Chosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best
Frontier is in the process of remaking itself into an “ultra low-cost” airline – but there are some things to like about flying with this coach-only carrier. At the top of the list is DirecTV at every seat and inflight WiFi, though fliers must pay to watch or connect. Long-legged passengers appreciate the option to upgrade to a Stretch seat with at least 36 inches of legroom.
Photo courtesy of Fly Frontier
With one of the youngest fleets in the skies, Hawaiian’s coach-class seats come with a festive send-off and occupy wide-body cabins for extra space and comfort on flights from the mainland to the islands. The festive spirit also is found on Hawaiian’s smaller jets that fly between the islands. Island-themed meals remain free on those flights. Alcohol comes with a fee, but the carrier offers a robust set of choices, including wine selections by Chuck Furuya, Hawaii's only Master Sommelier.
Photo courtesy of UnfinishedPortraitmaker
Westjet is sometimes billed as Canada's Southwest Airlines, and has grown to become the country's No. 2 carrier. It's done this by taking a page from Southwest’s playbook with low fares, leather seats, free checked bags (one per passenger) and friendly service. There’s seat-back TV on many flights, too. Tablet rentals are also available on select long haul flights, each preloaded with television shows and early release movies.
Photo courtesy of Ben King
7thDelta Air Lines
Since Delta completed its merger with Northwest, many say it has the best service of the traditional carriers. In-flight Wi-Fi and USB outlets on many flights allow passengers to stay connected while in the air. On the ground, the free Fly Delta app for tablets and smartphones helps passengers book flights, check in and browse destination guides to plan the perfect trip.
Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines
Seattle-based Alaska Airlines has long been a favorite in the Northwest, but the carrier’s fan base seems to be growing along with its route map. Among the things to like: the airline's selection of microbrew beers, including Alaskan Amber Ale, seasonal Alaskan Summer Ale and Kona Longboard on flights to Hawaii. Other main cabin dining options include Starbucks coffee and customized meals, like the vegan-friendly Mediterranean Tapas picnic or a locally sourced fruit and cheese plate.
Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines
This upstart Canadian airline wins many fans for its comfortable coach seats and highly regarded service. Free wine and beer and light snacks are part of the ticket, even on short-haul flights. Two-by-two seats with spacious legroom mean nobody gets stuck in the middle, even for passengers who check in late. Another well-liked feature is the location Porter’s main hub at Toronto’s close-to-downtown Billy Bishop Airport.
Photo courtesy of Porter Airlines
It’s the friendly and often-quirky service that wins Southwest scores of devoted fans. Regular fliers say they also like the airline’s egalitarian approach: all seats are coach class with efficient pick-your-own-seat boarding arrangement. All-leather seats come with some of the best seat pitch in the industry, and many of the airline's Boeing 737 aircraft come equipped with WiFi to help business and leisure passengers stay connected.
Photo courtesy of Southwest Airlines
United’s frequent fliers are fans of its enhanced Economy Plus coach seats, which offer a few extra inches of legroom. Planes with a United WiFi logo on the side allow passengers to connect mid-flight, and many domestic and international flights offer on-demand entertainment options, like DirecTV with more than 100 channels.
Photo courtesy of United Airlines
A constant favorite in reader traveler surveys, Virgin America pleases fliers with leather seats, mood lighting, seat-back TV and the ability to order meals and drinks on demand using the Red touchscreen system. Passengers can even order a drink for a fellow flier or chat online with passengers in other parts of the plane. On-board WiFi and power outlets at every seat are other popular extras.
Photo courtesy of Virgin America
JetBlue helped revolutionize coach-class flying with friendly service and seat-back TV for every passenger. Its seats also have above-average legroom, especially for the slightly more expensive “Even More Space” seats. Following in the footsteps of rival Southwest, Jetblue gives passengers one free checked bag. Other perks include complimentary Dunkin' Donuts coffee and free Snooze Kits, featuring ear plugs and eye masks on overnight flights.
Photo courtesy of Anthony Quintano
Virgin America finishes a close 2nd, followed by United, Southwest, Porter
Readers of 10Best and USA TODAY have voted which airlines give them the 'Best Economy Class Flight Experience' when they fly, and JetBlue has taken top honors. This 10Best Readers' Choice category closed on Monday, after four weeks of online voting. Readers were allowed to vote once per day.
JetBlue loyalists fought a tight battle with fans of Virgin America but the New York-based low-cost carrier came out on top with readers. 'Economy class flight experience' takes into account the full spectrum of a flyer's trip, from boarding and seat comfort to service and amenities.
The full list of winners for this 10Best Readers' Choice category is as follows:
Congratulations to all 10 winners! Travelers would benefit from keeping this list handy the next time they plan a trip. And a special thanks to USA TODAY Flights writer Ben Mutzabagh, who compiled the list of nominees for us.
To see which other 10Best Readers' Choice categories are open, go to http://www.10best.com/awards/travel/ . You can vote once per day in each category.
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