You've Probably Never Flown With North America's Friendliest Airlines

If You Think Airlines Suck, It's Because You're Flying The Wrong Ones

We spend a lot of time hating on airlines: passengers whine that the food is nasty, the luggage gets lost, and the flight attendants are grumpy and grouchy.

But if you're busy dissing airlines, it's probably because you're not flying the right ones.

The World Airline Awards recently named the airlines with the friendliest staff in North America -- and we bet you rarely fly with two of the top three. Virgin America took the number one spot, and we all know about them. But the other two friendliest crews are found on WestJet and Porter Airlines, two Canadian carriers you've likely glossed over in favor of bigger brand names.

WestJet put a tear in everyone's eye last December with an epically heartwarming video of crew members surprising passengers with Christmas gifts -- it's no wonder they were ranked the second-friendliest airline on the continent at the awards. And considering they fly to dozens of destinations in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Caribbean and Europe, it's a wonder we don't travel with them more often.

Porter Airlines, meanwhile, is based in Canada, but they offer routes to U.S. destinations like Chicago, New York and Boston. Free beer and wine come in real glassware, and there are complimentary snacks -- the whole modern aesthetic is decidedly JetBlue-esque. Customers rave about Porter's "friendly people," expressing dire hope that the regional airline will "expand soon."

So if crabby airlines have got you down, take the experts' advice and fly those friendlier skies.

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Before You Go

1950s: Fly from New York to London - for £1482
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The flight with now defunct Trans World Airlines cost $290 in 1955 - which is a grand-and-a-half with inflation. Since the US airline industry was deregulated in 1978, ticket prices have fallen by 40%.
2014: Fly from New York to London - for £211
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Skyscanner has a flight with Norwegian airlines this month for just over a sixth of the price it cost in 1955.
1950s: Not all luggage was checked
It was widely discussed after a 1955 airplane crash killing 44 caused by a bomb smuggled aboard in luggage. Jack Graham admitted building the bomb and placing it his mother's suitcase, because he was in line for a big inheritance from her $150,000 estate.But an AP report from the time declared that inspecting each piece of luggage checked into an airline was impractical.“Passengers would resent the delays, even the snooping,” the AP reporter said.
2014: Security includes baggages checks and body scans
Bags go through sophiscated scanners, liquids are kept separate and restricted, you must take off shoes and belts and walk through a metal detector or full body scanner, and random checks mean cases are wracked from top to bottom. This week, it was announced that passengers unable to turn on their mobile phones would not be allowed to board flights, in case the phone was an IED.
1950s: Metal detectors were declared to be useless
Even metal detectors were rejected. “Use a metal-detecting device and it would sound alarms when it spotted innocent traveling clocks, electric shavers, iron," the AP report said.
2014: You must declare 'dangerous' substances - even if that substance is a lipstick
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Liquids must be in sealed containers that must hold no more than 100ml, if they are taken in hand luggage, and kept in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag. Many items are banned from hold luggage too, including flammable liquids, car batteries, fireworks, weedkiller, ammunition and non-safety matches.
1950s: You are way more likely to die in a plane crash
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Technology was not as sophisticated and there were many more plane crashes in the Golden Age of Flying. Mid-air collisions were common, engines were known to drop out of planes mid-flight, and pilots had no technology to help them land in fog. In 1952, there were 5.2 deaths per 100,000 hours of flying - five times higher than today.
2014: You are pretty safe up there
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The US Bureau of Transportation estimates that flying is eight times safer than driving and twice as safe as the train, even with those pesky terrorists to contend with. And you are 11,000 times more likely to die in an airplane accident than from a terrorist plot involving an airplane, according to stats from The Flying Book.
1950s: Inflight entertainment = Postcards
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There were no inflight movies until the mid-1960s. Air stewardesses handed out books and postcards for you to write to kill time.
2014: Inflight entertainment = In-flight Wi-Fi, movies, music, games, digital shopping and maps
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For example, Virgin has over 50 movies to choose from, as well as TV channels, destination guides and food ordering from your seat. And then you can also bring your own iPad loaded with entertainment (just make sure it's charged up).
1950s: Smoking and drinking are positively encouraged
Cigarettes were sold by air stewardesses, armrests had ashtrays and most airlines served as much alcohol as guests could drink.
2014: Smoking and drinking is banned or limited
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Inflight smoking is prohibited by almost all airlines, banned from charter flights from Britain since 1995. But there is no overall law or treaty that bans smoking on all international flights, and Air Algeria allowed smoking until only a few years ago. Drinking is allowed, apart from on some flights from Muslim countries, but stewardesses will stop passengers if they get lairy.
1950s: Food was fine dining
Polished wine glasses, white linen tablecloths and folded napkins were all part of the service - and never came at an extra charge.
2014: Trays of reheated gunk
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Airline food is notoriously awful - and on most short-haul flights you'll have to pay for it.