Look out for cancellation holidays
Request A Bereavement Flight
If your reason for travel is due to an unexpected loss in the family, airlines like Air Canada, Lufthansa, Westjet, and Delta offer discounts for this last-minute travel. Be prepared to show your relationship to the deceased and details such as funeral arrangements.
We Want In-flight Perks!
When it comes to keeping yourself busy while flying, no matter how long the flight is, even an experienced traveler will need to find something to do to occupy their time. Sitting for a few (or many) hours next to complete strangers, sharing oxygen and space is not the ideal use of time for most of us.
How can you get through the time after you have read the safety manual twice and learned where your nearest emergency exit is? By taking advantage of the perks, of course. Some of our favorites include:
- Wi-fi – JetBlue is the first airline to offer completely free Wi-Fi! But for a fee, Delta’s high-speed internet is also great.
- The food – Air New Zealand has induction ovens! This means you can have your food cooked to order, rather than the questionable reheating of frozen meals that some airlines offer. Hawaiian and Alaska have both worked with award-winning chefs to give you an in-flight meal you won’t soon forget.
- The drinks – WestJet and Air France offer a free drink with your ticket. Flying to Hawaii? Fly Alaska Airlines, and you’ll get a free mai-tai!
- Entertainment – JetBlue offers DIRECTV and Emirates has over 2,500 channels in multiple languages for all your movie, TV, music, and gaming needs. Alaska allows passengers to stream movie to their own devices, such as your tablet or phone.
- Furry friends – Delta has the most options as far as letting your pet travel either in cargo or in the cabin, while Frontier has the lowest fees of $75 (check with the airline for updated prices). JetBlue allows you to earn extra Frequent Flyer points for traveling with your pet and Allegiant permits unaccompanied minor travel with their pet.
Group travel can be tricky. Whether it’s a large family, a sports team, or your annual girls’ trip, airlines such as United Airlines and Delta can help you with groups of ten or more and will aid in taking the headache out of trying to coordinate different schedules.
Qantas allows even more flexibility with the option for travelers to have varied itineraries or different origins.
Travelers with Baggage
It would appear these days that more and more airlines are trying to discourage excess or check-in baggage with lower fares and free carry-ons. This is great for quick trips or those who pack light in general. But what about packing for longer trips or those who simply cannot live without half their closet?
If you’re willing to pay more for your luggage (think of it as chipping in more for fuel), Delta gives you one free bag up to 50lbs on most domestic flights, and you have the option to pay for more weight on international flights.
Qatar and Emirates will give you free checked luggage up to 65lbs on almost all flights; while British Airways will provide you with two free bags, with a small fee for overweight bags. Be sure to refer to the small print on your fare.
On the other hand, Norwegian does not offer a free checked bag for international flights and budget airlines, such as Ryanair, charge for any checked baggage.
Keep in mind that baggage fees are subject to each airline and can change at any time. If you are booking flights and want to compare your options, be sure to check the airline’s website directly. There may also be special considerations, such as Frequent Flyer benefits or flight specials.
If your upcoming trip requires multiple stops in various cities or even countries, sometimes your best option is not to look at specific airlines, but rather sites like Expedia and Skyscanner, which can help you compare the lowest prices and best itinerary options. It may be that your preferred airline doesn’t fly one leg of your trip, or it isn’t the most budget-friendly.
Because multi-leg trips can be stressful or confusing to book, also consider asking a travel agent for help. They’ll be able to help you find the best deals, with less hassle.
Airlines with Reliability
When it comes to flying, there are those of us who aren’t overly concerned with special seating, perks, or any other bells and whistles. Some people simply need to get from Point A to Point B, and the only thing that matters is that you can rely on the airline to get you there on time. If you have an event that you need to travel for or don’t have time to deal with delays and cancellations, you need an airline with a proven track record.
If being on time is your top priority, Japan Airlines should be your top airline. A recent comparison showed that they had only 10.5% of flights that were delayed and just 1.05% of flights that were canceled in one month. This is a consistency that is hard to beat.
Delta Air Lines, United, and Hawaiian Airlines all have the highest rates of reliability, as well as being top contenders for comfort and safety.
At the bottom of the list? Frontier and American Airlines are both known for delays and wait times of up to an hour.
Best Full-Service Carriers
We’ve all been there: you finally get to the end of the booking process only to find out your airlines has added numerous extra fees along the way. If you’re looking for full-service airlines (meaning your meals, drinks, baggage, and entertainment are included in the ticket price), you might be hard-pressed to find an airline that doesn’t have any hidden fees. However, there are a few that stand out from the crowd and keep their flyers coming back again and again.
Turkish Airlines was the top overall performer for 2019 with the best value for money (and ergonomic seats!), while American, United, and Delta all maintain high standards without the hidden fees. With the increase of budget carriers, knowing exactly what you are receiving with your ticket price may be worth paying slightly more for your fare.
Depending on where you’re headed and how often you need to get there, your requirements may be that you need an airline with many destination options. If you don’t have to, you probably don’t want to have multiple layovers just to get to where you need to go. Whether you are trekking to a remote location or a large city with more than one airport, it’s essential to know where your plane will have its final landing point.
Based on all airlines worldwide, these are some of the top airlines with the most destinations:
- United – 369 destinations, 60 countries
- Delta – 325 destinations, 71 countries
- Turkish – 304 destinations, 106 countries
- Ryanair – 225 destinations, 35 countries
- Lufthansa – 211 destinations, 83 countries
With impressive numbers like this and partner airlines, you’re sure to be able to get to wherever you need to go!
Most User-Friendly Airline Sites
Usually, the go-to flight booking choice is to use comparison sites as they’re easy to get quick answers on the cheapest flights without having to navigate through several open browsers. However, there are times when it’s actually better to go through the airline’s official site. They usually have the most updated deals and details on the fine print.
We visit an airline’s website for two main reasons: to book an itinerary and to check into our trip. Because these are the two most important steps of flight travel, they need to be user-friendly and easy to navigate. Here’s how five top US airlines faired according to traveler feedback:
The highest percentage of app usage
Easiest filtering options
Best seat selection options
Easiest pricing to understand
- American Airlines
Most trusted sites
- KLM vs Air France
- Virgin America vs JetBlue
- JetBlue vs Delta
- British Airways vs American Airlines
- Best Airlines to Go to Thailand
- Best Airlines to Fly to Italy
- Delta Comfort Review
- JetBlue vs Southwest Airlines
- KLM vs Lufthansa
What affects the cost of airline fares?
When determining the prices of their flights, airlines take into account many factors such as Staff/employees, fuel for the plane, possible disruptions (i.e., weather delays), market competition, as well as airport landing and parking fees.
How do I get the best prices for flights?
All airlines and travel agents will recommend being flexible with your travel dates and planning as far ahead as possible when making your booking. You should also be sure to compare airlines and flight times as well as nearby airports.
Which airlines have the most legroom?
Top of the list is JetBlue with 32-33 whole inches, followed closely by Southwest with 32 inches and Alaska with 31-32 inches. JetBlue also has an “Even More Space” seat which gives you 37-41 inches to spread all the way out.
Where can I find resources for questions about travel policies?
The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has information available for additional questions or disputes.
I can’t travel anymore; can I transfer my ticket to someone else?
On most airlines, definitely not. Delta, United, and Southwest will give you a firm no. However Frontier does allow it for a fee. Ultimately it comes down to passenger safety, and it also prevents potential airline ticket scalpers.
My travel dates might change, who has the worst fees for cancelations or rebooking?
American Airlines can be from $200 for domestic flights up to an outrageous $750 for international flights, while Delta, Hawaiian, and JetBlue are all roughly $200 if made before your date of departure. The good news is that same-day changes for Delta and American are approximately $75, while Alaska is only $50 for same-day changes.
Airlines with the lowest change fees are Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines, both at zero dollars, although for Frontier that is only if you make the changes more than 90 days out.
Our Flying Finale
As you can see, not all airlines serve the needs of all travelers. When it comes to your purpose for flying, be sure to ask questions of your airline, shop around, and look for reviews. Tripadvisor is an excellent resource as a global review site with honest opinions from travelers just like you.
Each individual airline will have its pros and cons, but if you are looking for a good allrounder, at a glance – Delta appears to keep itself at the top of the list of US airline carriers. For international airlines, we like Singapore for its rave reviews and dedication to its customers.