The second I step on board a plane, I know that no one can ring me or email me, that someone will take care of my every need and I can guiltlessly watch back-to-back movies for as long as I can stay awake.
It’s kinda like being a kid again.
Which, again, could be why I like flying so much. My beloved Dad is an aircraft engineer so when I was little, my sisters and I used to go on family excursions out to East West Airlines to see the new F28s that had just arrived from Holland. Dad would show us the planes and we would play in the hangar for what seemed like hours. I love the smell of Avgas.
As an adult, I have the privilege of working with an airline and there is a helluva lot to learn. The consumer-facing aspects of air travel are only a tiny fraction of the intricacies of the industry.
May I also just say: wow. Isn’t flying extraordinary? It blows my mind that you can wake up in Sydney and go to sleep in Lima.
But without anymore waffling, I am going to tell you what my favourite airlines are and ask you to do the same. Here goes:
Best in-flight entertainment: Hands down, Air New Zealand. They always have a great selection of films, their entertainment units work perfectly and you can start watching movies from the second you get on the plane.
Best food: Qantas, or to be more specific, Qantas Premium Economy Class. The menu is healthy, fuss-free and fresh. They serve your meal with the full linen and glass regalia but it’s done in a wonderful no-nonsense way.
Best service: It’s a tie between Thai Airways and Virgin Atlantic. I love them both for very different reasons. Thai Airways’ staff is the embodiment of grace, humility and impeccable service, whereas the Virgin Atlantic staff is so cheeky, fun and sexy.
Best aesthetics (look and feel of interiors, crew uniforms, etc): Virgin every time. The red and purple uniforms, the disco lighting, the accessible design of everything from menus to the website; there is just so much to love.
Best in-flight magazine: Voyeur, the Virgin magazine. It’s the only one worth taking with you when you get off the flight.
Best lounge: Qantas Club Lounge, Sydney International Airport. It’s smart, practical, offers sweeping views of the tarmac and generally makes the beginning of your journey feel momentous (but maybe that’s the Champagne talking).
Best airport (functionality): Helsinki Vantaa because, like everything in Finland, it is clean, logical and easy to navigate.
Best airport experience (shops, spas, food and wine, etc): The Finnair VIA Spa at Helsinki Vantaa is like nothing else on earth. There are a range of exotic saunas (pronounced ‘sow-oooh-na’) to swelter in; the stone sauna, the wet sauna, the standard sauna and, my personal favourite, the Brechelbath sauna which has pine branches on the floor and a big copper kettle that maintain the temperature (it smells like Christmas).
Best overall brand: Virgin and all of their sub-brands. This is an entirely emotional choice because I love Sir Richard’s philosophy of, ‘Screw it. Just do it’. Virgin is sexy, efficient, affordable and reliable.
This is obviously based on my fairly limited experience. There are loads of airlines I have never flown, airports I haven’t seen and, subsequently, these awards are a work of wildly subjective opinion. Despite the fact that I work on the PR for Finnair in Australia, I am an ornery old hack and I have no interest in misusing my blog to flog clients.
So, Dearest Ones, now it’s your turn … what are your favourite airlines? And the worst? I hear there are some real shockers out there. Vent and praise away, fellow travel nerds!