The New York Times had an interesting article on the increasing number of travelers who consult online reviews before choosing an airline. Many of these folks appear to be elite flyers who spend a lot of time – and money – traveling for work in first or business class. Do the rest of us need review sites? It all depends on what you want.
What All Airlines Must Offer
Ask yourself, what’s most important to you as a traveler. If you must have a particularly comfortable seat in a specific section of the plane, checking out a site like SeatGuru makes a lot of sense. If your biggest concern is for the basics, you may require nothing more than a comparison search site.
All passengers care about the following but for some, these are the only things that matter:
- Desired routes and destinations
- Best possible prices
Here’s one more possibility – important to some, less so to others:
- Basic comfort standards with minimal fees
When to Consult a Review Site
Agree or disagree, we’d like to hear what you think.
Safety: U.S. airlines and those allowed to fly into this country must follow rigorous safety standards, and the statistics are clear: Airlines are safe. Safety does not need to be confirmed on a review site.
Desired routes: An airline will either fly where you need to go or you will find your route on another carrier. Options are limited when it comes to departure cities and destinations. Itinerary choices do not need to be confirmed on a review site.
Best possible prices: The Department of Transportation requires all airlines and travel sites to provide shoppers with all-in ticket pricing information. This means the cost you see is the cost you pay, with all taxes and non-optional fees included, and you’ll find this on websites and comparison sites. Cost information does not need to be confirmed on a review site.
Basic comfort, minimal fees: These things can and do vary from airline to airline. The proudly no-frills Spirit, for example, has airline seats that don’t recline which might be a deal-killer for some, a “so what?” for others. Another example: Allegiant and Frontier charge for sodas and water while most airlines offer these beverages for free. Such extras may be important enough for some to make consulting a review site a smart option.
Bottom line: You know what you want. If you spend a lot of time in the air and are concerned about the friendliness of flight attendants or the quality of the food (when there is any), by all means check reviews and choose your airline accordingly. If you just want to get from Point A to Point B for the best possible price, a review site may be less important (although many are fun to read). What you do need is an airfare comparison site. So you’ll know you’re getting the best price every time you fly.