Most air travelers are creatures of habit and fly over and over again with the same small group of airlines.
This phenomenon may be a necessity, especially for people who live near small airports served by only one or two carriers. It can be a trap, set by airlines that control “strength centers” such as Atlanta and Cincinnati (Delta), Dallas-Fort Worth (American) and O’Hare of Chicago (divided between American and United). It can be a conscious decision, if it is often manipulated by the desire to accumulate points in the loyalty program of a single airline.
But often it is just a routine. We fly the same airline all the time and, as a result, we don’t know how the other half lives. I have my own favorite airlines, concentrating my domestic trip on JetBlue on the east coast, southwest on the west and Virgin America on long flights from coast to coast when I want to access Wi-Fi. You will notice that none of the large legacy operators are on my list.
So, it was an unusual itinerary that put me on United flights from Salt Lake City to Newark, N.J., last weekend, connecting via Denver. I had the opportunity to see what I was missing.
Airline Fees and Baggage
First, I have lacked fees for registering a bag. Southwest allows two free checked bags per flight. JetBlue allows it. At United and its large airline peers, unless you have the airline’s brand credit card, have a certain level of frequent flyer, pay a first-class ticket or indirectly pay the privilege of not trying to cram all your goods mundane in a bin, you will pay at least $ 25 to register a bag. More if the bag is too big. Such rates have been around for years.
When you register, the United kiosk will inform you if your flight is oversold. I found flights with excess reservations in both directions on this trip, with Delta on the way and United on the way back. The airlines offered to compensate volunteers with travel vouchers. JetBlue never oversold, on the theory that once a seat has been sold there is no need to sell it again. Southwest very rarely oversold. On an oversold flight, if enough volunteers don’t step forward, someone who has a ticket will be sadly left behind.
There are no seats assigned in Southwest, so there are no seats with premium prices. JetBlue charges an extra for the “Even More Space” seats and will allow you to purchase your fastest security line for $ 10 on many flights. United took the premium price to a different level. The check-in kiosk showed each seat open on my flights, each with its own price to update. An aisle seat in the departure row costs $ 40 on the 90-minute flight to Denver. I wanted to catch up with a much-needed dream with relative comfort, so I took it. Other seats that had no obvious benefit over my previously booked accommodations had smaller premiums. I didn’t see any seats I could take for free, so I guess it costs money just to change my mind.
My improved seat did not come with previous boarding. I was in Group 5 getting on my flight. They should call it Group L, for last. He was also in Group 5 on the longest Denver-Newark flight. Only a dozen passengers were relegated to that group. I told the door keeper that we were the children with whom no one wanted to sit at lunch. His laugh told me he was right.
Snacks and Corridor Passage
JetBlue and Southwest give free snacks on virtually all their flights. (I can’t speak from experience about really short jumps, because I always drive instead of taking those flights). JetBlue also sells meals. On the United bus, there was no free food on the three-and-a-half hour flight to Newark. The hostess workers were in the hall with food and drink carts, selling packaged food and snacks, during the first two hours after we stabilized. This made it difficult for passengers to move around the cabin if, for example, they wanted to reach the tourist-class toilets at the rear of the Boeing 737. In this way, coach passengers were sent to the first-class cabin, which They probably didn’t. Excites passengers who expect not to wait in line to use the facilities.
JetBlue never uses cars and therefore does not block the aisles of its plane. The hostesses carry drinks in trays and are good for squeezing customers in the aisles.
Television and other Facilities
There was no Internet or television on the short trip to Denver. The plane on the longest flight had television with a much wider choice of DirecTV channels than what is available on JetBlue. (Southwest has no televisions). But JetBlue TV channels are free, except for movies on their domestic flights. Since I didn’t want to pay $ 8 (it would have been $ 6 on a shorter flight), my United screen was dark, I didn’t even offer a free flight progress monitor.
United’s fabric chair in the coach was slightly padded. That is not a big problem for me, since I have a good amount of filler incorporated. But I missed the comfortable leather chairs that are standard on my three favorite domestic lines.
Still, I arrived safe and sound, on time, along with my belongings. That is what we expect in commercial air travel and that is, most of the time, what we get. United staff was friendly and helpful as allowed by airline rules.
I guess United won the biggest contest of all
I had the schedule that allowed me to get from Utah to New Jersey at the time I wanted to travel. My favorite airlines did not, so United got my business. Whatever the deficiencies in your product, the big airlines always have the advantages of being big.
In the end, I was glad to have the opportunity to test the competition for a change. It allowed me to see what I was missing. Now I know: I haven’t missed much.