By Jason Heidemann for the Orbitz Travel Blog
We all try to be good passengers, but -- be honest -- haven't we also been a bad one at some point? Whether we decided we needed to use the bathroom during heavy turbulence or revealed our smelly feet by slipping out of our sneakers, none of us is perfect. Flight attendants are the kind folks who grin and bare the brunt of our airborne quirks and, as it turns out, some passenger sins are worse than others. We found a longtime industry insider to reveal the things we do that tick off flight crews the most.
1. "Here's my bag. Can you go ahead and put it in the overhead bin? Great, thanks."
There's a common mantra among flight attendants: "If you can't sling it, don't bring it." They're there to assist passengers with luggage, not do the work for them. Our flight attendant says he's been asked to stow bags stuffed with everything from dishes, rocks and even baked goods. Most airline stewards are not cross fit athletes with superhero strength, so if you're able bodied you should stow your luggage yourself.
2. "The seatbelt sign is more of a guideline, right?"
Although the pilot switches on the seatbelt sign only to ensure our safety, we've all been on a flight where that one person decides to get up and go to the jump seat to ask the flight attendant if they can use the bathroom just as the captain is making the announcement for flight attendants to take their seats. Passengers have sustained serious injuries for ignoring the seatbelt sign, including broken bones and worse, according to our source. Not only do they risk their own life when ignoring the seatbelt sign, but they're putting their fellow passengers and the flight crew at risk.
3. "Take good care of Mom/Dad/Junior, bye!"
Before you pack up your brood and send them on a cross-country flight from Seattle to Sarasota, first ask yourself whether or not you've properly prepared these youngsters or oldsters for the journey. Our source cites numerous instances in which children board long flights without any food or snacks packed for them in advance. Flight attendants are not nurses, says our source, and are not supposed to assist passengers with their functions inside the airplane lavatory, and yet they're often asked to do so. Travelers with substantial mental or physical disabilities should always be accompanied by a friend, relative or caregiver.
4. "FAA rules schmules."
Feel like pleading with your flight crew about guidelines created by the Federal Aviation Administration? Think again. According to our source, the FAA sets the rules for the inflight experience--including seatbelt, carry-on items and exit row guidelines--and passengers frequently ignore or try to renegotiate them. Our source cites instances in which passengers have insisted on putting their feet on top of their suitcase in the row they're sitting in because it won't fit in the overhead bin. But guess what? If the FAA happens to be onboard or in the jet bridge doing an audit, it's the flight crew that gets fined for not doing their job.
5. "Turn down what? I can't hear you over this car chase scene."
This isn't just a flight attendant pet peeve, it's ours as well. We love that you enjoyed The Expendables 3 and Transformers: Age of Extinction, but that doesn't mean the rest of us did. Many airlines don't provide headphones for passengers and our source argues that in this day and age it's the passenger's job to know better and arrive prepared. Not only can the noise caused by iPads, iPhones and laptops be disruptive to passengers, but flight crews are responsible for listening to and detecting abnormal sounds or movements of the aircraft and you better believe that sound effects from movies, TV shows and games can mimic issues from the airplane.
Best Overall Coach-Class Airline in North America: JetBlue
Most Consumer-Friendly Coach-Class Airline in North America: Southwest
Its "two checked bags at no extra charge" and "no ticket-change penalty" policies make Southwest
a clear winner for being nice to customers. Fortunately, at least so far, Southwest seems to have convinced Wall Street that those passenger-friendly policies gain more revenue in total customers than it would gain by imposing fees and losing customers. With other giant carriers charging checked bag fees
of $25 a pop, even one checked bag gives Southwest a $50 round-trip fare advantage. Southwest has even managed to tame the chaos of its unique no-advance-assignment boarding process: You get your boarding group and number when you check in, which you can do online starting 24 hours before departure; at the airport, you line up according to number, and get on the plane with a minimum of pushing and shoving. (Photo: Southwest Airlines)
Best Frequent-Flyer Program for Occasional Travelers, North America: Alaska Mileage Plan
At least for now, Alaska Airlines
' Mileage Plan seems more generous than the big-line programs that are moving toward dollar-based earnings and rewards. You still get one mile for every mile flown, and the award chart mileage requirements are less than the effective requirements on the giant airlines. Alaska still has useful partnerships with Air France
, British Airways
, and a few others. We don't know how long Alaska will retain its current system, but it's a winner as long as today's rules remain. If you accumulate miles or points through a credit card that allows transfers, such as American Express, the award chart for Air Canada
's Aeroplan is more generous than current big lines' plans. But you get only partial mileage credit when you fly on Air Canada's lowest fares. Related:6 Ways to Get the Best Coach Seat Every Time(Photo: Alaska Airlines)
Coolest Coach-Class Airline in North America: Virgin America
Yes, JetBlue beats it by the measurements, but Virgin America
keeps earning great survey ratings for its flashy decor, well-trained flight attendants, top inflight technology, and general flair. Obviously, lots of travelers like what it has to offer. You might like it, too. The "Branson cool factor" also applies to Virgin Atlantic
and Virgin Australia. (Photo: Virgin America)
Best Ultra-Low-Fare Coach-Class Airline in North America: Allegiant
The nod for best ultra-low-fare carrier for coach-class service goes to Allegiant
, not because of its base product—which is down there with Spirit
in terms of sheer torture—but because it alone brings the only low-fare mainline service to dozens of communities where travelers would otherwise have to rely on regional flights to nearby hubs, with the usual hassle, wasted time, and high fares of hub connections. Allegiant's "nowhere to somewhere" business model gives travelers to/from communities as small as Hagerstown, Missoula, Owensboro, Provo, South Bend, and Stockton access to nonstop flights to 16 of the country's primary leisure travel destinations, including Honolulu
, Las Vegas
, Myrtle Beach
, and Phoenix
. If you live in or near a big city, you'd never even think about Allegiant. But it's a no-brainer if you live in the sticks. Related:How to Get a Refund on a Non-Refundable Flight
via Chris Parypa Photography/Shutterstock.com)
Best Coach-Class Airline for Seniors in North America: Southwest
Southwest is the only airline to offer useful senior fares
for travelers 65 or over. Senior fares aren't as low as Southwest's initial lowest "Wanna Get Away" fares for travelers of any age, but when those lowest-fare buckets sell out or when they're no longer available less than a week in advance, Southwest's unrestricted senior fares are usually a lot less than any remaining any-age fares. (Photo: Southwest Airlines)
Best Extra-Legroom Airline in North America: JetBlue
JetBlue, which starts out with a 1- to 3-inch advantage for regular coach, retains a similar advantage for its extra-legroom cabin. And the price, capped at $90 for a transcontinental flight, is likely to be lower than the variable prices other airlines charge. This is a big advantage JetBlue has over Virgin America
, the one airline that surveys usually place in the same class as JetBlue. On Virgin America, the extra-legroom seats, limited to bulkhead and exit rows, cost more than three times the regular-coach fare: more than $900 on a transcon, for example, compared with a base coach fare of $300. Yes, you get extras along with the legroom, but that huge fare premium is a deal breaker for someone who just wants enough space to use an e-reader or tablet comfortably. Related:10 Tasty Carry-on Snacks You Can Make Yourself(Photo: JetBlue)
Best Coach-Class Airline for Intercontinental Flights: Japan Airlines
Japan Airlines' new-design Sky Wider economy seats provide the roomiest international economy class you can currently find. Contrary to what most other airlines are doing, JAL
is sticking with eight-across seats in its 787s and nine-across in its 777s. That's one fewer seat in each row than the current standard among most other lines, and the remaining seats are almost two inches wider than competitors' seats. The new cabins also offer an industry-leading 34-inch pitch, compared with the 30- to 32-inch pitch you find on most other intercontinental airlines. The onboard catering generally earns high marks, as well; economy travelers enjoy individual 10-inch screens, and the new 777s and 787s provide satellite-based Wi-Fi
. Related:8 Foods You Should Never Eat Before Flying(Photo: Japan Airlines via Vytautas Kielaitis/Shutterstock.com)
Best Coach-Class Airline for Transatlantic Flights: Turkish
Like JAL, Turkish
is sticking with nine-across seating in its 777s, and the onboard service generally earns high marks. Swiss International
also rises above others for catering. (Photo: Turkish Airlines)
Best Low-Fare Coach-Class Airline for Transatlantic Flights: Norwegian
Norwegian flies 787s from a handful of U.S. cities to Scandinavia and from Los Angeles or New York to London/Gatwick. It recently started flying from Baltimore
, and New York
to Guadeloupe and Martinique. Fares are usually—although not always—lower than on the giant airlines, and its 787 product is on par with what the big competitors offer. Related:We Flew on Norwegian's 787 Dreamliner (and It Was Awesome)(Photo: Norwegian Air)
Best Business-Class Airline with Coach-Class Prices: La Compagnie
The giant airlines will charge you around $1,200 for a nonstop summer round-trip flight between New York and Paris in a cattle-car economy cabin. But two people paying $1,495 each can move up to an angle-flat business-class seat, with business-class cabin service
, on La Compagnie, the niche French airline offering low-cost business-class service from Newark to London/Luton and Paris/DeGaulle. La Compagnie's current fare is almost $1,000 less than the premium economy fares on Open Skies or Air France. The price gap between regular economy and La Compagnie isn't always this small. But whenever it is, you sure feel better when you arrive in London or Paris after an overnight in business class than in economy. It's worth considering. Related:7 Secrets of Ultra-Cheap Europe Flights(Photo: La Compagnie)
Best Coach-Class Airplane for Short Flights: Embraer