We travel a ton, as travel journalists. Flights that were once luxury aloft, a pleasurable part of the journey, have become a necessary evil to get you from point A to point B. Here are a few airline tips and some of our airline experiences, our tip of the wing to a few good airlines with great services and timeliness, and a few cautions of those we have had less than lofty encounters with….
Timing of your flights – we like early morning flights, like 6-7 am early, the plane is likely to be there, fully-serviced and ready, flight crew and captain refreshed, and you don’t encounter rush hour traffic on your way to the airport. Set your alarm and go early, it’s worth it to get ahead of delays and commuters! We also like red eyes for traveling West to East across country or overseas, driving to the airport after rush hour, eliminating one night’s lodging, with no time wasted on your travel itinerary – you arrive in the morning to start your travel. However, its imperative you get rest on the plane, so bring your eye-mask, take a melatonin, and go to sleep – don’t wait for the food service that arrives an hour or two in to the flight – that’s precious sleep time and guaranteed that airplane food will not be worth waiting up for.
Packaging and Baggage – check on line as to baggage restrictions. Some airlines let you check a huge bag but charge for overhead carry on. While others allow ample space for carry on – assuring your bag is with you at all times, and they charge exorbitant rates for checked bags (that you will be waiting for at baggage claim). Each airline is different, with varying policies and baggage fees for domestic versus international flights. Watch out, many airlines, especially European ones are weighing your carry on now! Even if it is the right size, if it is over 18 pounds you will be required to check it, and usually for a fee, sometimes sizeable! If you check your bag, take a smart photo of it with tags – very helpful with claims if your baggage is lost. See more tips of How to Pack for your Vacation.
TSA, Mobile Passport and TSA Pre Check – In our modern world of big threats and safety concerns, security and screening at airports brings often big lines. Frequent travelers are well-served to register with Global Entry, now a one-time fee of $100, but you must apply for and endure an interview at your nearby major airport (major pain). Mobile Passport is a free efficient way to reduce wait time, download the free app, plug in your passport and answer security questions within 4 hours of your international arrival (at most but not all airports) and you can pass through a shorter pre-screened line with your uploaded info. TSA Pre Check is the discretion of that airport security and the airline, the more you fly with a particular carrier, the more apt you are to receive the green check mark for priority less “invasive” screening, with typically a shorter line.
In our opinion American and Delta have stepped up their travel service recently. American bought out USAir, so they have lots of itneraries and ports, and they taken considerable effort to upgrade passenger experience, improve planes, and their Admiral’s Club lounges. We have flown oversees recently with American and found the food and drink service and staff to be very generous, so we’re waving our American flag. We love the American plane tail graphics, so patriotic!
Delta is the biggest airline, but is it the best? Also recent overseas roundtrip flights Boston – Dublin much was included, meals – drinks – movies – in Economy Comfort, nice leather seats with ample leg room, pleasant crew, wine served with a good meal – all included. International Amercian and Delta flights also allow one big checked bag free, up to 50 pounds per person, plus a free carry on (not weighed, yet anyway). Love these American carriers providing better overseas expereinces than the obvious Swiss Air, Norwegian and Aer Lingus who have lost some of the PanAm style charm of yesteryear.
JetBlue – We have always enjoyed flying Jet Blue, on time, good service, but recent online reviews have not been favorable and there on time rating is currently one of the worst. Our personal experience is JetBlue’s planes are modern, in seat TVs, Wi-Fi, nice crew and good services.
United is the world’s 3rd largest, so we find ourselves flying with United often. Good flight schedules and cities, and pretty nice planes, a good app, but we do find they change our itineraries rather often… which is annoying after you belabor which flight times to purchase, and they change anyway, affecting your trip. United nickname – Undecided…?
Norwegian Air is cold, like their climate perhaps. Norwegian has been awarded best economy airline – so we expected no frills… but seriously! We found the flight attendants to be surly, and economy class includes nothing but their rude attitudes, no food or drink without paying – which must be done pre-flight! Also Norwegian Airline rents the least desirable terminals in the airports and hires borrowed land crew, all “cost saving” measures. You get what you pay for, eh?! Norway is the most expensive travel destination (but beautiful – see our reviews of Norway) that we have visited in over a decade, with the cheapest corner-cutting airline… Note: they are beautiful, huge new planes!
Aer Lingus was once charming – like the Irish people and countryside, with pretty red-headed stewards speaking pleasant brogue while pouring complimentary drinks. That’s Irish history… recent flights on Aer Lingus have offered minimal service, from a surly not-necessarily Irish based crew, and charges for absolutely everything – even a cup of coffee on an overnight flight, so bring your own everything and don’t mess with the flight attendants! I’m not complaining – I heard enough in-house complaints, from the Aer Lingus flight crew… funny-kind of! Ryanair in Ireland at least lowers your service expectations with cheap fares.
Swiss Air – nice planes, precise like the Swiss Watch, with a clinically sharp crew. Not inexpensive, but hey – its Swiss, right?! Swiss Air is not warm and fuzzy, but timeliness and cleanliness matter too. We love skiing Switzerland, and appreciate arriving on time.
Southwest – We enjoy self-deprecating humor. The flight attendants and pilots of Southwest are funny, the service is fair to good, and they admit so. We like their pricing policy and their rebooking fee – free re-booking, but you must pay the new rate so be aware that will likely be hundreds more than what you pre-booked at. Good in-flight entertainment on Southwest, and many direct flights within the US. Still no extra fees for checked bags as of this writing.
Emirates, Qatar, and Lufthansa we have yet to fly with, but we see their sophisticated flight crews cruising through airports, big beautiful airplanes on the runways, and their cool in-flight sleeping beds in ads, so we are intrigued. If you have flown with them, let us know your experience and you can blog for us at The Luxury Vacation Guide…the airfare however is still on you!