With some upcoming trips finally starting to come into view over the metaphorical horizon, I’ve started to get excited about all aspects of travelling again.
And one of the main things that I most look forward to about getting away is flying!
It’s crazy to think it’s not even been five years yet since I took my very first flight – what a sheltered and deprived existence I’d been living!
But now I’ve taken several flights in both Europe and Asia, which means I’ve also experienced a fair few different airlines. Whilst my journeys have mostly been pretty decent, some airlines have definitely made better impressions than others. So here for you, lovely reader, is the lowdown on the airlines that have left me singing their praises long after I’ve stepped off the plane.
Asia’s Boutique Airline – as their strapline goes – is a mightily impressive one, yet extremely accessible for any budget traveller in Thailand. I used them for three flights during my time in the land of smiles, and each one was pretty top-notch.
With incredibly prompt take offs (no messing about once everyone was onboard), a complimentary meal or snacks on every flight, free food and drink in the lounge at Ko Samui airport – which incidentally is owned by the airline – and superb service, Bangkok Airways do a pretty fine job of domestic and short distance international flights from Thailand.
The only reason I couldn’t consider them the most impressive would be due to our bizarre aborted first landing at Ko Samui. I really should write about that some time…
The airline that I took my first long-haul flights with just happen to be regarded as one of the world’s best, with one of the few 7 star ratings on Skytrax.
Hong Kong’s flag carrier was always going to be an interesting experience for me, what with my fascination regarding Chinese culture. I’m glad to say it was an absolute pleasure from start to finish.
With incredible service from the multi-cultural crew, who are constantly available and serving free drinks to passengers, you’ll be made to feel comfortable no matter what the class. An incredible range of in-flight entertainment is also on offer, with Cathay’s Studio CX housing an absolutely massive library of albums, films and games that cater to several tastes and nationalities. And for some reason the Studio CX intro jingle is particularly memorable too…
The meals provided aren’t even too bad for plane food either (except for the congee!) with some tasty Chinese choices on offer.
I ended up taking four flights with Cathay Pacific during my Asian travels – 2 long haul, 1 medium haul and 1 short – and really enjoyed every one of them. Whilst they may be the national airline of Hong Kong, I couldn’t help but be impressed at just how international Cathay’s onboard services are. Seriously recommended!
The absolute number one experience I’ve had so far though has undoubtedly come on Japan’s flagship carrier – Japan Airlines. The perfect return flight from my Japanese adventure, I didn’t actually book a JAL flight, but it was part of a code-share with BA. So I got to try out two airlines from one booking. Boy was I glad!
Upon boarding I was blown away at first sight, with the plane looking absolutely brand spanking new. And rather than the standard dull colours that most planes seem to be bedecked in, the spotlessly clean interior was beautifully finished with black and red seats, carpets and trim. I was rather impressed.
The seats on a long-haul JAL flight just happen to be kitted out with the absolute daddy of in flight entertainment screens, with a (proportionally) massive widescreen monitor awaiting you, and easily navigable with JAL’s MAGIC interface. It’s literally like having your own private cinema screen!
Flight attendants also happened to be the most incredibly polite and helpful that I could have hoped to find. I swear they literally didn’t stop smiling the entire 11 and a half hours. I think I temporarily developed a massive crush on one lovely lady too due to that…
I also enjoyed the food muchly during my flight. Whilst my beef shabu-shabu was just good quality plane food, the second food serving just happened to be terrifically tasty teriyaki beef burgers from Japanese chain MOS! How cool is that?
I was literally blown away by the service provided and comfort of my flight with JAL. It’s a pretty incredible level of care they provide, and even more impressive considering this was a practically bankrupt airline a few years ago. If you get the chance to fly with Japan Airlines please please do!
On the flipside…
Sadly though not every airline can be a great experience, and there was one airline in particular that seriously disappointed me. Yes it’s safe to say I’m not intending to use my own country’s flag carrier again any time soon…
My BA experience all started off so well of course, with me managing to score a great price on a direct flight out to Japan. Thanks to their overbooking though I did of course end up travelling a day later than planned, although in fairness they did look after me very well, with accommodation and food laid on and an upgrade to World Traveller Plus class.
Once I got on the plane though the delights ended. The plane in question happened to be the oldest looking example that I’ve flown medium or long haul so far, and whilst I appreciated the extra room my upgraded seat gave me, the joy was short lived when I turned on my in-flight entertainment screen to find it juddering all over the place. Exactly what you want to see with a 12 hour flight ahead…
I twice informed a stewardess about my broken screen too and asked if I could move back to World Traveller (Economy) so I could have a working screen, but neither time they returned. The not overly impressive service was also highlighted by the fact we were served food – and not too impressive food at that – within an hour of take-off, and not again until around an hour and a half before landing. Good thing I’d brought snacks…
As such the combination of an old and not particularly clean plane, broken in-flight entertainment, poor customer service and bland food meant my one experience of British Airways is unfortunately not one I want to repeat.
So that’s the lowdown on the best and worst airlines I’ve experienced thus far. Thankfully the positives have far outweighed the negatives up to now. And hopefully I’ll have several more to add to my list in the future.
What’s the best and worst airlines you’ve travelled on? Any recommendations for me?