Traveling can be hectic and stressful, especially if you're flying. But one thing that can smooth over the entire experience is an airline with excellent service and perks. At the end of the day, adding miles to your frequent flier program or saving money on an extra checked bag can make the stress of travel worth it, or at least it doesn't hurt. Here's a breakdown of some of the best airlines for any of your travel needs.
1. Best all around: Virgin America
Virgin America is known for its flashy interior but there is much more on offer here. The airline consistently earns great ratings for its signature purple interior lighting, well-trained flight attendants, and top in-flight technology. Virgin takes the headaches out of flying by offering an upbeat and cheery atmosphere you can actually relax in. Virgin isn't quite as cheap as Southwest or other more budget-friendly airlines, but it does offer more affordable fares than the bigger airlines flying to the same destinations. You may not get free checked bags, but the extra cost is worth it for a relaxed cabin atmosphere.
2. For the economical traveler: Southwest Airlines
Southwest is famous for its incredibly low airfares and free checked baggage. Another perk is the lack of assigned seating - once you board, you pick your favorite spot and that's that. But you aren't paying for cheap service. In 2017, Southwest had the lowest rate of customer complaints out of the 12 biggest airlines. There are a few drawbacks though. The lack of assigned seating means you'll have to arrive earlier if you want your pick of available seats. Southwest also often flies to smaller, out of the way airports rather than big, bustling ones in city centers. That can be a tad annoying if you need to get downtown when you land, but overall, if you want to save some money on the airfare, Southwest is the way to go.
3. For the loyal passenger: Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines is a comparatively smaller airline in the industry, but its loyalty program hasn't been beaten yet. Mileage Plan rewards frequent fliers based on the actual miles they traveled, rather than dollars spent. And you aren't limited to earning miles just with Alaska. You can redeem points by flying with Virgin America and 18 other partner airlines. Earn even more miles with retail, car rental, and hotel partnerships too. There are plenty of flexible options to redeem your miles, though they are still subject to blackout dates and miles can expire after two years of inactivity. Overall, this is the best loyalty program for the frequent or infrequent flier and has fewer restrictions than programs from the bigger airlines.
4. For the international traveler: Delta
Delta is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, but its flights go just about everywhere in the world in 60 countries across six continents. You can easily catch non-stop flights to Europe, travel to Japan, visit South America, or hop on board to Australia. The world is your oyster. Delta isn't the biggest airline in the US (that title belongs to American), but the lower market share comes with more possibilities for sales and rewards. Just as with the other big airlines, you might have to deal with standby seating, high baggage fees, and other fine print details, but the flexibility and price this airline offers makes it the best option for traveling out of the country.
5. For the claustrophobic passenger: JetBlue
JetBlue is one of the smaller airlines, but offers a lot more legroom than its competitors. It actually offers the most legroom in its coach section out of every other airline at 34 inches. That's two inches more than Virgin and Southwest and three inches more than Delta and American. Two or three inches doesn't sound like much but after a few hours, just a little extra space starts to matter. If you're taller than the average person, or your comfort is your number one concern in the air, JetBlue is the airline for you.
There are several reasons to hate flying. It's expensive, not always comfortable, and a little hectic. But a few things that can smooth that over is a high class experience in the air, or some extra perks and points on your frequent flyer membership. Even a steal of a deal can help you relax during your trip. Not all airlines are the same. Pick the one that best fits your needs.