The king of the skies; Emirates are my favourite airline in the world. The staff always go the extra mile (sorry) and their onboard food regularly wins international awards. Their frequent flier programme offers you the chance to trade miles for experiences such as Real Madrid tickets, Miami Open tennis, food festivals or Apple, Swarovski and Montblanc products. If you’re an opulent traveller, you’ll get looked after even more lavishly. The double decker A380 plane seats the business and first class flyers on the luxurious upper deck, separating you from the downstairs passengers like myself; the riffraff in cattle class.
The third largest low cost carrier in Europe, the second largest airline in Scandinavia and my first choice for budget travel. Norwegian offer the cheapest transatlantic fares you’ll ever find, flying from Gatwick to New York, Florida, California and Las Vegas for a fraction of the price of their competitors. So low, in fact, that the group who represent American pilots have written to Donald Trump asking him to ban Norwegian Air because their aggressively low fares will ‘destroy our US airline industry and all the jobs associated with it’. Norwegian aren’t listening, they’ve just announced plans to expand their network to include flights from Manchester and Edinburgh.
Like a faithful butler in a well-worn tuxedo, British Airways remains an emblem of class and reliability. Last year, it ranked lowest on overall delay times and one of the highest on claim processing, so in the unlikely event you are delayed you’ll have a high chance of being financially compensated. Their fleet is ever expanding, and as of this year they’re also flying to New Orleans, Montpellier, Tallinn and Mykonos: time to start planning that holiday. Check out Holiday Pirates for discount business and first class fares and the chance to have your very own butler in the sky.
Viva Colombia is South America’s answer to Ryan Air. If you’re travelling overland from Bogota to Medellin you can expect to spend 9 hours on a bumpy coach if you’re lucky. Book in advance with Viva and for the same price, around £25, you can complete the trip in 55 minutes. They also fly to Cartagena, the epitome of tropical Caribbean splendour, and Leticia, a border town in the Amazon jungle, if it’s adventure you’re after. 2017 marked the start of their expansion across the continent with bargain basement flights to Lima, Peru and more to follow soon. Watch out though, like Ryan Air, if you do contravene weight restrictions, they’ll happily fine you. Weigh that bag beforehand.
In 2012, Samoa Air famously introduced a pay-as-you-weigh fare structure. The decision begins to make sense when you learn that Air Samoa’s fleet is comprised of lightweight Cessna’s and Britten-Norman Islander aircraft, coupled with the fact that Samoa suffers from the one of the world’s highest obesity rates. So your gym sessions could end up saving you money and there’s less chance of your neighbour’s stomach spilling over onto your seat. Recent research found that 58% of Britons would not object to airlines introducing weighing machines at departure gates and charging heavier people more to travel, leading me to conclude that 42% of Britain is overweight.
Saudi Arabia’s national carrier provided an unbridled carousel of disappointment when I flew with them for the first and last time. The staff were rude, the food was terrible and, even worse, there was no alcohol onboard. Inflight entertainment systems aren’t meant to be endured without a miniature bottle of red but Saudia’s would require a box of wine to render it enjoyable. Episodes of The Big Bang Theory were cut to 11 minutes and Gloria from Modern Family was blurred from the neck down. Any scene in every film involving references to sex, alcohol or general fun have been cut, which left all movies apart from Peppa Pig: The Golden Boots at a running time of 45 minutes to an hour.
Bulgaria Air should borrow a ‘Mind The Gap’ sign from the London Underground. The space between the hastily assembled stairs and the entrance to the cabin was nearly a metre long. The cabin crew glared at me after I successfully traversed the drop; angry, it seemed, at having to work one person harder. I don’t expect the food to be complimentary on a short haul low-cost flight. But I do expect the £7 damp cheese toastie to be garnished with a smile and placed in front of me instead of being thrown with a grunt. If Bulgaria Air was a chocolate bar, it would be a CurlyWurly. Cheap, holes everywhere, and as the chewy bits linger in your teeth, you wonder if you should have upgraded to a Galaxy.
You’ve been waiting for your trip for months. You’re packing and unpacking a couple of times a day because you can’t decide what to bring. Eventually, you manage to squeeze everything into one bag to avoid the exorbitant charges for excess luggage. You board the plane and arrive safely at your destination, but your bag doesn’t. This is statistically most likely to happen if you’re flying with America’s ExpressJet Airlines, who lost 7,713 bags in March 2016 alone, at a rate of 3.97 misplaced bags per 1000 customers. If you have to fly with ExpressJet, maybe pack a smaller bag and take it on as hand luggage.
My airfare from Jakarta to Singapore was worryingly cheap. Whilst onboard Indonesia’s largest private carrier, we landed twice. This might sound like value for money but it was the result of navigational incompetence. We approached the ground at too harsh an angle, bounced up many metres in the air and eventually came back into contact with the runway twenty seconds later, leaving everyone onboard with a mild case of whiplash except the pilot, who I imagine was also nursing rather red cheeks.
If I was going to play fuck, marry, kill with airlines, I’d probably sleep with Emirates, get betrothed to British Airways and murder Batik Air, if they didn’t kill me first. 2016 saw this Indonesian low cost airline bring home the notorious accolade of being the least safe airline in the world. In just 365 days, they managed an impressive array of blunders, including a runway overrun accident, a runway collision, missing a runway altogether and losing a plane’s tail, which does seem rather careless. In fact, flying Batik Air is the only time I would recommend flying with Lion Air. But if at all possible, don’t do either.
What have been your best and worst airline experiences? Let me know if the comments below!