Naming, praising and shaming airlines I’ve flown with

I’m still dreaming of the day that an airline approaches me to advertise their service and while I’d hate to detriment any future relationships with brands, here are brief, honest thoughts naming, praising and shaming airlines I have flown with.

Aegean

Athens > London

I booked business class as it was a cheaper fare on a Monday than economy was on a Sunday and was highly impressed with the service and food on offer. The separate check in counter, business lounge (which allowed me to catch up on my blog), food, drinks, newspapers and expedited luggage delivery really changed my expectations as to what I expect from airlines.

Aer Lingus

London Southend > Dublin

Southend Airport was much further away than I’d realised though I did like the smaller, quieter airport compared to what I had come to expect flying in and out of London. This was also the first flight I’d ever been on where they forced me check in (at my cost) my carry-on luggage – the allowed size is minimal.  We had to walk out on the tarmac to board the plane which reminded me of flying between regional airports at home.

Air Asia

Hanoi to Melbourne via Kuala Lumpur

After saying I’d never fly Air Asia I did so on a Friday the 13th. It was a long-haul, multi-stage journey at about 1/3 of the price of their closest competitor.

It was no frills but it didn’t crash.

Air Calin

Auckland > Noumea return

Somehow not at all memorable…

Air Nauru

Honiara > Brisbane

A TripAdvisor review I read described the Nauru Airlines service as like being on an island hopping bus trip. On a Sunday Nauru Airline’s route flies from the Marshall Islands to Brisbane via Kiribati, Nauru and Honiara, yet somehow the staff remain friendly and enthusiastic.

Due to board in Honiara at 1:10pm on a Saturday we learnt when checking in the incoming leg from Nauru was delayed eight hours. We were dispatched to a hotel with a meal allowance to wait, returning to the airport to finally take of shortly before 2:00am.

With seven of us boarding in Honiara we expected to find an empty plane or a cancelled leg, but it was close to capacity with unhappy looking people.

Wine was available during the meal service which included a small salad, bread roll and cake as well as a hot dish of lamb curry or chicken and mashed potato.

No entertainment was provided however the South Pacific Living Magazine told fabulous stories of places like the Marshall Islands which I’d never considered visiting but am now desperate to.

Air New Zealand

Assorted domestic and international flights to and from New Zealand

Air New Zealand is my favourite airline given its Airpoints program, friendly kiwi hospitality and perks such as Koru hour. Their monthly Kiaora magazine and regularly updated safety videos can be relied on for entertainment.

Air New Zealand Space Seats
Photo by Mike Rishworth

American Airlines and British Airways felt very similar to me. Similar planes and service. Good hospitality, but not exceptional enough for me to have much to report.

Air New Zealand make you feel like a VIP every trip, whoever you are and whether or not you’re travelling in a Space Seat. When I get to visit a koru lounge it becomes a highlight of my trip.

Alitalia 

Rome to London 

I had a non-changeable ticket with Alitalia for a flight I was deemed to miss due to a cruise travel company changing times on us. I booked a second flight with the same airline on the same day and was lucky enough to be upgraded to Business Class after check in.

American Airlines

LA > New York

They have mixed reviews about their customer service online but I found American Airlines absolutely fine flying across the states. Your standard, full service long-haul flight airline. British Airways LA > London Also not that memorable but had a similar feel to flying with American Airlines or Qantas.

British Airways

New York > London

Also not that memorable but had a similar feel to flying with American Airlines or Qantas.

British Airways naming and shaming airlines

Delta

New York > Miami return

I struck an issue when I went to check in at the airport as I discovered a checked bag was not included with my fare (booked by a travel agent who should have known better given I had checked luggage on every other leg of the journey). I had to pay airport hiked bag prices.

Cute snacks and and complementary soft drinks were served.

I later met a Delta pilot in a hostel in Dublin who said Delta were great to work for – he commuted from Baltimore to New York for work and obviously had some amazing travel perks.

EasyJet

Assorted flights between the UK and Europe

Known to be tough on check in times and luggage limits this is no frills. But as long as you’re prepared to abide by the rules its a cheap way to get around Europe without being as strict as Ryanair are reputed to be, or causing me the kind of stress which JetStar have done.

Etihad

New Zealand > London return via UAE

Booked due to their Star Alliance connection so I could accumulate Air New Zealand Airpoints, but I would not fly through Abu Dabi again.

It was around 38 degrees at 5am when I had to cross the tarmac from an overpacked bus to the terminal. It was a horribly busy airport without sufficient signage and so few of the internet portals worked.

On board had cute complementary amenity kits even in ‘povoclass’, had a decent movie selection and the airline service was fine. It was just their hub airport which was unbearable.

JetStar

Between Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand as well as to the Gold Coast

Not known for their service but for their cut prices.

I’ve had my fair share of delayed flights but never missed one due to their cut off 30 minutes prior to departure (though I have come very close).

Given their crowded planes, lack of free snacks, the boarding process where you feel like cattle and have to cram your luggage in, it can be a stressful experience to fly with JetStar.

I also HATE the manky ripped JetStar magazines with coffee spills, missing pieces of pages and completed puzzles – a regular seat pocket check would not go astray.

I was once forced to check in a piece of oddly shaped cabin luggage but they did not charge me for it (it was well within weight restrictions).

One point I do like and have started doing (when Air New Zealand’s prices are out of control on the date I want to fly) – if you pay an extra $19 on top of the standard ticket you get free date and time changes, a $10 voucher towards your next flight, free seat selection and a $10 food and beverage voucher – that wine and cheese can change the whole experience.

Lufthansa

Houston to London via Frankfurt

I wanted to fly with StarAlliance partners and Lufthansa offered the quickest, and best value for money route.

The plane was far less crammed than other routes and providers flying long haul out of the USA and the extra space was awesome having just got off a full 14 hour flight from New Zealand.

The in-flight entertainment system, which touch screen was one of the clunkest I’ve ever struck and the meals were substantial but low quality.

A snack of a sandwich and non-alcoholic beverage was even served on the short haul route between Frankfurt and London.

worst airlines to fly with

Malaysia

Auckland > London via KL and Rome > Auckland via KL

Given the events of 2014 I’d be unlikely to choose to fly Malaysia again. However the service was exceptional and the snacks and water kept coming when I was unable to sleep on long flights.

There is however something very scary about hearing a long safety message in a foreign language followed by a seemingly much shorter English version – what were they telling the Thai speakers that they were not telling the rest of us?!

Monarch

London > Rome return

One a cruise company booked me on as part of a fly and cruise packages and conveniently fly from London Gatwick. Both the checked and carry on luggage limits were smaller than ideal but I was carrying my entire life with me at the time.

Norwegian

Reykjavic to Oslo and Bergen to Stockholm

The first airline I’ve flown with which has wifi access on board, I also like that Norwegian’s tail fins depict iconic figures from across the network who have ‘pushed the boundaries, challenged established norms and inspired others’

When we checked for our flight to Oslo in Renee was given someone else’s boarding pass for a flight to Barcelona. As her bag (stickered to the same destination) started heading off down the belt from the check in counter she realised and told the girl to stop it.

A post shared by Sarah (@sarahseestworld) on

Qantas

Between Wellington and Australia and Auckland to Los Angeles

I like that Qantas flights to Australia still feed you regardless of the airfare paid unlike Air New Zealand where a meal works out rather expensive to add on. I’d probably fly with them more on my own dime if they weren’t on their own loyalty program – the rewards stack up quicker when you just have one.

Ryanair

Stockholm to London

True to Ryanair legend the Ryanair only airport was in a far flung location, miles from the city. It didn’t have enough seating through security, the cafe had ‘yesterday’s sandwiches’ on sale and the plane was late with no communication.

I missed the small things like the in-flight magazine and having a seat pocket to put my stuff in.

Solomon Airlines

Brisbane to Honiara

The flight from Brisbane to Honiara with Solomon Airlines is a code share with Qantas. The Airbus A320 had 16 seats in business class (seemingly a popular choice with 14 people having booked it) and a maximum of 120 in economy.

There was a full meal service with the choice of chicken and mushrooms or beef and noodles, but as I did not book my own flight I’m unsure about meal choices for those with special requirements.

Meals were served with choice of drink including juices, sodas and red or white wine. Wine glasses were topped up before the tea and coffee service and when the meal trays were cleared was told I could get a wine top up any time.

I liked the in-flight magazine, Solomons, as it was mostly stories of places in the solomons and advertising hotels and resorts relevant to someone going there. Otherwise be sure to have podcasts or items downloaded from Netflix for entertainment.

view of pacific islands and plane propeller out window in blue sky

You’ll want a window seat for domestic flights in the Solomon Islands, the views out the window are spectacular and you can sit anywhere you like rather than where’s dictated on your boarding pass. Those first on the plane get the best choice in position.

Don’t be surprised if you’re asked for your weight during the domestic flight check in process either!

ThaiSmile

Phuket to Bangkok

I was confused from the start with these guys as they seemed to have two flights between Phuket and Bangkok with the same flight number within two hours of each other and we received conflicting advice (our booking vs our boarding card) as to which we were on.

The seat numbers weirdly started at row 31. I was also surprised to be fed receiving a bottle of water, pastry and a choice of non-alcoholic beverages but this was a great customer service touch.

shaming airlines online

United

Los Angeles > Vancouver

On a surprisingly small plane, we were seated in the second to back row. One air steward moved those in the back row further up the plane before take-off then the two of them sat in the row behind us and bitched, gossiped and visibly ate sandwiches en-route. The most unprofessional attendants I have ever seen though enjoyed the two glasses of coke they bought me. 

VietJet

Bangkok to Hanoi

I don’t remember much other than the uniforms which looked like they’d suit a pornstar playing a schoolgirl. You could also buy a child sized one in the in-flight shopping guide.

Virgin Atlantic

Wellington to Brisbane return 

Virgin Atlantic felt no frills. Kirsty and I sat in the front economy row as I was Gold Elite Partner status with AirNZ at the time and could choose our seats.

The Premium Economy seats just in front of us and barely concealed from the main cabin were unsurprisingly empty given the upgrade price and short distance.

Virgin Australia 

Between New Zealand and Australia and the Pacific Islands

The Virgin Australia service was nothing special on the routes I have flown. Take your own laptop if you’re flying on a saver fare when flying between New Zealand and the Pacific for entertainment unless you hire a device from them. I can’t wait for the day I experience Virgin Business Class as it is often held up as a brand service example.

Vueling

Barcelona to Luxembourg

I missed this flight. The first time I’ve ever missed a flight as I get to airports early. Unfortunately in this case Barcelona’s security staff were on strike, so it took us over an hour to get through security and the gates had closed by the time we reached them.

Vueling did not wait knowing of the security hold ups. Additionally – our luggage was not unloaded and went to Luxembourg without us which goes against security policies. They failed to locate our luggage and return it to us – Luxembourg airport found it and let us know we could collect it almost three days later.

They refused to respond to our emails seeking documentation for insurance claims (if not compensation) and are useless on Facebook.

What’s your best or worst airline experience? How about naming, praising and shaming airlines you’ve flown with!

14 Comments

  1. August 5, 2015 / 10:04 am

    I’ve also had good experiences with Qatar Air!

    Flying Jetstar long distance next month – am a little nervous…

    • August 5, 2015 / 12:04 pm

      Qatar Air is one I know little about! I have a JetStar flight booked in November from Auckland to Phuket via Melbourne which was redic cheap but totally no frills! I hope it’s not too painful…

  2. February 18, 2015 / 11:25 pm

    I travelled Virgin Australia’s business class from LA to Brisbane and OMG I didn’t want to get off the plane – it was incredible. I also flew the opposite direction in premium economy and it was really good too. I really like Singapore Airlines and Emirates too, always a great experience. I much prefer the fuller service airlines but $$$ adds up! I’ve flown China Airlines between Auckland and Brisbane several times, and love it – a really good price and you get movies and food too!

    My family travels Brisbane-Auckland a lot, as mum and my stepdad live in brisbane, and their 4 kids all live in Auckland. We usually pick based on price but I prefer Air NZ to Virgin, I’ll choose a flight at a worse time to get Air NZ, if they are the same price due to their partnership arrangement.

    • February 21, 2015 / 4:28 am

      If not wanting to get off the plane isn’t a sign of amazing service then I don’t know what is! You’ve got some good tips on price and service too, thanks 🙂

  3. Amanda Marie
    January 19, 2015 / 10:44 am

    It is crazy what you will find in airports!!! I understand that some have extra amenities and such which is nice, however I was in an airport one time in France that had no SEATS!!! I thought it was a joke, so I ended up sitting on the floor and I was already tired, it made for an overall bad experience!!! Needles to say I slept REAL GOOD on the plane!
    Thanks…–

    • January 19, 2015 / 8:16 pm

      Wow that’s certainly one airport experience I have not struck thank goodness!

  4. Sarah
    January 19, 2015 / 8:16 am

    Wow that’s certainly one airport experience I have not struck thank goodness!

  5. Lisa
    January 19, 2015 / 7:05 am

    You’ve flown so much! I’ve traveled by afew different airlines. By far my least favorite was Lufthansa. I took that to India and it was cramped for such a long flight. The food was its only saving grace. I traveled by British airways it Israel and loved it! For domestic flights I love southwest mainly because they have free checked bags. I loved reading about your experiences.

  6. alyssa nicole
    January 19, 2015 / 6:27 am

    It’s amazing all of the places that you’ve seen! I’ve never traveled internationally but, gosh, I hope to soon! This is all amazing.

  7. Sarah
    January 18, 2015 / 10:44 pm

    It is crazy what you will find in airports!!! I understand that some have extra amenities and such which is nice, however I was in an airport one time in France that had no SEATS!!! I thought it was a joke, so I ended up sitting on the floor and I was already tired, it made for an overall bad experience!!! Needles to say I slept REAL GOOD on the plane!
    Thanks…–

  8. Sarah
    January 18, 2015 / 6:27 pm

    It’s amazing all of the places that you’ve seen! I’ve never traveled internationally but, gosh, I hope to soon! This is all amazing.

  9. Sarah
    January 15, 2015 / 9:04 pm

    Thanks Corrine! I am yet to fly Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines but have heard great things about both. Emirates certainly sound like they’ve had their time, I kind of (falsely) associate the condition of the plane with safety too.

  10. frockandrollonline.com
    January 15, 2015 / 6:57 pm

    This was a terrific post Sarah and wow, you really *have* seen the world!

    I loved your tips about JetStar (I didn’t know about the added perks for an extra $19), agreed with your comments on Aer Lingus (I had NO IDEA how far their boarding area was away from the terminal when I flew with them from London to Dublin and literally had to sprint, stressing, to make my flight!) and the heat of Abu Dhabi (unbearable).

    I’ve only flown with Cathay Pacific once, but would like to repeat the experience, because they were wonderful. Despite having a rewards programme with them (the only reason I kept booking my flights with them again and again), I’d be reluctant to use Emirates in the future. They’d always been touted as an exception airline but apart from one flight between Dubai and London (out of the at least eight others I’ve had with Emirates), I’ve found them to be extremely average. Dirty planes, broken headsets, disinterested stewards… they’ve done their dash! As sad as it is (I do genuinely feel a little sorry for the company), I have to admit that I wouldn’t travel with Malaysian Airlines, either. Air New Zealand are fantastic domestically, so for my next long haul flight, they’d be my pick, but I’ve also heard that Singapore Airlines are exceptional. Great topic!

    • January 16, 2015 / 9:04 am

      Thanks Corrine! I am yet to fly Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines but have heard great things about both. Emirates certainly sound like they’ve had their time, I kind of (falsely) associate the condition of the plane with safety too.