What Airlines Should You Fly this Holiday Season?
As many of us prepare to fly during the holiday season, the question of which airline to fly can be a tough decision. Not all airlines are equal, as is seen in the pricing disparity, consumer ratings, convenience, and, notably, our previous experiences.
So how should we decide which airline is best for your journey?
Factors You Should Consider
Specific considerations could affect your decision regarding which airline to choose for your trip. You may consciously (or subconsciously) prioritize the following elements according to how you deem their importance:
- Does the airline service both your starting and destination airport?
Does the fact the airline service the market to which you are traveling? In some more populated metropolitan areas of the country, some airlines may focus on a secondary or nearby airport. In these instances, you may have to consider the additional cost or time to use an alternative.
On the other hand, a secondary airport, like Midway in Chicago, can be far more convenient for your destination than the principal one. Washington DC, Los Angeles, and New York have several alternative airports to choose from. Many are easier to manage than the primary ones.
- Price Comparison
When people begin to search for holiday flights, price is typically the main criteria. It is a good idea to book early because some options fill up fast. Sites like Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, Kayak, and others maintain real-time databases that allow you to compare pricing among all possibilities. To land the best bargain, you may have to be flexible in departure and return times or dates or even settle for long layovers while in transit.
- Consumer Ratings
For less experienced travelers, consumer ratings are becoming all-important. Such variables as poor on-time departures, ragged inflight service levels, lost luggage, and generally poor treatment at each point of contact can weigh heavily on airline rankings.
J.D. Power ranks airlines in two groups, traditional and low-cost carriers. However, the distinction is becoming somewhat blurred as traditional carriers are trying to become more price-competitive by subtly reducing services to compete with the lower-cost options,
The 2019 J.D. Power Satisfaction Rating shows:
- Traditional Carriers: 1. Alaska 2. Delta 3. American
- Low-Cost Carriers: Southwest and JetBlue – tied for first
When considering the quality of service vs. cost factors, the so-called “low-cost” airlines are rated highest for overall value.
- Direct Flight or Long Layovers?
Many travelers choose to pay slightly more for direct flights. After all, the transit time should be significantly less. Also, you must remember that each connection raises the potential for a flight delay proportionately.
- Luggage Surcharges
Most of us travel with more checked luggage in the form of gifts and heavier clothing during the holiday season. Your low-cost budget airfare can suddenly inflate with the addition of two extra bags. Make sure you understand the baggage allowance before booking your flight.
- Previous experience
Many people have sworn off a particular airline “for life” due to a prior bad experience. While no airline is perfect, its possible that your best option for your next trip could be that airline you chose to give up. The decision to go elsewhere could be an expensive or inconvenient one.
You can always assume that whoever or whatever caused the past problems likely will not be present on the next flight. Face it: some routes have only a few options.
- Frequent Flyer Status
Finally, many choose their airline based on their frequent flier status and their quest to accumulate more points for free travel. While this is a worthy goal, it can be an expensive one.
For this holiday season, shop around and at least make some comparisons.