So you’ve roughly figured out what your flight options are. Of course, if you are on a super tight budget, your options are going to be limited. But if you’ve got a range of options with perhaps only $100 in it, it might be worth investigating the differences between the airlines. This will rarely make or break your decision but can be a deciding factor in the end. So, to that end, where to start? There are a number of websites I like to look at when choosing an airline and even choosing a seat.
1. Skytrax (http://www.airlinequality.com)
Skytrax offers a rating system (introduced back in 1999) which is held as the leading international classification system. The site itself also has thousands of reviews made by passengers. They list their specific flight, what class they were in and sometimes what seat. There are also lounge reviews, seat reviews and airport reviews. They use a star system and it can be surprising to see which airlines are rated what. It probably goes without saying that 5 star airlines are the creme de la creme and at present there are only 7 (all Asia/Middle East), including ANA Japan Airways, Qatar Airlines and Cathay Pacific.
One the whole, this is a useful website to compare the differences between airlines – if there’s not much money in it, it’s often worth the upgrade for a nicer airline.
2. Seat Guru (http://www.seatguru.com)
I was surprised to see that this website was brought out by travel-giant Expedia, but in hindsight I can see why. It’s quirky, useful and pretty interesting. People offer reviews for their specific seats but you can also look at the layout of your plane to see where to avoid. I appreciate it can be obvious that the wing row has bonus leg room (and is rarely free nowadays!) but you can also spot where there is limited reclining space.
You can browse via airline, planes or flight paths and there is now a compare feature so you can what size seat you can get on one airline compared to another. The maps are colour coded and easy to use.
So you’ve snagged your seat and picked the best airline, but you how do you make sure your journey goes without a hitch? There are several useful apps for that!
3. Trip-It (https://www.tripit.com)
This website/app doesn’t give you ideas on where to go and what to do but it is great for managing the trip once you’ve booked it. STA travel links you to this automatically when you book with them but anyone can sign up. Gizmodo can’t stop singing its’ praises and called it a ‘central hub for all your travel needs.’ It is also really simple to share your information with anyone that may need it. I often send copies of my travel info to my parents or boyfriend and this is a super easy way to do that and more. You can also access your documents offline so no high data roaming fees once you’re there too.
4. Passbook App/ Airline apps.
This one is exclusively aimed at those with an iPhone I’m afraid (though there may be an equivalent with Googlewallet – someone will have to let me know). Passbook is the kind of app that just sits on my iPhone and then occasionally does something really useful. Whilst it is still smart to print off your plane ticket, I have found it is edging toward a thing of the past. When I flew home to London for Christmas last year, I booked with United Airlines and didn’t need use the paper once. I downloaded the app and could save their airline ticket to my ‘Passbook’ – the flight attendants scanned it and that was that.
Airline apps can be somewhat hit and miss, but the United Airlines app was actually really useful too. As I was travelling solo, it didn’t really bother me where I sat, other than being on the look out for that all-important, all-illusive spare seat next to me. Using the airport wifi, I managed to change my seat 3 or 4 times (for no charge) before physically boarding. I kept signing in to the app and jumping around the plane to make sure I had no one sitting next to me. As I got to the front desk, they scanned by Passbook QR Code (that weird black and white pixelated box) and printed me a new ticket. No questions asked. I ended up having 3 seats next to me. Winning!