Gadling’s favorite airlines for 2011

gadling favorite airlines 2011

Even with airlines falling over themselves in an effort to generate profits out of new fees and charges, flying retains some glamour and excitement. No? Not working for you? Well there are mileage programs to exploit and perks to chase. And even in the direst landscape for customers, there are always new routes to sample, smiling flight attendants to befriend, and reliable pilots to thank for safe landings.

Going into 2011, it appears that Virgin America is Gadling’s favorite airline. Virgin America sails above the competition with their standard of service, their appealing overall product, and their general freshness.

Other airlines we especially like or tolerate for one or another reason include easyJet, Qantas, VAustralia, Air France, Philippine Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific, Jet Airways, Continental, Alaska Airlines, and Porter.

We begin with the observations of Kent Wien, Gadling’s resident pilot-contributor and the motor behind two Gadling features, namely, Cockpit Chronicles and Plane Answers.

Kent Wien. Air New Zealand. I don’t know if I was more impressed with their new line of coach sleeper seats or the friendliness of their flight attendants. Either way, Air New Zealand has managed to capture much of the recent jump in tourism traffic to New Zealand by offering an innovative cabin design and enhanced service which includes an in-flight concierge for the entire airplane. They’ve changed the look and feel of their galleys by hiding them away during boarding, since the first thing passengers see when stepping on to an airplane is the in-flight kitchen. And most of these changes were accomplished even after they were named by Air Transport World as the airline of the year for 2010.

Mike Barish. I continue to love Virgin America. They’re willing to show personality. They have a sense of humor and their use of social media is phenomenal. They have really embraced customer service and care about humanizing their brand.

Annie Scott. Air France has the best coach class of any airline I’ve flown this year, but Philippine Airlines gets ten points for calling their economy class “Fiesta Class.”

McLean Robbins. Virgin America. Am I one of many?

Meg Nesterov. Turkish Airlines has become my default carrier of choice, which is fine given their excellent service. How many other airlines will let you cancel and rebook a flight last minute and only charges a small change fee? Their in-flight meals even in coach are reliably good and always free.

Melanie Nayer. Props to Cathay Pacific. Great in-flight crew, and any airline that makes me a grilled cheese sandwich in flight is tops in my book!

Alex Robertson Textor. Porter, hands down. I like the airline so much I found a way to write a piece for their in-flight magazine. I want two dozen regional Porters around the globe, each with limited route maps, quiet, fuel-efficient planes, friendly fight attendants, and a single class of service.Catherine Bodry. Alaska Air.

Grant Martin. Virgin America & VAustralia. All of that positive press is happening for a reason. These two airlines have the best service out there, and their hard products are equally gorgeous. Get to Australia next year while competition is still high and ticket prices are rock bottom.

Karen Walrond. I fly mostly on Continental because I live in its hub city and that’s where my airmiles are. Here in Houston, we’re nervous about the merger between Continental and United. We hope nothing will be ruined in the process!

David Farley. Jet Airways.

Sean McLachlan. easyJet. Everyone complains about them, myself included, but damn they’re cheap and convenient. And hey, at least they aren’t Ryanair!

Laurel Miller. Qantas for their consistently excellent service, staff, and on-time departures.

[Image: Flickr | LWY]

Man threatens to explode bomb at SFO, gets one-way ticket to jail

If you have a problem with your plane ticket, do not, I repeat, DO NOT do what Oregonian Mark Field did this past Tuesday at San Francisco International Airport: He threatened Philippine Airlines‘ staff by waving his cellphone and saying, I’m going to press this and blow up the plane.”

Mention a bomb in an airport and you’re in BIG trouble as Field quickly discovered. It doesn’t matter how hopping-, spitting-, head-about-to-burst-mad you are. It also doesn’t matter that you don’t actually have a bomb.

Evidently, the problem started when Mr. Field tried to check in for an international flight and discovered he was being charged for a round-trip ticket even though he only wanted a one-way ticket. No matter how much he argued with staff, they weren’t budging, and the situation heated up until … Field finally snapped.

Once the word “bomb” spewed from his mouth, in rushed the bomb-sniffing dogs. After it was established that Field didn’t have a bomb after all — just a trigger mouth — he was arrested for making a false bomb threat. Now, Field sits in jail with a hefty $50,000 bail and a one-way ticket to a court date on October 19.

If convicted, Field could remain in jail for up to one year.

As Sargent Sergeant Wesley Matsuura of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office explained, one-way tickets aren’t normally sold for international flights due to security issues. That’s why the airline staff wasn’t giving in to Mr. Field’s complaints. Too bad for him he didn’t understand this.

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Jet circles Zamboanga airport waiting for missing air traffic controllers

Unlike our very own Kent Wien, I never trained to be a pilot, but even without those years of training, I can’t imagine it is very comforting to get close to your destination airport and find an unstaffed air traffic control tower.

This is exactly what happened when a jet carrying 156 passengers arrived in the airspace of Zamboanga airport in the Philippines, after a flight from the nation’s capital.

Instead of hearing the familiar commands from the tower telling them they were cleared to land, the Philippine Airlines flight crew heard nothing. It took 30 minutes of circling around the airport for someone to finally make their way to the tower and permit the jet to land.

Of the 5 controllers who were supposed to be on duty that morning, 2 were missing, 2 were late and one was on an approved day off, but their approval note did not make it to the airport administrator. Talk about a total breakdown of communications.

The excuse the remaining 4 controllers presented was that public transport was hard to find the day after Christmas, but officials say the controllers may still have been a little too much in “party mode”. I’m sure that is comforting to hear if you were in the air around Zamboanga that morning.

The newspaper article claims the controllers were fired, but Philippine officials merely say the 5 are currently suspended pending an investigation.

(Via: Sydney Morning Herald)

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