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Airline Reviews: Rating Airlines From Personal Experience
Reviewing The Airlines
As a frequent traveler who's been to five continents and almost every state in the U.S., I've had to take a lot of flights. Naturally, some have been much better than others. Some airlines, like Qantas, have their act together and can almost always be counted on to provide their passengers with a pleasant experience. Others, like Delta, are rather unreliable.
After logging thousands and thousands of air miles and literally circling the Earth several times over, I've compiled a review of airlines based on my personal experience. I'm not an expert on planes; I don't list the aircrafts' dimensions or seat width or anything like that. But I am giving my opinion on seat comfort, how on time the flight was, the friendliness of the crew, what the food and entertainment were like.
I find it very helpful to get personal reviews from people who are NOT airline experts when flying; in fact, reading online reviews has helped me choose between two flights. I hope that my experience as a traveler and frequent flyer will help you, as well.
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Rating My Flights
Here are my reviews for the flights I've recently taken (within the past five years). To keep things simple, I've listed them alphabetically and am rating each airline from 1-5 stars, with 5 being the best. Keep in mind that I've only traveled in economy class -- though in my dreams that will eventually change!
AIR NEW ZEALAND: We flew on them several times when we were visiting NZ's North and South islands. All of the flights were short, but comfortable. The most memorable, though, has to be the one we took from Hokitika to Christchurch. We flew in a tiny 19-seater over the mountains! The pilot was very laid back; he didn't check our passports or boarding passes and he let me keep my luggage in the empty seat next to me. Obviously, there was no food service on board; I'm not even sure there was a restroom. The plane shook like crazy as we landed and freaked me out, but I never felt unsafe and we had a very smooth landing. Three-and-a-half stars.
AER LINGUS: We took Aer Lingus from JFK to Dublin after getting an amazing price of $300 roundtrip on their Web site! Aer Lingus often has great deals if you travel during the off-season, so it's worth it to take advantage of them. For the most part, we were comfortable, though the planes we were on were older, so we had no personal entertainment system. Still, the crew was nice and the flights were pleasant. They really impressed me, though, on our flight home. Dublin's airport had a bomb scare that morning and everyone was evacuated from the building. Still, Aer Lingus managed to get us on our flight only an hour-and-a-half late and kept everyone calm. I really appreciated the crew having such grace under pressure and have a warm spot for this airline ever since. Three stars.
AMERICAN AIRLINES: I've flown with American many times, most recently from New York to Los Angeles and New York to Miami. For the most part, AA has been on time and the flights have been smooth. However, AA's planes, at least the domestic ones, seem rather old-fashioned compared to a lot of the other airlines. The seats are slightly larger (which is a good thing), but as of last year, the flight that I took didn't have a personal entertainment system for passengers (which is a bad thing). Instead, they lowered a screen and everyone had to watch the same movie ... which was Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Blech. AA does offer food on domestic flights, but you have to buy it -- and they charge an arm and a leg. For instance, the little salad on our flight was $5! Ridiculous. You're better off bringing your own meal. I didn't realize that we wouldn't be fed while going to California, though (it is a 6 hour flight after all) and by the time they reached out seat, which was in the back of Economy, they'd run out of food. I made a big stink about it and someone from the flight crew gave me her lunch -- for free! So even though they need to do something better with meals, the flight crew WAS accomodating when it mattered. Two-and-a-half stars.
BRITISH AIRWAYS: I took British Airways to London and they were also on time and relatively comfortable. They had decent meals and a decent entertainment system, though the flights that I went on only offered a few movies. For the most part, I liked BA, but my big complaint was the temperature on the plane. It was too warm and even worse, there were no individual vents for passengers. I said something to a member of the crew, but nothing was really done and I had to suffer through the flight sweating. Three-and-a-half stars.
CONTINENTAL AIRLINES: Continental really disappointed me. They make a big deal out of being such a classy airline that still serves meals, but when I took them to Stockholm, Sweden, I found them lacking in many areas. For one thing, New Yorkers need to take them from Newark instead of JFK. You need to take a train and then a cab to Newark, so it's a long trip to start with and a big pain. Then when we got to the airport, our gate was changed and no announcement was made. When we finally found the correct gate, one member of the flight crew proceeded to call the complaining passengers "stupid" and insisted that he'd made an announcement about the gate. My husband tried to explain that we hadn't heard it and that perhaps the speaker was broken. The crew member became engraged and threatened to not let us on the flight. He ultimately did, but we were very shaken by his behavior, as were many other passengers. And after all that, Continental just wasn't that great. The seats weren't particularly comfortable, the food was so-so and the entertainment was lacking as not all of the planes (including ours) had upgraded to personal entertainment systems. All of this and they're really expensive compared to other airlines. I've avoided them since. One-and-a-half stars.
DELTA AIRLINES: Delta is probably my least favorite airline at the moment, only because I've had SO many bad experiences with them. Many friends who've used Delta agree that there are problems. They frequently delay flights, or even worse, change your flight without telling you. We were booked to fly to Salt Lake City, but they moved us to another flight that was five hours later! My favorite flight delay story has to be when we flew to Mexico City. They couldn't let people on board because a crate carrying crabs broke and now there were crabs all over the plane. I swear, I'm not making this up: our plane had crabs. Perhaps Crabs On A Plane could be a new movie? Anyway, that Mexico City flight was messed up in many more ways. Our personal entertainment systems were broken. One of the bathrooms was out of order so everyone in economy had to stand on long lines. And it was an extremely bumpy ride, though that's not really Delta's fault. The good news is, they DID serve us a meal. Hooray for small favors? One star.
HAWAIIAN AIRLINES: We took several short island-hopping flights on them when we were in Hawaii. The bad news is, you don't have assigned seats so you have to sprint for the plane if you want to get a window view (which trust me, is so worth it in Hawaii). Other than that, I enjoyed this airline. They were always on time. The flights were really short (all less than an hour), but very smooth, even though we flew at quite a low altitude and oh my God, the views were amazing! What I also liked was that they had a full drink and snack service on these flights, even though the trip was abbreviated. They always served mango nectar, which was a nice Hawaiian touch. I can't speak for their longhaul flights, but their shorter ones were a lot of fun to be on. Four stars.
ICELAND AIR: To be honest, our Icelandair flights don't stand out too much, which is probably a good thing. What I do recall is that we almost missed our flight because of a delay on the Long Island Rail Road. Luckily, we got to JFK just in time, where a smiling flight crew member was waiting for us. She rushed us through check-in and hurried us through security to our seats. They were no longer able to seat us together (and we both ended up stuck with middle seats), but we were grateful to them for getting us on board -- and for being so nice about it. As for the flight itself, I do remember that it was comfortable and that they gave us a meal. I don't think there was an entertainment system, but the flight from JFK to Iceland is short, only five hours, so that didn't bother me. We also got a great winter deal from them; they offer deals for flights all over Europe, not just Iceland, so check them out. Three stars.
JETBLUE: Once upon a time, I LOVED taking JetBlue. The crew always smiled. You got personal TVs in your seat. They served cool snacks. There was plenty of leg room and big, comfy seats. And they had low, low prices. We flew to Puerto Rico for $99 roundtrip in December, which was a total steal. Over the years, though, my love for them has waned. They now travel to many more places, but the prices have become much higher. They no longer serve a wide variety of snacks; on my last flight to Orlando, we were only offered blue potato chips. And their flights are often late. The worst was when it took us four hours to get to Buffalo, NY -- which is only a 45-minute trip by air! JetBlue has also had many odd incidents over the past few years. There was the plane that was left sitting on the tarmac for 11 hours, the flight that had engine problems and had to leak fuel until it could land, the pilot who went on a rant and the flight crew member who quit and then jumped out a window. Um... what? I can't think of any other airline that's had so many weird things happen in such a short span of time. But since these reviews are supposed to be based on MY experiences, I have to say that for the most part, I've been very satisfied with them. Three-and-a-half stars.
KLM (ROYAL DUTCH AIRLINES): We just came back from a trip to Amsterdam/Nigeria and took four KLM flights. All were very nice. Though they're partnered with Delta, they actually know what they're doing and were always on time. The seats are comfortable and there's ample legroom. They also offer "economy comfort" seats for an extra $100. We didn't purchase those, but we did pay an extra $40 to be in a row with only two seats instead of three -- and it was worth the money. KLM has an extensive personal entertainment system with movies and music from all over the world, as well as games and even language lessons. I tried to learn some Dutch before we landed in Amsterdam, but the only word I can recall is from the Dutch subtitles that ran during the inflight episode of 30 Rock: "seksvideo." Still, it was cool that I got a chance to TRY to learn some new words. When we were flying from Nigeria's Murtala Muhammed Airport, KLM actually let us board the plane EARLY because it was air conditioned and the airport was not. That was really cool of them -- literally. A nice little touch is that that they give you hot towels before the two (yes, two!) meal services. Which leads me to my one complaint: the food was not good. I ordered the diabetic meal and was served fish on all four flights (and I hate fish). On a couple of flights they had extra meals so they served me the chicken and pasta, but those weren't so tasty, either. On the last flight, my husband offered to eat the fish while I took his meal... but by the time they reached us, they'd run out of pasta and only had, well, fish. That said, the crew tried to be accomodating. They gave me some hot soup and some extra bread and even an e-mail address to complain to about the food choices. Very classy. Despite the food issues, I was very satisfied with KLM and just know to bring my own hot meal the next time we fly with them. Four-and-a-half stars.
QANTAS AIRLINES: We took Qantas to Australia and New Zealand, and also around Australia. I was very nervous about being on such long flights, but we loved them. Our flight going to Australia was half empty, so they let us stretch out over the rows of seats. The seats themselves were pretty comfortable and they had a good personal entertainment system. The food was great! Though we were in economy, they gave us little menus with that flight's choices. During the middle of the flight we received a bag full of snacks. They then served breakfast. The shorter flights were comfortable, as well, and we were always treated with respect. As of now, I have no complaints. Five stars.
SAS (SCANDINAVIAN AIRLINE SYSTEM): Like KLM, SAS was an extremely efficient airline. We used them when flying back and forth between Norway and Sweden and they were always on time. One flight was delayed FIVE MINUTES and they made several announcements aplogizing. I'd love to see that happen in JFK! Anyway, the food was decent and the seats were comfortable enough. I don't recall much about the entertainment, but I think that because these were short flights, we didn't get personal systems. I can say that the views over Norway were incredible. Three-and-a-half stars.
SWISS INTERNATIONAL AIRLINES: We actually took them when traveling to Greece, of all places. They were decent. They were on time and served good food and the flight attendants were friendly. I got to practice a little French with them when ordering. The entertainment system had a nice variety of music and movies. However, the seats were rather tight and uncomfortable. Also, the way the entertainment system controls were situated made it difficult to operate them because you kind of had to swivel around in the small seat. Overall, though, I liked them well enough. Three stars.
VIRGIN ATLANTIC: We used them during one of our trips to London. They're a fun airline. The seats are colorful and they offer massages in first class. The entertainment was decent. The food was plentiful and delicious, plus they gave us little packages that contained a toothbrush and sleeping mask. Very cute! My one complaint is that the seats were a little tight and hard, but I'd definitely fly with them again. Four stars.