In just 8 days (and over three time zones), the other half and I managed to visit 5 airports, using 4 Airlines – so I thought it would be fun to rate the airports and airlines according to my experience.
So here goes, airports first – starting with the best.
Manchester Airport, UK 🇬🇧
Good old Manchester Terminal 2 (call me bias if you like) – fast check in, easy pass through security and plenty of shops, including Duty Free to kill the time before the flight. We also managed to get into the airport lounge to really start our holiday off nicely.
Miami International, Florida 🇺🇸
Bright, colourful and airy – this airport certainly provided a nice welcome. Fast baggage collection and easy navigation through the airport, thanks to the easy monorail system that they have in place. Be aware that if you’re picking up a hire car, the line for ‘Budget’ is much longer and slower than others….clue in the title.
Orlando International, Florida 🇺🇸
Easy and efficient check-in and plenty of shops and restaurants to look at – but only before you go through security. It’s a bit of a different story after that! Decent monorail system that takes you between terminals but going through security could be quicker. Nonetheless, an airport with palm trees indoors? – bound to bring a smile to your face.
Louis Armstrong International, Louisiana 🇺🇸
It’s not that this airport is bad, it’s just a little tired and there’s not a lot to do or look at – either at arrivals or departures. Not ideal if you have a delay. Despite this, the baggage carousel is quick and going through security is painless. I have heard that there will be a new terminal opening soon, so here’s hoping that will impress more.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Georgia 🇺🇸
The queues at Atlanta are excessive! Last year, Atlanta was the busiest airport in the world by total movements which might well account for the slow passing through Customs and the annoyingly long wait time at the carousel. However, being the world’s busiest airport surely calls for some common sense? One poor chap in front of me said that he had missed his connecting flight due to the queue times. Despite having asked an airport worker if he could be fast-tracked, he was not allowed. He wasn’t alone either, we – and many others – practically sprinted to make sure we caught our next flights! Not the most relaxing experience unless you like living off your nerves. Thankfully the monorail that takes you between the terminals is fast and frequent – and it’s a really clean airport.
So now for the airlines….
Virgin Atlantic ✈️
Thank you Mr Branson for taking us from Manchester to Atlanta without any delays and a comfortable flight. Good selection of in-flight movies (I can recommend Rocket Man!) and tasty in-flight meal. Nice touch with the little ‘afternoon tea’ box nearing landing and the free drinks (including alcohol) on board. Two things though – charging £45 per hold bag and £30 to choose your seat – in addition to the cost of your flight – a little cheeky.
Delta Airlines ✈️
No complaints about this airline for the short-haul flight from Atlanta to Miami. The seats were comfy and far more roomy than long-haul with Virgin! We gratefully accepted a complimentary bag of pretzels and a soft drink during the flight.
Update 22 October: Unfortunately Delta failed us on our return flight from Miami to Atlanta by taking our cabin bags off us and putting them in the hold. That’s not the issue, this is: I asked for confirmation on three occasions that the cabin bags would be available again at Atlanta (I had a change of clothes in my case, my partner had medication in his and we had our electronics in them). We were told “100%” that they absolutely would. Long story short, the bags went all the way through to Manchester so we only got them 12 hours later. Yep, I sat on a night flight in a short dress and flip flops (not ideal when going from 36° to 7°) and we couldn’t read our kindles or watch programmes we had downloaded. Really poor ‘customer service’ from Delta. Morale of the story: if they want your bag, remove EVERYTHING.
Spirit Airlines ✈️
Cheap, cheerful and America’s version of EasyJet. We did have to pay additional money for a hold bag and there were no freebies once onboard the flight – but then, you expect that with a budget airline. The flight itself was delayed for over an hour without any explanation as to why but other than that, it was fine – you get what you pay for.
Southwest Airlines 💩
AVOID, AVOID, AVOID! I will never fly with this airline again. We booked our mini-break from Orlando to New Orleans as a package deal with Southwest. Upon paying, we noticed that they had put us on a night flight when we had selected a morning flight (how, I don’t know – but who wants to arrive into a new city when it’s time to go straight to bed?!). Numerous emails and social media contact later, they would not help us to rectify the situation unless we called them in America. Being in the UK, we knew this would be expensive. To save the hassle, we booked a new flight with a new airline (Spirit) with the intention of simply not showing for our outbound with Southwest. Turns out they have a – let’s call it “rip off” – clause which states that anyone not showing for any part of their journey will have the rest of their booking forfeited/ cancelled without refund! Nobody wants to find themselves in a strange town with no hotel or way of getting home!
(Very) long story short, having called Southwest once we arrived in America (when cheaper) and having been on the phone for 2 hours and 7 minutes, we were advised that they would have to cancel our entire booking and re-book on just the flight we needed. This ended up costing us an additional £275 (as the flights had gone up!) – effectively to let them re-sell our outbound seats at a hefty profit and simply keep the return flight that we had already paid for months back. Fair? No.
Their ‘boarding system’ was one of a kind too – nobody gets allocated a seat – just find an empty one and sit in it! I’m not surprised passengers looked confused by this strange and chaotic approach.
Anyway…..lesson learned to always check the small print – not every airline operates with the same morals and some are just out to cash in where they can. If ever I did give a top tip on my blogs, this is the important one – don’t fly with Southwest Airlines.
At least Dick Turpin wore a mask!
Update 15 November: Nice surprise to find a refund onto the card for the additional money we had to shell out (after I sent a complaint email). Strange to have had no communication from the airline about it though.
If you’re interested in hearing more about the ‘no show clause’, why not read this article from the Independent earlier this year?