Choices, choices, choices. Too many choices can stall our decision making, and if you’re like most travelers, you’re most likely feeling overwhelmed by the thousands of international flight options and “deals” available online. But when you’re clear on what your priorities are, it becomes much easier to choose your next flight.
Johnny, a Trippy user, needed guidance, and so he posted this question to the community:
Air travel – what are your top 3 priorities? When you’re buying a flight, what are the top 3 things you’re considering? For example, price, convenience, awards.
Here are 10 things to consider before booking your next flight:
Top on almost all Trippy users’ list is the price. Virtually all of the 20 people who answered Johnny’s questions had price as their top priority when deciding to buy airline tickets. Here are answers from Morgan, Jeremy, and Morringham:
Price first and foremost. With all those “cheap ticket” sites that exist these days, it’s hardly practical to justify some of the absurd totals charged by major airlines. Recently I snagged a ticket that was offered on the American Airlines site for $560 for $127. Ridiculous! Once you factor in having to check baggage, transportation to and from the airports, and where you’re going to stay once you arrive – not to mention food, and whatever else you’ll be purchasing on your trip – the last thing I want to do is shell out over half a grand for airfare.
Price for sure. For this reason, flyer miles are rarely a consideration. If the price is close, I’ll maybe pay a bit more, but miles on an airline aren’t worth paying another $100 or more.
Price is usually my top priority. I can deal with uncomfortable seats and no food for long flights, as long as I can save some cash.
Air ticket prices are like the stock market. It is volatile. According to CheapAir.com, the average economy fare changes 61 times before a trip. In their 2019 Annual Airfare Study, based on their analysis of 917 million airfares, the best time to get the best price is to get your air ticket between 21 days and 115 days in advance. However, there’s no guarantee but definitely don’t try to get your tickets less than a week before traveling.
2. Easy to get to the airport
Trippy user Keith likes convenience. He said:
Convenience: Leaves from an airport that’s easy to get to by public transport; sometimes, using an airport car park cost more than the flight does.
The airport you’re flying out of is undoubtedly a vital thing to consider. For example, New York City has more than four airports. You can choose La Guardia (LGA), John F Kennedy (JFK), Newark (EWR), and Westchester (HPN). You’ll find non-stop international flights from JFK and EWR, and also international flights with connections probably from LGA or HPN. If you live on Long Island or Queens New York and get a cheap ticket flying out of Newark (EWR), you’ll have to pay an arm and a leg for your airport transfer. Plus, it’s inconvenient to get to Newark from Long Island.
You have to factor in the time and transportation cost from home to the airport. An airport transfer from Newark to La Guardia airport is about $87 per person, not including tolls, according to Newark Airport.
You will have to consider the amount of time needed to travel between your hometown and the airport.
3. Loyal to one airline to collect frequent flyer points
Brenda is loyal to United Airlines because of the frequent flyer points she can accumulate and use. She wrote:
Because the majority of my miles are through United, I try to fly Lufthansa. For those of you that don’t have miles, time to get on these web sites and learn how to earn and books with miles. Just booked a round trip to Europe, business / first $410. The most important thing is frequent flyer miles.
Another Trippy user Tonya Russ is also loyal to one airline. She said:
Earning miles and book where I have status even if it cost more.
There are a few advantages of being loyal to one airline. Delta gives its Delta medallion members free upgrades depending on availability. Free upgrades are also available for the member’s traveling companion.
4. Direct flights
Tiffany prefers direct flights. She said:
I will pay more if I’m saving several hours of my time. I prefer direct or minimal stops with reasonable layovers. A 13 hour flying day for a US flight? Not so much.
Trippy users Tonya, Kandace, Ashley, Elliott, and Morgan agreed. Morgan wrote:
Am I going to have a 13-hour layover in Phoenix when I’m simply trying to fly from Portland to Seattle? I’ll pass. It’s easy to snag a cheap flight by taking ridiculous routes and layovers, but if I can afford to splurge, I like to spend my vacation on vacation.
5. Flights with a long layover
Jeremy and Tonya like flights that allow them a long layover. Here’s what they said:
For international trips, I’ll actually take a longer layover than a shorter one. I love leaving the airport to see a new city for a few hours. Totally worth it.
Connecting city: might as well spend one or two nights in a different city.
Turkish Airlines offers layover passengers complimentary tours and sometimes accommodation in Istanbul. You can read all about it on the Turkish Airlines website.
On a recent trip, I had a nine-hour layover in Dublin while flying with Aer Lingus from New York City to Lisbon. I got to visit Dublin briefly by arranging for a six-hour private tour with a Dublin based tour company a few weeks before the trip.
6. Onboard service
Claus loves quality onboard service. He shared:
Good connection and good onboard service with free food and free wine are essential for me. I certainly look at the price too, but it’s not the most important thing when choosing. The good thing is that I can often get outstanding deals on airlines like Emirates and Qatar Airways, where the onboard service is brilliant with free-flowing wine and excellent inflight entertainment.
Here’s a list of 10 airlines with the best inflight entertainment in 2019 according to Skytrax World Airline Awards:
- Qatar Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- Virgin Atlantic
- Delta Airlines
- Qantas Airways
- Turkish Airlines
- American Airlines
Fritzi from San Francisco listed safety as her top priority when considering which airline to fly with:
Southwest Airlines has had one accident in 50 years of business. They are one of the most affordable airlines, and they don’t charge for two bags. Why look anywhere else? If they fly there, I will book with them. By comparison, other airlines are stuffy, and the crew is usually in a bad mood. Southwest has a phenomenal on-time record. If something goes wrong, I mention it to them on their web site, and they will usually send me $100 in travel credit. That is why I am totally loyal to them.
CNN has a list of 20 safest airlines in 2020. Here is 10 from the list:
- Air New Zealand
- EVA Air
- Qatar Airways
- Singapore Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- Cathay Pacific
- Virgin Australia
8. Cabin density
Airlines are squeezing in more seats into the aircraft, and that is bad news for economy class frequent travelers. Higher density means smaller seats, less legroom, and limited overhead compartments for carry-on bags. Morgan, a Trippy user, added:
Quality is incredibly important. Am I going to be bunching my legs up against a brick seat, while constantly shifting in discomfort for 6 hours? Am I going to come off the flight agitated, sore, and drenched in sweat because the air hardly blows? These are definitely things I take into account before committing to an airline. Certain airlines offer a considerable amount of comfort over others, and the little things certainly count – can I expect to wait hours for a drink? Are the snacks a fingernail-sized bag of stale nuts? When you’re paying hundreds of dollars for the flight, it’s nice to feel like it was worth it.
Elliott had his opinion as well:
However, there are several modifiers that make up the “best” choice:
Non-stop vs. connecting flight
Luggage charges and other fees
Frequent flier benefits
Airports served. I look for a fair price, but if I can not find a solution, I might consider driving. With airlines providing more miserable and more inferior service, I will rule out airlines based on what they do not do.
9. Type of aircraft
Justin listed the type of aircraft as one of the things he looks at before buying his air tickets. He wrote:
A good aircraft type (I avoid particular aircraft on international routes for various reasons, but none of them involve safety concerns; I don’t really care about aircraft as much for domestic flights).
He didn’t specifically name the type of aircraft but here are the five best according to Forbes:
- Airbus A350
- Airbus A220
- Boeing 767
- Airbus A380
- Airbus A320neo
10. Carry-on baggage allowance
For travelers like Carolann, who only travels with carry-on bags, finding out the carry-on baggage allowance of a particular airline before buying the airline ticket is one of the top priorities. She said:
We travel only with a carry-on and a laptop bag each, so we are always concerned about the weight requirements of the carry-on allowances. Some airlines allow more weight, and some combine the weight of the two allowed bags instead of weighing just the main carry-on baggage. If we have to check a bag, it will increase the cost, so we always weigh that against the overall price of the flight.
The most common carry-on luggage size is 22x14x9 inches. And Delta, American Airlines, United, and JetBlue do not have weight limits. Turkish Airlines allows up to 17.6 pounds, Virgin Atlantic allows up to 22 pounds, and Singapore Airlines only 15 pounds.