Monday, June 04, 2018

Picking an Airline

On a good day, any airline will get you there and back, when things go wrong selecting the right airline can make the difference between getting where you are going within a few hours of your scheduled time, or a few days, or not at all.  After 20 years of a lot of travel, I have a few tips. 

1: Pick the airline that has the most daily flights in and our of your home airport.  When things go awry, and flights are delayed or cancelled, the airline with the most flights will get you on your way faster.  
If a flight is cancelled, on a plane with say 100 passengers, and the average flight is 80% full, it will take five outbound flights to reaccomodate the 100 passengers. The more flights the airline has from that airport, the faster you will get out. I have NEVER had an airline put me on a flight on another airline - that practice is nearly non-existent. 
2: Pick one Airline and stick with them.  
3: Join the airlines frequent flyer programs.  At a minimum you want to build up points, of my last 16 Atlantic crossings, I had frequent flyer seats on 11 of those flights.  Some programs also offer discounts on things like checked bags (Hawaiian.) When things go wrong, phone calls from members of the frequent flyer programs get helped before non-members, and frequently by more experienced and empowered staff. Occasionally schedule, price, or a destination that my primary airlines do not service, will prompt me to fly another airline, and I always sign up for their frequent flyer program before I book the seat.   
4: Get an airline credit card for your primary airline.  For less than $100 per year, most of them get you free checked bags, and earlier boarding.  If you fly twice a year and check bags, the money saved on checked bag fees will offset the annual fee. Being able to board earlier, makes it easier to find overhead space. You earn frequent flyer points for everything you run through the card - I use mine for everything - and pay the bill in full when the bill comes in (I haven't paid interest on a credit card in 30 years.)  

Now I will admit, I have two primary Airlines.  American Airlines is the dominate carrier at my home airport, and Delta is the dominate carrier in both Lexington and Orlando.  With mom and dad gone, and plans to sell the house in Lexington later this year, I may drop Delta.  But not before I enjoy the miles I have built up, enough for a free trans-Atlantic flight, with early boarding and free checked bags. I wish Delta was the dominate carrier at DCA. 

How do you pick an airline?  


  1. Based on what's available for where we're going. Delta has the only non-stops from Málaga to JFK (and only from June to Sept). So that's our first choice. We also go Norwegian to wherever we can.

  2. I don't fly anymore. When we did, I wasn't the chooser. I preferred any flight that was nonstop. Hubby chooses whatever is cheapest even if he has five layovers. He likes Southwest. I preferred (notice I don't say like) airlines with assigned seating. I'm not afraid of flying, I just don't like feeling like an airborne sardine.

  3. Someone picks them, always for bargains. I am now leaning towards first class picks given the tedium of coach.