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Top 5 Airlines You Don’t Appreciate Enough

I’ve actually been enjoying the Top 5 lists, so they’ll continue through the rest of this week.  Today we’re going to look at the Top 5 Airlines You Don’t Appreciate Enough:

Spirit.  Wow, do people hate Spirit Airlines.  People really, really hate Spirit.  Go and read some of the reviews and Twitter comments and online chatter about Spirit.  It’s ugly.  And the amazing part is this:  all of those people are wrong to complain.  Spirit promises you nothing, and they deliver on it.  In exchange, you have the opportunity to fly to Haiti for $9.  OK, you don’t want to go to Haiti.  But lots of people do, and it used to cost them hundreds and hundreds of dollars to go to Haiti.  And Honduras.  And Bogota.  You may not like paying for soda, but if your family is in Nicaragua and you couldn’t afford to visit for years, and all of a sudden it costs $9 (or $29 or $49) to fly to Managua, are you really going to complain?  I’ve flown to Ft Lauderdale on Spirit in their Big Front Seat for $21.  Round trip.  I’m going to whine about paying for chips?  Or checking my bag?  And ha ha, the joke’s on you, because every airline charges fees for everything now.  And do you think JetBlue would be offering their $9 Twitter fares if Spirit hadn’t made $9 the low price to beat?  No.  No they wouldn’t.  If you want a free soda, fly someone else.  (Editor’s Note:  On second thought, based on this unprecedented $375,000 DoT fine, they actually do suck…)

Alaska Airlines.  People like Alaska Airlines – and they should.  But I’m not sure everyone appreciates that many, many of the time-saving airline technologies we have nowadays started (or were championed) by Alaska.  E-tickets, online check-in, kiosks, “Airport of the future” and print-at-home boarding passes are all thanks (either in large part or in whole part) to Alaska.  It helps that they’re based in Seattle, where the population is pretty technology friendly, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re the most technically innovative airline in the US, if not the world.

Ryanair.  Like Spirit, they are reviled.  Like Spirit, people are crazy to complain.  Maybe you flew them and had a bad incident.  I have no idea.  But I do know this:  Remember when it cost $600 to fly between London and Paris?  Or London and Dublin?  Or Dublin and Rome?  No?  That’s thanks to Ryanair.  And if you really hate them, you’re free to fly British Airways, which has lowered their fares tremendously over the past 10 years, solely because of Ryanair’s presence.  The days of taking a train around Europe are (in large part) gone, because you can just fly Ryanair (or one of its copycat airlines on the Continent).

People Express (or PEOPLExpress).  It was sooooo good, before it went soooooo bad.  I’m not going to argue that People Express was not a disaster.  It was.  But they championed $99 transcon fares and $99 fares to London, pricepoints that still exist today (which makes it that much more of a bargain 25 years later).  I’m not saying fares would never have dropped to today’s levels without People Express, but they reset the bar to levels that still exist today.

Air Deccan (India).  Air Deccan not only offered crazy low fares (1 Rupee fares, for example), they changed the culture of India.  Indians had (and, truthfully, continue to have) no problem traveling 20 hours by train to reach a destination.  With extremely high fares as the norm to fly just about anywhere, India’s aviation sector was reserved for only the wealthiest Indians.  That all changed with Air Deccan (and their other lowfare counterparts).  Suddenly that 20 hour train trip was exchanged for a 1-hour flight that cost next-to-nothing.  Families that could see each other only once a year could get together more often.  Business travelers could see customers in other cities more frequently.  Imagine if nobody in the US flew, then all of a sudden everybody flew.  It taxed the infrastructure in a terrible, terrible way.  But still, there are now dozens of flights per day between large cities, and fares are extremely low, mostly thanks to Deccan.

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  1. I’m with you on Alaska. They are AMAZINGLY innovative for an airline of their size. Few people seem to know this.

    Spirit? I don’t know. Their advertising tends to be crass and, at times, (as the DOT found) misleading. Not sure I want the industry to look like them.

    Ryanair? I’ve never flown them, and I’d like to continue that streak. But it looks like I have to go from Point A to Point B in Europe and their flights make the most sense. Just looking at their website, I can tell they suck. Many of the European low cost airlines are now upfront with their pricing. Ryanair is not. There’s a fee for everything except breathing, and they try to trick you into buying things (like insurance) that you don’t need. Most annoying to me: it looks like I can’t carry on more than a few pounds worth of luggage, and then I have to pay their checked bag fee. If this is the future of flying, I’ll drive.

  2. Yes, Ryanair’s fees and misleading advertising in general certainly suck. But not as much as paying ungodly amounts of money to fly 45 minute short hops. Which is what you had to do before they came along.

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