Friday, January 22, 2010

4 Freelance Friday: The Frequent Flyer Awards

We took a ridiculous number of flights on our six month honeymoon. There were our frequent flyer tickets to get to Europe, the thirteen transfers of our round the world ticket, and a smattering of regional hops that add up to way more than we can count. If only we earned miles for them all… In any case, here are our nominations for standout flying experiences:

Favorite OneWorld Alliance airline: LAN
Our round the world ticket was through OneWorld, so we got to try out just about every Alliance member during the course of our trip. Our flight from Santiago to Auckland on Chile’s national airline might have been that plane’s maiden voyage. Everything was sparkly new and our personal TVs had excellent picture, were loaded with good movies and games. And unlike the standard practice these days, LAN did not insist on traveling at full capacity; we had our own row, and were able to fully lie down and actually sleep during the 13 hour flight.

Honorable mention: Royal Jordanian for their state of the art entertainment systems and always keeping us apprised which direction Mecca was.

Least favorite OneWorld Alliance airline: Iberia
It was basically the opposite of what we experienced on LAN. The planes were quite old, the seats uncomfortable, and no personal TVs all the way from Russia to Brazil. On the bright side, free wine to muffle the complaints of disgruntled passengers.

Dishonorable mention: Qantas for the non-existant legroom and old planes…we expected so much more.

Favorite discount airline: Smart Wings
We flew this Czech discount airline from Prague to Paris on the last day of our trip and were blown away. It was only an hour flight, and they still managed to get down the entire aisle doling out free drinks and sandwiches. At 6am. In contrast the friendly flight attendants on our last hop of the day, three hours from Dallas to Boston, didn’t provide a thing to eat.

Honorable mention: Air Asia for flying EVERYWHERE in Southeast Asia cheaply

Least favorite discount airline: Ryan Air
Ryan Air offers some of the best deals around Europe, hands down. Our ticket from London to Krakow cost about $5 before taxes. But the only way they can afford to do this is by offering the most painful flight experience around. First of all they primarily fly out of airports nowhere close to your actual destination. Going to Barcelona? Ryan Air actually drops you at Girona, about an hour drive from the city. Not only are the airports out of the way, but they usually contract with a single bus company that monopolizes the route from remote airport to city center for disproportionately high fares. The bus ride can cost you more than your plane ticket.

Furthermore, there is no assigned seating, which wouldn’t be so bad if there was some sort of order established or people respected lines. Instead, passengers stand in line as soon as they arrive at the gate, wait an hour or longer for the flight to board, and then push and shove in a gigantic, chaotic mass when the flight attendants begin accepting boarding passes. To top it all off, passengers are required to check in online before arriving at the airport or there is something like a $30USD additional charge (again, possibly more than the cost of the original ticket). The online check in, however, does not allow you to go right to your gate if you are an international passenger; you still need to wait in a horribly inefficient line for a “passport check”. Conclusion: we hate Ryan Air. But we will probably be suckered into flying them again when looking for cheap European travel.

Dishonorable mention: Ryan Air for being just that bad.

Best first class experience: Japan Airlines
Okay, it was our only first class experience. Ever. But it was totally awesome. Aside from the bells and whistles that we assume come as the first class standard, the flight attendants bowed to us at takeoff, landing, and every service opportunity in between and the Japanese meal option was a gorgeous display of colorful delicacies. Props to JAL for upgrading two grungy backpackers to join the black suited businessmen traveling from Sydney to Tokyo. Maybe they did it for their own amusement…who knows.


  1. I appreciate the labour you have put in developing this blog. Nice and informative.

  2. I chanced upon to view your blog and found it very interesting. Great ... Keep it up!

  3. Hopefully JAL will keep up their nice service after this bankruptcy thing.

  4. "maybe they did it for their own amusement"... that made me laugh!
    Excellent blog!!


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