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]