Choosing Your Airline

Have you ever noticed that when you look up an airfare on a particular route, all or most of the airlines will have exactly the same fare? It’s no accident — they routinely try to match fares to stay competitive.

So, in a case like that, how do you choose which airline to travel on? There are some factors you might not have thought of:

First, when you compare fares, think of your checked bags. The fees charged by the big five legacy carriers can add considerably to your costs. But Southwest Airlines allows two bags and JetBlue allows one at no extra cost.

Of course, you’ll want to consider the schedule. The fewest number of stops and the shortest layovers will get you where you’re going faster. But a very short layover can increase your chances of a missed connection.

And if you have frequent flier accounts, you’ll want your miles to go into accounts with the potential to add up to something. (Keep in mind that you can accumulate milesĀ for one airline in an alliance by flying on another partner in the same alliance.)

Consider also the comfort of the aircraft that will be used, information that’s usually available at the time of booking. I particularly dislike small, noisy aircraft. Some people demand more leg room or want entertainment systems. SeatGuru.com will give you the rundown on the various aircraft flown by each airline.

Worried about being late? Another very useful site, flightstats.com, will give you an on-time rating for each flight on a given route.

You might also consider the overall reputation of the airline. The best evaluations come from the Air Travel Consumer Report compiled by the Department of Transportation, which lists the rate of complaints filed by passengers against domestic airlines.

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