Best Airlines

I’ve flown a lot over the years, and I find myself sometimes saying to myself, “I should just pay the extra money and fly this other airline instead.” The problem with always seeking out the cheapest airline ticket is that it’s not always the best value. Just because a ticket is cheap, doesn’t mean you end up spending less by the end either. Below are my rankings for airlines in order, but by no means is exhaustive. Some airlines I haven’t flown, and others aren’t worth mentioning.

Let’s face it, airlines are no fun and airports are even worse. Some terrorists ruined our entire airport experience back in 2001 and flying has never been the same since. Well, that and all the mergers (see video below). Flying doesn’t have to be completely awful, so I’ve written a high-level review of all the airlines.

Table of Contents

    Southwest

    Southwest isn’t the fanciest by far, but I know what I’m going to get when I use them every time. The planes are all the same and the interiors are the same on each plane. The staff is usually good, and even funny at times like during announcements.

    What I like most is their onboarding process. Yes, you have the risk of not getting a seat you like, but it’s only a minor inconvenience for a few hours. You stand in line and it’s a first-come-first-serve type of situation as you quickly get on the plane and 15 minutes later the doors are closing. The seat lengths are fair and they’re comfortable enough. Plus, no additional fees.

    AirChina

    Back in the 1990s, airlines would typically serve a meal on the flight at no additional cost. AirChina still does, and I have to admit the food is pretty good. AirChina is how I remember airlines being in the 1990s with good service, fair seats, and a fairly good onboard/deboard process. Unfortunately, they primarily only fly in/from China. If you ever get a chance to visit China, fly between cities within and you’ll see what I mean.

    JetBlue / Qatar

    JetBlue and Qatar are always a great experience. They don’t have a lot of flight paths where I live, but I always found their service above any other airline. The seats are quite comfortable and everything feels quality. Not much more to say here.

    Alaskan Airlines

    Alaskan stands out for the sole reason that they’re committed to reducing plastic. I think this should be an industry standard as they phased out plastic straws, cups, etc. in favor of recyclable goods. Plus, their service is quite good and their seats are somewhat comfortable with plenty of space.

    Delta

    I feel bad by saying this about a decent airline, but I think Delta is best defined as “status quo” – or, every airline should be measured by Delta and I think Delta is about as average as it gets. Delta has better seating and much better service than either United or American, which is why those two are next.

    United / American

    These two are okay. That’s it. Their service isn’t that good, and they don’t do anything well. They’re not bad either. They have ridiculous fees for things like baggage like most airlines, but neither has anything exciting about flying either. Their flights are usually on time and service is acceptable most of the time. The seats are often uncomfortable and the space between seats is pretty bad, even if you upgrade. I’d rather fly Delta for this reason alone because at least the seats are tolerable with them. Planes can also vary drastically. You never know if the plane is going to have fancy screens with games and other information, or if you’re going to have a plane with no included entertainment options.

    Spirit

    Fake advertising. They appear as a low-cost carrier, but it is a “you get what you pay for” idea. What you get is basically a seat to fly. Carry-on bags are $35 as of writing when you book, and much more for any other scenario. Additional fees for heavier items. There are change flight fees, boarding pass printing fees, and fees for in-flight refreshments. See a list of all fees. Their service is awful and so are their airplanes.

    Frontier

    Frontier was the primary airline for anyone living in Denver for years. Then, it wasn’t. Just like Spirit, everything has a fee except buying a ticket. You even get a fee for showing up within 60 minutes of boarding! Unfortunately, most people buy their tickets thinking that it’s the end of the story and they got a stellar deal until they get to the plane and realize the fees have all added up.