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I'm an airline "virgin" - which airlines should I try?

I'm an airline "virgin" - which airlines should I try?

Old May 24, 17, 9:11 pm
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I'm an airline "virgin" - which airlines should I try?

So, a confession: even though I fly a decent number of miles every year - obviously nowhere near as much as some on here fly, but still somewhere shy of about 25k in a calendar year - and yet the only airlines I've tried are pretty much Lufthansa, JetBlue, the three US legacy airlines (Delta, AA, United), and the most obvious SkyTeam ones (KLM, Air France, Aeroflot) - all in economy. That's not exactly a huge portfolio, and usually I go for the cheapest ticket that will let me credit to Delta, but I would also enjoy "trying" a few new airlines, so my question is, which airlines are absolutely 'must-try'? I'm not just talking comfort here (i.e. whether the business class seat reclines fully or not, because I can't sleep on planes anyway) but rather, which ones offer the most unique product - in terms of service, onboard bars or showers, aircraft design, etc? In short, what I love about travel is out of the box experiences (of the positive kind, I should specify) rather than the luxury, so for that, what airlines should I put on my aspirational travel list?
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Old May 24, 17, 9:53 pm
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A few thoughts:

Aircraft - try to get a ride on a 747 and an A380

Carriers: Emirates, Qatar, Singapore, Cathay Pacific

Seating - Etihad First Apartment, Emirates Private Suite with shower (seriously aspirational - $$$$)

Without getting out of the US, and mostly true for Europe also, there aren't than many truly outstanding options.
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Old May 24, 17, 10:06 pm
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Originally Posted by CPRich View Post
A few thoughts:

Aircraft - try to get a ride on a 747 and an A380

Carriers: Emirates, Qatar, Singapore, Cathay Pacific

Seating - Etihad First Apartment, Emirates Private Suite with shower (seriously aspirational - $$$$)

Without getting out of the US, and mostly true for Europe also, there aren't than many truly outstanding options.
And I'm more than willing to leave the US! I haven't done so much with the exception of Europe (where I lived for some time and mostly rode trains) but I would love to check out the rest of the world through a combination of miles and points. Emirates and Etihad look appealing because they have the free stopover + hotel option (though I'm not sure if that's available on award bookings? I should go look into that).
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Old May 25, 17, 9:40 am
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Some easy routes from the East Coast to try out are CX JFK-YVR (77W), SQ JFK-FRA (A380) & IAH-MAN (A350). While I too have issues sleeping on planes, in Y, I sleep well on the A380 lower deck window seat as the curve gives good space to lean a little bit away from the middle seat passenger.

Some to avoid in Y are AA & LX in Y on their 77Ws (10 across vs the more comfortable standard of 9). B6's economy is, in my opinion, the best domestic standard economy product and the Mint experience is the best transcon J product.

The ME3 (Qatar, Etihad & Emirates) are all good options for long haul flights. Give the edge to QR for PHL-DOH for you on the A350. EK also flies JFK-MXP (A380 mostly)

DL & UA still have some 744s doing domestic hops from time to time, especially for summer traffic, which can be a nice experience if you haven't had it yet. PHL-YTZ on a Q400 landing on the island airport has some nice views.

VS from LHR in J on the A346 or 788 is nice but the lounge is the real winning experience in my book. The onboard bar is nice too.

Last edited by Yoshi212; May 25, 17 at 10:17 am
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Old May 25, 17, 10:06 am
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Most unique for me:

-Emirates A380: F being ideal (for the shower) but J still quite unique since you still get bar access. Doesn't necessarily have to be a long route, AKL - MEL/SYD/BNE can be had for relatively reasonable prices

-SQ A380 Suites: Haven't been on but slated for 2018

-Any 744 / 748 on the upper deck (UA and DL for now and BA / LH / KE / CA for the foreseeable future)

-CX really varies in my book, F is great, J is fine, but the lounges are really top notch

-B6 Mint is the best domestic J transcon

-UA 77W Polaris is supposed to be unique (haven't flown it yet) and the DL A350 J with sliding doors will definitely be unique for the US market

-Upcoming QR QSuites in J will be first of its kind

-Upcoming SQ SIN - NYC flight will certainly be unique with it's configuration and will re-take it's place as longest flight in the world

-Upcoming PER - LHR flight will be first direct connection of Australia and London so that will definitely be unique (and very very long)
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Old May 25, 17, 11:16 am
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If you are willing to go beyond the luxury uniqueness, try Air KBZ between Bagan and Heho in Myanmar, or any intra Myanmar flight for that matter. Appeared perfectly safe when I took it (they fly ATR planes), the airport experience is something right out of a Humphrey Bogart movie.
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Old May 25, 17, 3:44 pm
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Try Spirit first.
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Old May 25, 17, 8:16 pm
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Originally Posted by DrRodneyMcKay View Post
And I'm more than willing to leave the US! I haven't done so much with the exception of Europe (where I lived for some time and mostly rode trains) but I would love to check out the rest of the world through a combination of miles and points. Emirates and Etihad look appealing because they have the free stopover + hotel option (though I'm not sure if that's available on award bookings? I should go look into that).
Depending on who you're booking through, there might be severe routing restrictions for Middle Eastern carriers. For example, AA doesn't allow using one award on Qatar for much beyond Middle East, Africa, and Asian Subcontinent, from the USA. Not Europe, not other parts of Asia, etc (for those you'd not to use up two separate awards).

So if you don't choose the right carrier for the right destination, it could end up costing you lost of extra miles.

I was able to experience Qatar business class because they were the ones who had availablity with AA miles (of which I have the most) for a trip LAX to JNB (South Africa) booked 11 months out and willing to travel on weekdays (Qatar usually has no award availability to/from the USA except Mon-Thu departures). Btw, my verdict: The on-board service was great, the food was the first airline food I've ever tasted which competed with restaurant food, but the IFE on the older planes they used LAX-DOH was just so-so; IFE was better on the 787s I flew DOH-JNB and back, but I couldn't get that kind of newer plane on the main legs of the itinerary.

But right now booking through a middle eastern carrier, as nice as they may be, means you have to leave your laptop and camera in your checked luggage on the trip back. So it's not all upside...
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Old May 25, 17, 9:08 pm
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Most unique commercial flight that I can think of is the EVA Hello Kitty jet!
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Old May 25, 17, 11:00 pm
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Thought of another one. Haven't experienced either of these but the seaplanes in Maldives or Tahiti or similar would be extremely unique for the views alone.
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Old May 26, 17, 9:31 am
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Depends, I would try CX J for sure, especially their Pier lounge is really great. Emirates A380 is really nice, but 777 is terrible. Their lounge in Dubai is interesting. Very large, but feels quite over the top. I'm hoping to try SQ and QR in the near future.

I would say this, don't pay extra for cathay dragon or silkair or any other regional airlines of big name international airlines.

B6 has the best hard product in J, Y+ and Y domestically, so you can't go wrong there. For flights under 4 hours, it's hard for any airline to beat them in terms of seat room and IFE options.

A lot of people really like flying Porter to Canada.

If you ever travel inside Asia, any discount airline's exit row seat is comfortable enough and very cheap.

From East coast to Europe, I really like prem plus on OpenSkies. Good value for the money. If you really want to be adventurous, you can try La Compagnie. Most of the flying inside Europe is super cramped and uncomfortable.

In south America, Azul and avianca are pretty nice.
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