After flying with nearly forty different airlines during my working life I have to say they are a mixed bag.
I started my flying experiences in the mid 60’s when I flew to / from the Far East to either join a ship or to fly home on leave. The airlines are in alphabetical order rather than chronological order.
Flew trans Atlantic with them from Manchester via Dublin and Shannon to New York in the early 70’s. The next time I used them was in 2009 from London to Dublin. They were pleasant flights. I did find it a little odd in Dublin that after using the toilets and opened the wrong exit door and ended up in the street. Fortunately I was able to get back in to the building as I was ‘in transit’. This was well before the high security system that we have today.
Air Asia & Air Asia X
Flown with them around Asia and found them to be very good, particularly as their fares are so low. Haven’t yet flown longer than three hours with this airline.
I worked for BOAC at Manchester Airport when Air France offered £7.00 (return) tickets to Paris to advertise their new service. My wife & I took advantage of a weekend in Paris.
Link this airline to Marshall Airlines and Sunflower Airlines later on.
In another life I had to visit a number of the Pacific island, and Nauru was one of them, and Air Nauru was the only direct flight from Sydney. Some times they left on time and other times they waited for the Nauru President. The one thing I remember about flying with this airline was that they insisted on putting the red wine in the fridge and leave the white wine out in the tropical heat. They parked their aircraft in lay-by in Nauru, and the main road passed between the aircraft and the taxi way. A little odd, but it was a Pacific solution.
Air New Zealand
Used to fly with them from Sydney or Auckland to Fiji or Western Samoa – no complaints.
Air Pacific now called Fiji Airways
Not a bad airline, flown with them for short journeys between the Pacific islands such as W. Samoa to Fiji, or Fiji to Tonga.
Only used them once, between Sydney and Vanuatu.
London to Venice to join a passenger ship in 1965 – haven’t used them since. I sat next to a very attractive lady and we spent the flight discussing perfumes – she was only in transit in Venice.
Flew Sydney to Melbourne for the first time in the early 70’s – always seemed a happy airline. Flew with them many times later after immigrating to Australia in 1980.
In another life (different from the first ‘other’ life) I was involved as this airline’s GSA (General Sales Agent) and I flew with them from Sydney to Noumea in New Caledonia. Nice leather seats in business class. The DC 10 was not a particularly profitable aircraft for the Paris, Colombo, Sydney, Noumea run.
Australian Airlines (also known as TAA)
An Australian domestic carrier – at that time (early 80’s) I used either this airline or Ansett.
Austrian Airlines (when I flew with them they were called Lauda Air)
Sydney to Manchester via Vienna, it was a very pleasant trip; because of the long transit in Vienna all transit passengers were offered a tour of the city. We were not allowed off the bus, but it was a pleasant way to use two to three hours before the Vienna to Manchester flight. On the return flight they had engine trouble in Manchester and we were delayed for some hours. Eventually we left Manchester and I realised that we had missed the connection in Vienna to Australia. There were a number of passengers in the same situation. The cabin crew told us not to worry because they had booked us all on the Lufthansa flight from Vienna to Frankfurt to connect with the Frankfurt to Sydney Lufthansa. Being in the airline industry I called the stewardess and whispered that Lufthansa don’t fly to Australia, did she mean the Qantas flight QF5 ? She insisted that it was Lufthansa. So I left it at that. In Frankfurt I boarded the QF 5 for Sydney. It did carry a code share LH number, so I suppose we were both correct.
BMI – used to be called just British Midland
They were code share with Malaysian Airlines between Edinburgh and London, so technically I was flying Malaysian Airlines, not British Midland, because I had a Malaysian ticket. The flight was OK, I’d use the again.
British European Airways
Flew with them domestic UK.
British Overseas Airways Corporation – BOAC
In the early 70’s I flew Manchester to New York on the VC 10 – at that time nobody had TV of overhead films. We used a very primitive Kindle – it was called a book.
I also flew London to Singapore via Rome, Beirut, Bahrain, Bombay, Rangoon, Kuala Lumpur and eventually Singapore. This type or routing was normal in the 1960’s.
Later the airline changed to British Airways, when it joined with BEA.
During the late 1980’s I was fortunate to fly Concorde, London to New York on my way back to Australia, via the US west coast.
Of course I mustn’t forget the workhorse of most airlines – flew Sydney – London return quite a few times.
B 747 / 100
Flew Melbourne to Hong Kong & return. It was very pleasant, and plenty of room in economy.
Business class from Bangkok to Helsinki. Very pleasant flight, excellent cabin service, good food and wines, but the poor AVOD was very poor with limited entertainment value.
We flew from Helsinki to Venice, packed tight because the configuration was all economy.
Very cramped from Madrid to Lisbon – we renamed this airline Air Sardinia due to the lack of room. My legs were in the aisle most of the flight because I was bothered than the seat in front would damage my knees. To be fair, the return flight was good with plenty of legroom.
I paid off a ship in Khorramshahr, and the ship’s agent drove me to Abadan so as to fly Iran Air to Tehran, and BOAC from Tehran to London.
This trip from Abadan sticks in my mind due to the huge amount of hand baggage that the passengers were allowed to carry on board. Including one guy who had a small primus stove. After we had taken off, and the seat belt sign had been switched off, he squatted in the aisle and lit the stove to make his tea. The surrounding passengers didn’t react. I could see the guy in the aisle ahead of me, and as I unfastened my safety belt to tell him to put the stove out, there was a blared movement of a stewardess moving from the for’d part of the aircraft to the tea maker. I’ve never seen a cabin crewmember move so fast before or since.
Flew business class Sydney / Tokyo in the late 80’s early 90’s and found the Japanese Airlines business class seat to be as large as Qantas’ economy seats. Being 188 cm (6ft 2inches) I was disappointed in the space available in business class on this airline. Perhaps things have changed in the last twenty-five years.
Sydney to the Sunshine Coast for a holiday in 2007 – the trip was ninety minutes and that is about as much as could take due to the cramped seats. I suppose one gets what one pays for, and as the ticket was cheap it was an experience.
We flew Frankfurt to Amsterdam, and then on to Norwich. Couldn’t fault the service or the aircraft, which was a Fokker 70.
Flew Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang and couldn’t fault the trip. Laos Air flies French built aircraft, which were well maintained. Later I flew from Luang Prabang to Vientiane, again a good flight, but had the feeling that the pilot might have just left the air force, and was used to fighter planes in the way he landed. BANG we are down!
I think I have flown with Malaysian Airlines more times than with any other airline. Over the years I have noticed a falling off of their standard of economy service – I fly mostly economy, but have flown twice in business class (to Europe) and on both occasions I couldn’t fault the service. I have the impression that accountants are now running this airline instead of airline people – which is a shame because most of the staff that I have met have, (all but one), been very helpful and keen to help. Malaysian Airlines is classed as a five star airline, and have managed to retain this star rating for a number of years. Unfortunately, since about 2011, I am surprised that they have managed to maintain this rating in economy.
In 1970 my wife & I were on our way home from Australia after our delayed honeymoon and we had tickets with Northwest from Honolulu to New York where we would catch the B.O.A.C flight to Manchester. Northwest was kind enough to upgrade us to business class (no idea why), but it was very nice. Sat down and the stewardess came up and offered us drinks, which I took and tasted gin, which I hate. I returned the glass and mentioned that the drink contained gin and I didn’t like gin. The glass was removed and a rum based drink was placed in front of me – layers of coloured rum, topped up with ice & Coke in a very tall glass. I took off before the aircraft.
Our first stop was Chicago – I didn’t realise that the DC 8 had the range, but we arrived several hours later – at that time the airlines didn’t have TV or overhead films, and definitely no AVOD! Arrival in Chicago was a shock after the heat of Honolulu – heavy snow. An hour or so transit and it was off to New York (economy) again more snow, before boarding the BOAC flight for Manchester.
What a fall from grace for this airline, now rated as a four star airline. When I worked for BOAC / BA, Qantas were considered to be the standard of service for which we should aim. They were held in very high esteem, but sadly have fallen a long way due to the ‘you have to fly with us’ attitude – they forgot about the Asian carriers who offered better service at cheaper rates. Only recently have Qantas started to come back and offer customer service. I stopped flying with QF in the mid 1990’s because of their attitude, but they are now offering good ticket prices and I hear that the service is a lot better. Generational change perhaps.
I first flew Qatar Airways in 2012. I researched business class tickets from nearly every origin around Australia, New Zealand & Asia. Being retired allows me time to do this type of research. By combining an economy ticket to Asia and business class ticket from Asia to Europe (the long haul bit) we managed to get a through fare for around $2800. We used Malaysian Airlines, in economy, to Kuala Lumpur, stayed overnight, and then flew with Sri Lanka Air to Colombo. The business class experience of flying with Qatar Airways was the best experience on an aircraft that I have had for years.
Some of the passengers were weighed and some of us were not. The aircraft was small so every kilo was counted and the Western Samoans are known for their size. The flight from Apia to Pago Pago in American Samoa was not long, about fifteen minutes. The baggage was towed behind the last passenger. It was a very short scenic flight.
Singapore Airlines have become the benchmark for a number of competitors and they are only one of the seven – five star airlines. The others are Qatar Airways, Malaysian Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Asiana and ANA All Nippon – they are not in any order of preference. Their customers judge each airline and through the customer feedback, via Skytrax, they are rated.
I’d flown with SQ (code for Singapore Airlines) during their B707 period in the 1960’s when I was at sea. In 2007 eight of us planned a trip to Vietnam, so I checked the various discount airlines for a ‘good’ price. The actual discounted tickets were cheaper than the standard airlines, but after you added in various charges for meals, baggage handling, entertainment and a few drinks, I found that SQ basic economy fare was cheaper than the discount airlines with all their add-ons, so we flew SQ. Because we flew SQ, we decided to stay three nights on our way home in Singapore. This stop over entitled us to a discount off our hotel, plus we had a free bus tour of the island and discounts to various places of interest just by showing our boarding pass from Vietnam to Singapore.
Sri Lankan Airlines (used to be called Air Lanka)
Flew a number time between Malaysia & Sri Lanka (Ceylon). Plenty of room in economy and I did enjoy the food – always had a choice of fish or vegetables curry. I used to alternate between them because I love Sri Lanka curries.
Sun Flower Airlines
In the 1980’s I used to visit a number of Pacific Island (some one had to do it) and I flew from Sydney to Nauru with Air Nauru, (B737) then on to Tarawa in Kiribati (again on Air Nauru’s B737, they only had one aircraft), Kiribati used to be called Gilbert islands, and then on to Funafuti the capital of Tuvalu (which used to be called Ellis Islands) via Air Marshall HS 748.
Each aircraft was getting smaller and smaller –
On reaching Funafuti we buzzed the airfield because it was a grass strip and the local boys were using it for a game of football. Quiet funny to see them run to the side as we bounced along their pitch. The aircraft came to a halt in front of a small concrete structure. The customs ‘hall’ was a concrete open sided small building, not much larger than the average garage, where our passports were inspected. The inspection table was concrete and the seat bench behind, for the inspector, was also concrete. On leaving the ‘garage hall’ I noticed a young lady in a half airline uniform (native skirt, but an airline blouse). I spoke to her about my onward flight to Fiji on Monday (my arrival day was Friday). She asked if my name was Woodland and when I acknowledged this, she told me that they were not bringing a plane in just for me, because I was the only one who wanted to leave on Monday, and I was to return to the airport on Wednesday! Try ringing head office, in Sydney, to tell the GM that I was stuck on a Pacific island and was forced to stay another couple of days. . . . .
BTW – The highest point in Tuvalu is about eighteen feet. I just hoped we would not be hit by a tsunami.
Now back to Sunflower Airlines
On the Wednesday I boarded Sunflower Airlines for the four-hour trip to Suva in Fiji. The route used to be flown by Fiji Air, but they had aircraft problems and Sunflower was helping them out. The distance is not great, only about 1100 kms, perhaps an hour and a half in a B737. The aircraft in the picture had a cruising speed of about 295 km – hence the four-hour trip. It was a memorable flight; the door between the cockpit and the passengers would not shut, so we were able to watch the pilot fly the plane. The co-pilot was also the steward, so after take off from the grass strip of Funafuti the ‘steward’ drags a box from under the first passenger seat and starts to issued plastic wrapped sandwiches for lunch. The aircraft-seating configuration was seven seats down each side. So as not to walk the length of the aircraft the steward skimmed the sandwiches through the air and the passengers caught their lunch. For drinks it was another carton under the seat and this time the steward handed various cans of drink to the passengers, Coke a Cola, orangeade or lemonade. I was given lemonade and was about open it when it was removed from my hand and exchanged for a Coke. Apparently the passenger across the small aisle didn’t like Coke, so the steward exchanges it for my lemonade. The noise of the engines did not allow for much conversation with the passenger in front, behind or even across the aisle. At least we all had a window seat. The view was interesting until we left the small island of Tuvalu behind and we had the vast ocean to keep us company. I am not sure how high we flew, but I could see the tops of waves breaking and the fine spray blown by the wind. From memory we did not have access to a toilet, because the space where it should have been had been used for cargo & our baggage. I sipped my can of Coke very slowly. . . . On arrival in Suva (not Nadi Int’l), I think we were all very pleased.
I like this airline – they are not mean with their drinks – but they do have an odd system of shutting the blinds on leaving Sydney. When I asked why, I was told so that passengers could sleep – this was at 9.00 am and most passengers were origin passengers, so they would have been in bed a few hours earlier. I’d flown with Thai in the early 80’s when I worked for an Australian company, so it was interesting to note the changes twenty years later. This time I was paying for my own ticket, so of course I was very interested in keeping cost down. It was an interesting exercise to cost eight tickets from Sydney to Bangkok, paying for them in Sydney, as against buying the same tickets over the internet from Bangkok and saving $60 to $70 a ticket – guess which set of tickets we bought?
I’ve only flown once with this airline from Los Angeles to Sydney. This time I was business class and the company was paying for the ticket. On check-in I asked if the aircraft was none stop to Sydney, and I was told that it would be none stop. I then asked for an upstairs seat in business class, which I was given. After take off I asked the cabin crew where would I find the in-seat video screen (at that time they were normally in the seat arm) and was told that they didn’t offer in seat video upstairs, and all business class seats downstairs were full. It was going to be a very long flight and I was half way through my last book. The aircraft was ‘tired’ and I had the feeling that the airline was a domestic airline trying to fly international routes with domestic cabin staff. They were failing to reach the minimum passenger standard for international service levels.
About three hours from Sydney we were told that we would have to divert to Fiji for fuel . . .so much for none stop. I’ve not flown with this airline since.
Vietnam Airlines (domestic Vietnam)
Flown a couple of times with this airline from Sydney to Hong Kong. Both fights (economy) were fine. The only comment I can make is that the use of UK staff with their regional accents was a nice touch. I have a Merseyside accent, so it wasn’t long before I met a cabin crew Scouser.
First time I used this airline was to fly Sydney to Melbourne. A day I remember well, because as we waited in the departure area for the flight to be called, all the passengers stood and watched similar planes crashing in to the Twin Towers of New York.
A pleasant flight with friendly crew.