How to Choose the Best Airline for Your Travel

I travel often for work, and have become quite critical of the airlines I choose.  Frontier, United, Continental, Southwest, Virgin, Delta- each have their own unique advantages and disadvantages.  So, how do you choose the right airline for your needs?

Train onsite img 03 resized 600I suggest using a strategic approach to decision making that I learned at the Critical Thinking Boot Camp.  While I cannot share the handy worksheet we used at the bootcamp, I will share the shortened version of the general process for deciding between multiple alternatives.

After I search for the available flights to my destination, I need to decide which criteria I can use to evaluate the airline choices.  What features of this flight should be considered mandatory? Which measurable factors make one flight better than another?

For example, my criteria for a good flight would be:

  • timing that works with my planned schedule
  • low price
  • no layovers
  • ability to upgrade to more legroom
  • good customer service experience
  • low rate of delays/cancellations
  • nice boarding area
  • TV availability
  • Auto Check-in
  • Good frequent flyer program

Based on this list, it is clear that some of the criteria listed are just "nice to have" versus necessary.  So, next we need to assign a numerical weight to the criteria.  For me, having a direct flight would be a 10 (most important) whereas the auto check-in availability would be less relevant (likely a 2).  

describe the imageOnce we have addressed which criteria are most important, it is time to compare the airlines to the criteria.  For example, prior to merging with Midwest, Frontier had TV's on the headrest of each flight.  Southwest lets you pay a few extra dollars to automatically check in.  Both of those satisfy one of the criteria completely, so they would receive a 10 for those categories.  However, Southwest does not offer any upgrades for extra legroom, so for that category they would receive a 0.

Pricing and flight times would vary for each airline, so the values assessed compared to the criteria would differ for each flight.  

As you can see by now, we are taking a qualitative decision and thinking critically about the best possible choice by quantifying the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative.

At the end of the process, you should be able to use the scores assigned to each airline for the weighted criteria to choose the best airline to meet your unique needs.  In the end, the decision you make will be justified by data, and not gut feeling or emotional preference.

How can you imagine using this decision making process today?


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