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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Choosing My Favorite Airline

by Paul Pakusch

I have a love-hate relationship with airlines.  On one hand, I love to fly, as evidenced by the fact that I earned a pilot's license in 1991.  I flew steadily for 17 years before taking a break in 2008 to attend to other priorities in life.  I haven't gone back yet.

In the meantime, I've set my sights on travelling the world.  I've done many trips from Rochester, NY to Florida.  When Airtran was around, it was my favorite domestic airline because of the inexpensive Business Class seats.  I NEED legroom!  If I don't pay extra for legroom, then I have a miserable time on a flight due to the extreme discomfort of trying to squeeze behind the seat in front of me.  I hate those flights and can't wait for them to be over.  On the other hand, if I do get a seat with good legroom, then I am in my glory flying.

When Airtran was taken over by Southwest, I was really disappointed.  I try to grab the bulkhead seats or exit row seats, but since Southwest doesn't assign seating, there is no guarantee.  I really like Jetblue's seating arrangements, but their schedules and pricing don't usually work out well for me.  No other airline really stands out to me at this time for domestic flights.

On international flights, Air Canada has become a clear winner for me.  Toronto is a 3 to 4 hour drive from my home.  I've found that Air Canada has non-stop flights to almost every destination that is on my bucket list.  I'd rather drive a few hours to and from an airport with a non-stop flight to my destination than deal with connecting flights somewhere.  I feel more in control that way.  There's less chance of being stuck somewhere due to cancelled flights.

In 2016 I discovered the beauty of flying Business Class on Air Canada.  I was lucky that year; I just happened to stumble into a sale of Business Class seats when I was looking for a flight to Rome, Italy.  I think I paid a bit over $2,000 for a round trip ticket.  Yes, it's a high price for your average traveler, but that price was well below the usually $5,000-$6,000 ticket for that class.  The fact that the seats lie out flat meant that I would be able to get some decent sleep on a red-eye.  Due to my legroom issue, it is nearly impossible for me to get any sleep on an overnight flight.  On this particular flight, I took a sleeping pill shortly after departure from Toronto, had dinner about an hour later, then promptly stretched out to sleep for a solid four hours.  I followed the same procedure in 2017 on an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Copenhagen, Denmark and got about 4 1/2 hours of sleep.  In both cases, I woke up feeling quite good, considering I had to deal with jet lag.

Now when I want to fly overseas, I start watching Air Canada's prices on their website months in advance.  I watch for patterns in sales.  I know that most of the Business Class seats normally sell for somewhere around $5,000 round trip, so when I see a sale for half price or better, I jump on it.  It takes some vigilance and patience to do this, but it pays off for me in the long run.

I do have plans to travel to Europe again this summer.  This time, I will have a companion with me.  Air Canada has an Economy Plus section that I have not yet experienced.  The seats appear to be the larger, cushy seats that you normally see in First Class on domestic airlines.  While they are not the type that stretch out flat, I'm willing to give this a try.  For the same price that I would've paid for a single Business Class seat, I've now purchases two Economy Plus Seats for my companion and me.  I'll take the sleeping pill again on our overnight flight from Toronto to London and we will see how this works out.

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