I haven’t flown every carrier in North America—I’ve yet to climb aboard Virgin America or Jet Blue, both of which I want to try. But the first airline on my list has done so much to earn my love and loyalty that it’s hard to justify ever leaving them when I don’t have to. I have flown all the airlines included below fairly recently.
- Alaska Airlines. This airline wins. Their staff—from their check in crew to their flight attendants are incredibly friendly, and not in the jokey be-your-best-friend way of a Southwest. They just seem to genuinely enjoy their work, and it shows. I’ve flown Alaska enough to have MVP Gold status with them, and I’m blown away at how genuinely grateful they seem to be for my business. They have forged very strong partnerships with Delta and American, which actually work for me.On almost every flight, a flight attendant seeks me out to offer me a complimentary alcoholic beverage (never mind that I don’t drink) and generally thank me, by name, for flying Alaska. Wow. Flying them almost always takes me more time and requires me to connect via Seattle. It’s worth it.
Air North. Much like their northern cousins at Alaska, the Yukon-based Air North is extremely friendly; they seem to actually enjoy their work. They offer you a complimentary sandwich, and on my recent flight it was very tasty. I have loved flying their Hawker Siddely turbo-props in the dead of winter to Inuvik above the Arctic Circle—truly feels like you’re going someplace special. And you are.
- Air Canada. While they have angered me on many occasions, and their alliance of international carriers has royal ticked me off (both United [nee Continental] and Lufthansa caused me to shift my loyalty away from Air Canada), the Canadian carrier itself actually runs a fairly innovative operation. It’s big and unionized, and you can tell, but the service tends to be consistently good. The inflight entertainment system is good.
- Delta. I have a hard time believing this airline—which lost my loyalty many years ago for a variety of reasons—has made the list. Because of their partnership with Alaska, I started flying them again last year, and have been consistently, pleasantly surprised at the smartened-up image the airline is portraying. The planes seem clean again, the service is fast and efficient, and they recognize my loyalty to their partner with things like expedited security clearance, priority seating, and free luggage. Nice.
- WestJet. Clean, efficient, and they’ve kept Air Canada from being a monopoly…my biggest reason for including them. In my opinion, they’ve never really been the “low cost carrier” that they claim they are—they are hardly Canada’s Southwest (a comparison that has often been made). I just hope their expansion into some Canadian cities doesn’t end the viability of smaller local carriers.