We ended up flying on 8 different airlines during our 30/40 World Tour, since we booked our flights individually. Below is our ranking of airlines from best to worst. This is not meant to be a comprehensive study; it’s merely our impressions from the economy flights we experienced during the summer of 2011.
- Air Emirates (Mauritius to Dubai; Dubai to Munich)
- Air New Zealand (Auckland to Nouméa)
- American Airlines (DC to LA)
- United Airlines (Madrid to DC)
- Qantas Airways (Nouméa to Sydney)
- Air Mauritius (Melbourne to Mauritius)
- Air Pacific (LA to Fiji; Fiji to Auckland)
- Air Berlin (Munich to Barcelona)
To learn the price of each of these flights (ranging from $137 to $946 per person), see the previous post on the cost of our trip. But price did not directly correlate with a positive experience on an airline.
We were so impressed with our Air Emirates flights. The uniform of the flight attendants with the red hat and sweeping white scarf is quite striking and exotic. When we first boarded, I wondered about the practicality of such an outfit. But after we were airborne, the hats came off.
The Air Emirates food was delicious. I’m sure you’re laughing about delicious airplane food, but I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t eaten hot food on an airplane in years!
The personalized entertainment screens for each seat were the best of all of our flights. The screens were the biggest of any airline and provided on-demand entertainment options including movies and games.
Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand was another of our favorite airlines. Their economy seats were beautifully passenger centric. The back of each seat had a drink pouch that fit my water bottle perfectly. It’s so easy and obvious, but I’ve never seen it on another airline. I usually have to stuff my bottle into the magazine compartment, which forces the whole pocket wide open and takes up far more space in already cramped quarters.
We also loved the personal entertainment screens for each seat, and both watched Cedar Rapids at our own pace. I started my movie slightly earlier than Mr. HalfFull, so I was pre-laughing at all the funny parts. Finally, he asked me to pause so that he could catch up and we could laugh together!
I think it’s wonderful when airlines let you play and pause your own movie. You can sleep when you like, use the restroom whenever, and still catch the full movie. It’s so nice to be in control!
American, United & Qantas
I don’t really have any strong feelings one way or the other about American Airlines, United Airlines, or Qantas Airways. I’m also not married to that specific order. All the flights were fine; nothing stood out to me positively or negatively, so they are all nestled in the middle of my list.
Air Mauritius only issues paper tickets. Enough said!
Air Pacific ranks toward the bottom of the list because of their carry-on policy. We specifically purchased our bags to be compliant with carry-on size restrictions. But we had no idea that Air Pacific also has a weight restriction for carry-on bags.
I’ve never had my carry-on bag put on a scale. But our bags turned out to be too heavy, and we were forced to check them. I think this may have been because it was a double-decker plane which required more attention to avoid being top-heavy.
I don’t particularly mind checking my bags if I don’t get charged an extra fee. But the problem was that we had packed with the intention of carrying our bags, meaning that we had our rain jackets rolled on the outside and other items clipped to the outside of the bags. It’s stressful to repack a bag at the ticket counter with a line of people staring me down for being ill-prepared, especially when I thought I was perfectly prepared!
The other problem with Air Pacific is that they don’t have a regular counter in the LAX airport, so we couldn’t check in when we arrived from Washington, DC. We we returned to the airport hours later, the line was frustratingly long and we didn’t get the seats we wanted.
Our original plan was to travel via train through Europe on a Eurail pass. But for our specific plans, it wasn’t cost-effective or a good use of our time. So we decided to book a budget flight from Germany to Spain. It was our worst flight of the trip.
It included our only airport layover and our only flight delay. Double whammy! Plus, the children on the flight were unbearable and my sandwich was inedible.
In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed at the time. Perhaps our recent awesome flights on Air Emirates skewed our judgement.
- What’s your favorite airline?
- Have you had a delicious airplane meal?
- Do you know of another airline that still only uses paper tickets?
- Have you had a carry-on bag weighed?