The Fun of Flying –

We all know flying has its headaches in addition to the thrills that a new adventure presents the second we clear security. I will try and share a balanced perspective on both as I do love to travel. Please allow me to clarify how much I love to travel as few like to as I do. If anyone says “How about a road trip?” I am the first one at the door with bags packed shouting “Let’s go!” (Without even bothering to ask where too?) I’ll go anywhere at least once. The only two places I absolutely would say hell no to for a vacation are Milton, Florida or BFE Kansas, (unless I am visiting my Nana in Kansas then I am all in). Since spending time in Italy, you may hear me cry Andiamo! (We go) instead.  Domestic flights are also not near as fun as international ones in my opinion.  The one exception to that is EU travel within the continent of Europe.  I will write more about that in a minute.  I do need to put a disclaimer out there that this blog will contain my opinion of a few airlines based on my personal experiences.  Research whatever carrier you wish to fly versus just taking my word for it. 🙂 I am also going to talk about well-known commercial carriers.

I have been fortunate enough to travel via private jet thanks to a fantastic former employer.  It ruins you for commercial travel with the personal attention, lack of crowds, comfortable leather seats, and no long lines to get through.  If you are ever offered the chance to travel on a private jet take it!  You won’t regret it and will never forget the experience, especially if you have a great flight crew. I hope to be able to jet set in this fashion again in the future.  For now, I travel in the same manner as other poor writers and college students by finding the best bang for my buck.  Please be aware of the fact that I choose airlines based on both price and service as you read. I believe you get what you pay for so cheaper is not always better and vice versa – the most expensive ticket doesn’t guarantee an experience you want to repeat.

For US domestic flights hands down Southwest is the best deal and best service going.  They are always my first choice for domestic travel.  Plus they are fun! No other aircrew will joke with you and sing to you when you land in places like Anaheim (Disneyland) or Orlando (Disney World). Currently no checked bag fees with them either unless you are traveling with something unique.  Those fees are also very reasonable compared to other carriers.  I was surprised at how cheaply my fencing bag flew to Anaheim this past summer. A double-sided fully stuffed fencing bag is the size of a golf bag for those of you that are curious about how big a fencing bag is.

For International travel I love Delta. Their fares can be a bit more than their US competitors. The flights do a great job of being on time. Their service has been best in class so far. The meals are pretty good and depending what class you fly you can imbibe some great drink selections for free. On my way to Italy, I sipped on a pretty good red wine while watching movies. For those of you wondering I flew economy plus on that flight. I can’t say enough good things about them.  Hopefully this never changes.

United has some great features and rates but beware of the lack of service, especially out of Dulles.  Never experienced problems like I did with United out of this airport anywhere in the world or with any other carrier. The company is also non responsive to member complaints from many of the reviews and horror stories out there. The management team and Dulles repeated that theme when we escalated in the airport so any chance I get to blast them I take it. If they ever own their service failures and offer my mother and me an apology I may reconsider my position, but I won’t hold my breath on that. I do have to acknowledge the International pilots and flight crews as they were outstanding once we made it onto the International leg of our flight.  It’s a shame that level of service isn’t practiced stateside or with their ground crews.  I have a cousin who is a pilot on their International team and I would love to support his company but can’t bring myself to be tortured by them again. For now I avoid United like the plague unless I have to fly them.

Alright, now for the fun part of this story.  Traveling in Europe.  The European traveler has a vast array of airlines to travel with.  While I am not going to say travel is cheaper than in the US, as that can mislead you, you can travel within Europe at great prices compared to US domestic prices as long as you book in advance and around any big holiday travel weekends.  Be forewarned, Easter is one of those in Europe, which surprised me.

Hands down Easy Jet is my favorite discount carrier.  They have fantastic customer service, great prices and some of the best on time ratings.  Their aircraft are newer and clean.  They do have international crews so I am always curious to hear the crews’ accents and learn where they are from.  It’s a classic box of chocolates travel experience from my perspective.  You never know what flavor you will get and the good service is consistent among flights.

They are a British airline and everyone who knows me will tell you I adore English accents.  I absolutely love the voice of the guy who does the prerecorded safety briefing! Nothing drives me wild like a masculine, deep voice tinged with a South England accent. (As a side note I am also a big fan of a creole accent, but back to the Brits and the safety briefing.) This rich baritone voice comes over the loud speakers capturing my attention every flight.  I love how he clearly articulates every word and almost slips into a hushed bedroom voice from time to time. You will know what I am talking about around when he is describing how the masks will drop from the ceiling and how to secure them. The first time I heard it I almost needed an oxygen mask just to hear the rest of the safety spiel.  You can’t help but smile at the brace, brace command or the elongated eelluhmehnayte (illuminate). I am dying to know what he looks like in real life. Probably nothing like the fantasy guy in my imagination.

Ryan Air is usually the carrier of choice for US back-packers and college students.  I will fly them but they are not my carrier of choice.  They are Nazis about bag size and weight.  Their service is nowhere near as good as Easy Jet and they drive me nuts with all the crap they try to sell you when you buy your tickets or on the flight.  Their check in and boarding process is like a free for all.  If you want to travel cheap and don’t care about service or inflight solicitation this is the airline for you. I chuckled on my last Easy Jet flight out of Milan as several passengers described Ryan Air as cattivo and crudelle when we passed their gates.  Cattivo is the Italian word for naughty/bad and crudelle is cruel. I can second cattivo but my experience was not so terrible to warrant crudelle.

Hope the above is helpful and entertaining for my fellow travelers out there.  I also wish you fair winds and following seas in all of your journeys wherever they may take you.

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