We just had a challenging experience with two partner airlines that blamed each other for the many things that didn’t go smoothly on our round-trip flights. Check in was a hassle, seat selection was a hassle, and they had a “not my problem” attitude even though we didn’t make any changes or do anything other than book the darn flights. Flight attendants are almost always awesome on every flight for every airline. We give them so much credit for what they do! But the airline experience isn’t always great. So that prompted us to write about the airlines we love and why we love them. Here are our top five.
We fly American whenever we can. They have really good business class deals to South and Central America, their frequent flyer program is decent and their customer service reps are always really friendly and helpful. Economy fares are usually reasonably priced, and upgraded seats are worth the extra expense. We’ve been really uncomfortable in United’s domestic first class and main cabin extra space seating but have never had the same issue with American. The airline credit card comes with good promotions and perks, too, that can be used for real value.
Southwest has been the most reliable U.S. domestic airline that we’ve used for years. Since they changed their boarding process to the numerical boarding (rather than just group boarding) it’s been hassle free. A $45 round trip early-bird fee eliminates the need to check in 24-hours ahead of time and has always resulted in me getting a decent seat toward the front of the plane. Also, their rewards program is awesome. We fly free on SW about three times a year. They don’t have blackout dates and you can usually get good nonstops for a reasonable amount of points. Also, you can cancel at anytime, you just have to use any monetary credit within a year from the original booking date.
JetBlue also has a great rewards program, with the bonus of being able to pool reward points with your family members. Extra space seats come at a premium but usually cost less than other airlines and they really do give you quite a bit more space (as well as early boarding). We find JetBlue flights to be comfortable and service to be super friendly and accommodating. They also have good flights to the Caribbean and South America. The only down side is that, unlike Southwest, they charge $75 to cancel or change a basic-fare flight, even if it’s booked on miles. So that means Southwest is still our preferred airline for domestic flights.
Avianca has really great fares to Central and South America. The main cabin is quite comfortable and online check in and electronic/mobile boarding passes are easier to use/obtain than with some of their competitors. Boarding a plane or getting through to a customer service rep in Latin America can be somewhat challenging for those of us that come from countries that respect the queue and an orderly processes. Avianca does a great job of understanding and accommodating this cultural difference.
5. Iceland Air
First of all, Iceland Air had been releasing ridiculously low fares from the U.S. to Europe. $350 to London. $500 to Paris on a busy holiday week. $400 direct to Reykjavik for a Saturday to Saturday trip. Awesome! Some of their low-cost competitors offer lower fares but charge additional fees for absolutely everything. Our low-price fares didn’t include a checked bag, but we never check luggage anyway. We were able to select a seat in advance, upgrade seats for a reasonable fee and even bid on first class seats 72 hours before check in. Iceland Air has made Europe affordable again.