You've got ten major passenger airlines to choose from when you fly from a major US city. For a country with 330 million people we’re not super spoiled for choice. But many of these airlines are apples and oranges when it comes to cost, routes, amenities and customer service. So what do you pick for your next trip?
A huge factor outside of price that will affect which airlines you choose is you hometown hub. One airline might be deemed the best, but if you need a route from Boston to Chicago and they don’t offer it, you’re out of luck.
The best thing you can do before worrying about which airlines are best is to go to the website of your local airline and see all the companies that fly from it. Then, also make note of which airlines consider your city a ‘hub’; that means that particular airline will offer the most options and flights. Don't forget the airlines that offer the best points programs too!
American, Delta, United
These are the big guys and the mainstays. We grew up knowing these airlines, all with red white and blue branding that take to the skies. Over time they’ve all ad a few PR meltdowns, like here, here and here. We know things can get crazy when it comes to flights, as these experiences revolve around travel stress, vacations and heightened tension over security. But overall the trio is reliable, albeit not always the cheapest.
Specific Destination Airlines
Hawaiian, Alaskan and Frontier
Don’t discount these sleeping giants. I think lots of people ignore airlines with destinations in their names because they don’t realize all the routes they really do offer. For instance, my brother-in-law just got a flight from Boston to San Francisco for under $200. On Alaskan Airlines! Who knew – and he said the flight was perfectly pleasant.
Overall we find these airlines interchangeable. So really whoever if offering the best rate gets our business, if need be.
Up and Coming Airlines
So obviously this airline has been around for a bit, but doesn’t have the staying power of the veterans above just yet. JetBlue started shaking things up in the early 2000s and has remained a iconic choice. They were the ‘budget’ airline that offered perks, like free snacks and cable. Recently they took away free checked bags which is a bummer, but many flights offer free wifi.
Southwest is growing on me, if nothing else but for their honesty. They were one of the first airlines to declare the cheapest flights could only be found on their own site, not any third-party booking ones. They also have charged fees for luggage and other extras but don’t hide it as bad as the others.
On the surface, this airline looks like it offers dirt cheap flights. But it’s pretty far from reality. To get their baseline advertised rates you actually have to buy into some sort of club and pay a yearly fee up front.
The verdict is still out on this one, which started in the late 90s and is based out of Nevada. Skytrax only rates then 3 out of 10 (Southwest got a 6 out of 10). No bells and whistles, so you get what you pay for. But it could be a viable option for shorter flights or those with a higher tolerance for nonsense.
What's your opinion? Have you flown any of these airlines? Which is your favorite?