CREATED BY PHIL DAVIES & TAYLOR HARKEY
No matter which airline you fly, just about every flight ends with the same message: “When it comes to traveling, we know you have a choice…and we thank you for choosing [enter airline name].” Choose right and you’re lapping up free drinks, wifi, and extra legroom. Choose wrong and you’re looking at layovers, hidden fees, and middle seats as far as the eye can see. So, we’ve taken one for the team and secretly flown all the major players in the airline industry, compiled our notes, altered them purely for the sake of entertainment, then paired the airlines up to duke it out in a mid-air battle.
May the best plane win.
Oh, they’re United alright. Each and every employee has joined forces to create a completely neutered flying experience devoid of any and all sense of humanity and emotion. Smiles? Nope. Special in-flight touches? Hardly. Extra anything? Good luck with that. Strengths: The airline’s self-proclaimed strength is “to fully optimize its network potential by continuing to leverage its leading international position while strengthening its domestic network.” Really gives you the warm and fuzzies, right?
Weaknesses: If you don’t fly with United practically every week, your miles expire and it’s like you never. Even. Existed.
Top Status: United Premier 1K. No joke needed.
Perks: They stop the plane, or at least slow it down a little before dumping you at your gate.
Exactly what you’d expect from an airline called American. It’s loud. Crowded. And almost always late. American Airlines has gone above and beyond when it comes to safety, producing what feels like a 60-minute pre-flight safety video for people who have just moved to planet earth and aren’t aware of how a plane works. So sit back, make yourself uncomfortable, and enjoy the flight. Strengths: It’s not United. Weaknesses: Roughly every 10 minutes, your movie is interrupted with a deafening advertisement piped directly into your headset, brainwashing you to sign up for an AAdvantage credit card to earn thousands of miles and even more opportunities for them to get you to sign up for more credit cards.
Top Status: Executive Platinum Bleached Blonde.
Perks: When your flight is inevitably delayed, you get priority access to the Admiral’s Club where you can brag about being an AAdvantage® Executive™ World® Elite™ Mastercard® cardmember to all the other delayed AAdvantage® Executive™ World® Elite™ Mastercard® cardmembers.
As far as New York goes, JetBlue ranks right up there with the Statue of Liberty, yellow cabs and Derek Jeter. It’s a staple of that city, and anyone who says otherwise can go suck a lemon. But as a low-cost carrier, please keep in mind that there will be an additional charge for lemons.
Strengths: Free brand-name snacks and beverages in coach so you never have to worry about inferior generic snacks and drinks like Fleez-It® Crackers, Mold Gold® Pretzels, Diet Schmepsi® or Sierra-Schmist.®
Weaknesses: TrueBlue Badges have been temporarily suspended, so there’s no ambiguous icon for travelers to post to their social media channels. This airline has about three months before it’s done. And no power outlets. Top Status: Mosaic, but be forewarned: if you rearrange the letters, it spells Anosmic, which means “loss of smell.” Sorry to be the one to tell you that, Autumn. (Hair flip)
Perks: Unlimited bathroom breaks, VIP armrests, seatbelts manufactured in Schenectady, NY.
There are three certainties in life: death, taxes and flying through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, GA. You may not have “been to Atlanta,” but you’ve most certainly been to Hartsfield, home of Delta Airlines. With Delta, you’re going to get a consistent corporate experience that’s about as warm and friendly as a Minnesota morgue in December. But the last thing you want from an airline is drama—and crashing. Mostly crashing.
Strengths: All the free HGTV you can watch in-flight on your way to over 300 destinations leaving from, through, over, or to Atlanta. And power outlets.
Weaknesses: Delta doesn’t care how many miles you have, how many years you’ve been a customer, or what color your SkyMiles card is. You’re nobody. Nothing. And you’re now boarding in Group 9. Happy now? Top Status: Delta Elite Magnum Gold Titanic Supreme Ruler Global Domination Uranium Grande Mocha Latte Medallion Plus.
Perks: SkyClub Access with a SkyValid SkyMiles SkyCard in SkyTerminal D.
If Chick-Fil-A wanted to start an airline, SWA might finally have some competition for service. No one comes close to these smiling sky workers. Bags fly free, there are no change fees, miles don’t expire and you can pick any seat in the plane that doesn’t already have a warm body occupying it. Except for the two seats at the very front. Apparently you need special training to sit in those.
Strengths: The in-flight routines performed by the flight attendants feel like a 30,000-feet version of America’s Got Talent.
Weaknesses: If you find yourself boarding in group B or later, prepare to do the Forrest Gump walk-of-shame down the aisle (“Seat’s taken”… “Can’t sit here”… “Taken.”)
Top Status: A1
Perks: Boarding ahead of middle-class families and lower-class spring breakers.
Have you ever felt like you’re not even worthy of air travel? Like you don’t deserve to be that close to heaven? Well, that’s what flying Virgin is like. You’re instantly transformed from a public citizen to an A-list celebrity, living in an alternate universe where flying is an art form and life as you know it is perfect.
Strengths: 5-course meals, smoking on the plane, no ugly people, personal bathrooms, clay tennis courts.
Weaknesses: The flights eventually must land and you return to the mundane day-to-day life you were previously living before they scanned your boarding pass at the gate.
Top Status: Passenger. That’s right. Just being a passenger on a Virgin Atlantic flight is status in and of itself. And if you don’t recognize that, you’ll never fly this 8th Wonder of the World again.
Perks: Don’t you dare ask for anything else. Just be thankful you can now call yourself a Virgin Atlantic customer.
Allegiant makes Frontier look like Delta. Flights start around $3 each but don’t include amenities such as seats, seatbelts, landing gear or oxygen. Allegiant is for the savvy traveler who doesn’t need a lot of frills, or even wings on a plane for that matter. If you have some spare pocket change, upgrade your ticket to “Pilot” status for a better view and unlimited Vodka Sprites.
Strengths: Cheaper than walking.
Weaknesses: Riskier than walking.
Top Status: Elite Cargo.
Perks: Landing in one piece.
Now that marijuana is legal in Colorado, people are flocking to Frontier’s website to book cheap flights that help them spend more of their hard-earned cash at the dispensary. Water is available for purchase to passengers with cotton mouth. And plenty of munchies for sale at twice the price of movie theater snacks. Wait, what were we just talking about?
Strengths: The higher Frontier flies, the higher you fly
Weaknesses: The comedown, man.
Top Status: Purple Haze Plus.
Perks: Visine available (for purchase).