I have been flying since 2004. It all started with a few hundred dollars and a dream to visit someplace by plane that I had never been to and always wanted to go. I was told by a good friend of mine to “do yourself a favor: go to California, you won’t regret it.” No regrets, whatsoever!
My first flight was on American Airlines Flight 1 from JFK Airport in New York to LAX Airport in Los Angeles, and my return flight was American Airlines Flight 4 from LAX to JFK. American actually still flies this pair of flights to this day, and they assign the same aircraft type as when I flew back in 2004, the Boeing 767-200. I vaguely remember the security process that I had to go through with my luggage and my camera equipment, (I’ve gone through it so much in the last 9 years) but I do recall experiencing my first takeoff, being over the middle of the country at 35,000 feet, and having to watch the in-flight movie without any headphones because I didn’t bring mine, nor did I want to purchase any headphones that I would never use again since I have my own set. Not only was this my first flight, it was my first visit to California, and it would be the beginning of my “World Traveler” phase in life.
Since then, I have flown to other parts of California, Washington, Oregon, Pennsylvania,Texas, Vermont, Arizona, Illinois, Florida, and Colorado. International flights include those to Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, and most recently to the UK and France. Most of my flights have been 3 or more hours, with a few under 2.5 hours. Airlines flown include American, Delta, United, Continental (before the United/Continental merger), JetBlue, ATA (before the merger/buyout by Southwest), Spirit, Southwest, Alaska, Air Canada, Westjet, and Air France.
Out of those Airlines, I would rate Air France as my favorite of them, but since I don’t fly with them too often, and two of my three flights with them were Airbus A380 flights (the third was an A321), I won’t include them. I do have a liking to JetBlue, with its 36 channels of DirecTV at every seat, and relatively comfortable A320s and their smaller but more comfortable Embraer 190s, complimentary snack and soft drinks when every other airline practically charges for snacks or offers free snacks in lieu of paying for actual food, and flights to airports other than major city airport (for the most part) as a way to avoid delays and keep costs down. For example, before JetBlue started flying into LAX, their only Los Angeles-area airport was LGB (Long Beach), and before flying SFO (San Francisco), its only Bay Area airport was OAK (Oakland). The A320s historically were flown on major flight pairs (like JFK-LGB or BOS-DFW), and E190s on lower-ridership routes (JFK-PIT, JFK-BUF). Ever since JetBlue started offering LAX and SFO as options, it appears that they have been streamlining their operations and prices seem to have gone up significantly. Not to say JetBlue isn’t my favorite anymore, but they are starting to look a bit more mainstream.
Least favorite airline? Spirit Airlines, but not because of the flight experience with their fleet of A319s, but their pricing models. You are literally charged for everything from snacks on board the plane to baggage check-in for large luggage and carry-on bags to calling Spirit and making or changing a reservation. You have to pay for bags, whether checked or carry-on, and the price increases the closer to your flight date and flight time (you might pay $35 online when you book your ticket versus $50 upon check-in at the terminal or up to $100 at the gate). So a $250 round-trip ticket from JFK to DFW will wind up costing around $400 once you factor in taxes and fees, comparable to other airlines that charge only for checked bags and do not charge if you speak to a live person or buy at the terminal. It is the textbook definition of a “nickel-and-dime airline” much like the world-famous Ryannair, which is the pioneer of this pricing model and whose CEO has been criticized for wanting to find any way to squeeze every penny.
Lately, my airline choices have been based mainly on availability of the airline for the city pairs I want, cost of the ticket for one airline over another, even the type of aircraft I want to fly or the amount of stopovers I am willing to accept. Stopover acceptance depends on where the stopover is (as an example, I will not accept a stopover in Atlanta for a LGA to MDW flight, going south just to go west) and how long of a stopover (I did a short stopover in Paris recently; what wound up happening is that I made the transfer just in time but my luggage didn’t, but mainly because the first flight was delayed an hour, so a 2-hour layover turned into 45 minutes) . For many of my trips, if I can help it and if I can afford it, nonstop is the way to go.