Let me start of by saying that of the 5,000+ airlines that exist in the world I have only graced the presence of a small fraction; but I do fly a lot. By the end of this year I will have flown about twenty times, mostly international, to about ten nations on four continents, so my experience is fairly broad. Also, take into consideration that I haven’t read about or studied the facts of any of these airlines. I can’t tell you who has the newest fleet or is the greenest, or has best first class (because I always fly economy and nobody ever bumps me up with the worthy people behind curtain), or the best baby muffling seats. All I can tell you is my personal experience.
10. American Airlines
In terms of price American Airlines is great. I know there are some shoe-string airlines out there that are cheaper, but American is a nicer, more experienced airline with low prices if you know where to look. I spend most of my time in Central America and my family is in Texas. I can get round trip flights from San Jose, Costa Rica to Houston on American for $350, which is the same as the other cheap airlines where you have to pay to breath.
American is at the bottom of my list because their staff have been pretty rude to me on several occasions and in general have not been very friendly. They usually smile and do their job, but they don’t seem to be enjoying themselves or actually like being around the passengers as some of the other airlines on this list. For me customer service is king.
About twelve years ago when I was newly married and working on my residence visa in Panama (where my wife is from) I had to return to Texas for papers and come back over the course of four days. When I was at the AA counter checking in for my return flight the woman at the counter asked to see my visa to Panama because I didn’t have a return ticket, which is a requirement to fly there. I explained that I was married to a Panamanian and was working on my residence visa, and showed her my paperwork as well as the dozen or so Panamanian immigration stamps in my passport to prove it. You can arrive in Panama and get a three month tourist visa without applying beforehand. She called the manager who was unnecessarily irate with me, and after having me explain the situation again he told me, “We will let you on board, but if you get stuck in immigration don’t come back to us for help.”
I still fly American often, but I think the whole airline needs and attitude overhaul.
9. Frontier Airlines
Frontier Airlines is one of those hidden gems. They are mostly a U.S. regional airline based out of Colorado. Since most of my flights are international I don’t get to fly with them often, but when I get a chance I do. They don’t have the highest reviews if you check them out on Google, I don’t understand why personally. When I have flown with them the staff are always very nice, the planes are clean, and my flights have always been pleasant. Plus their prices are usually great!
Lufthansa, the German Air Prince. Internationally I don’t fly with anyone as much as with them. They have great prices, really professional stewards and stewardesses who are always on top of their game. It may sound strange but I actually get pretty nervous when I fly, and no matter how much I do turbulence still freaks me out. Lufthansa is one of the airlines where they are so solid in their training that I feel very safe with the captains. Anyone who has flown a lot knows you can definitely tell the difference between experienced and non-experienced captains and crews. One of my most recent flights from two weeks ago, with an airline not on this list, I could swear the pilot was a drunk three year old. I have never felt that way with Lufthansa.
So why aren’t they at the top of my list? Because of a few people at the check-in counter, specifically at the Frankfurt airport. For whatever reason the Lufthansa staff at their own airport are some of the most high strung airline staff I’ve ever seen. Twice now I have been a witness to, though not involved in, shouting matches between the staff and passengers. I don’t know what they were about or who was the instigator, but the manager’s face was pretty red last time, which was on my layover two weeks ago. The passenger was yelling too so I can’t cut the counter staff down too much, but it still seemed overboard to me.
7. Pegasus Airlines
“We Didn’t Start Aviation In Turkey, But We Transformed It.” That is Pegasus’s company slogan, and boy are they right. If I made a list of my top favorite countries, which I might one day, Turkey would be in the top three hands down. I have spent a lot of time there, and have flown all over. Pegasus Airlines is a regional Turkish airline, so you aren’t likely to fly with them outside of Turkey unless they have added international flights by the time you read this. I have flown with a variety of domestic Turkish airlines, and the others have a tendency to be late and not give timely information in my experience. But Pegasus has always been great from the check in counter ’til landing. Like Frontier Airlines, their biggest negative is simply that they don’t have more routes.
6. Air Canada
O Canada. If you are from the States, especially the South, you may have laughed at the thought of what a Canadian gang fight must look like, or thought about ways to fake a Canadian heritage for citizenship there so you can adopt a baby seal. They are known for being the nicest nation on earth, that translates right into their flight crews. They are super friendly, seem to be happy that they get to travel for work, and genuinely like people. On my last flight with them from Toronto to Frankfurt there were three people vomiting on the plane and the crew was right there helping out, standing by the sickly ones, checking on them frequently and making sure they had everything they needed, and they seemed to really care. I was very impressed.
My negative with them is that their website is confusing for me, and when I called and asked questions about Global Entry, the person I spoke with didn’t know what Global Entry was and said they can’t help with anything that isn’t directly related to ticketing, and also couldn’t forward me to anyone who could help.
Copa Airlines is the Panamanian airline and goes to multiple locations throughout the Americas. They have great planes and the staff are usually pretty friendly. If you are flying around Panama it is hard to beat them. With international flights I have never had issues, but their domestic flights have been delayed without warning or explanation several times for me. But they are still the best for flights in this area!
4. Turkish Airlines
Turkish Airlines is surprisingly unknown in my circle of friends. I never hear anyone talk about them, but they are actually the third largest airline in the world by the amount of destinations they travel to. They are this sort of wonderful undercurrent. I have flown a lot with them, and will continue to do so. They always have very nice staff, they have a great system for check in where the lines are separated all the way down to whether or not you have check in bags or not. I know others do this too, but often times there are only lines for web-check in, first class, and economy, but many International flights don’t allow you to check in online, so even if you have no bags to check in you have to go through the huge economy line. They bypass that by allowing both, which is awesome!
This Colombian airline is my absolute favorite for Latin America. They have such great service, clean planes, nice crews, and solid captains. My family flew from Panama to Chile and the flight was so smooth my three year old son slept through most of it, which is saying something. They don’t always have the cheapest prices, but sometimes you can snag a deal with some searching, when you do I highly recommend them.
2. United Airlines
This is my preferred airline. Yes yes, I know they’ve had some nasty scandals lately, as have several other airlines, but I have never seen that side of them personally and they have always been great to me. They are the only airline that has ever bumped me up for free, not first class, but economy plus which gave my long legs some wonderful extra room. They also go to pretty much all the locations I want to visit and they are friendly and professional.
- Thai Smile
And finally my absolute favorite airline ever. Thai Smile is an airline based out of Thailand that pretty much just travels to the nations in that area like Cambodia, India, etc…. Wow are they impressive. When I have flown with them they give me a full on welcome box once we are in the air. I’m talking a sort of shoebox filled with goodies for the flight, and they still give snacks and drinks! The stewardesses have the most awesome looking uniforms as well, and are some of the friendliest staff you will ever see. They bowed to every row, were constantly attentive to us, and we a real joy to travel with. Whenever I am in that part of Asia they will always be my number one choice.
Honorable Mention: Southwest Airlines – I haven’t flown with Southwest personally, but I have consistently heard very positive things about them, and I know that they have incredible policies to benefit their staff in order to get the happiest flight experience for their passengers.
Do you have a favorite airline? Share in the comments!