I haven’t flown any American airline since a particularly disheartening United flight about five years ago. Since then I’ve mostly stuck to Asian airlines whenever possible (this is helped by the fact that I live in Asia). Anyway, Asian airlines are pretty generally pretty great, and Middle Eastern airlines are even better. Here are my extremely biased opinions on what to jump on and what to avoid when flying in Asia.
Short flights. For short jaunts, almost any airline will do. The most popular one is AirAsia, of course. I flew Peach Air from Hong Kong to Osaka for about $50 — they have great deals if you sign up for their newsletter and don’t delay. The downside is the planes are so, so cold, and they never turn off the lights in the cabin, so getting sleep on the redeye is a no-go. Spirit and Spring operate in mainland China and Hong Kong, mostly. They’re okay but prone to delays.
Cebu Pacific staff play games on board with small prizes, probably to distract from the lack of legroom, but I liked it better than Philippine Air, whose planes look like they haven’t been updated since the early 90s. Air China is also a bit behind the times, with no individual TVs. The last time I was there, they had one of the High School Musicals on loop on the big TV, but on the plus side, the seats were comfy and there was plenty of room.
Long flights. Airlines like Eva, Thai and Singapore are lush, but I find them overpriced (even as a member), especially compared to Middle Eastern airlines. Qatar and Emirates are my favorites by far, although I’ve never been on a full Middle Eastern airline flight. I think the cabin crew are the friendliest, the food’s good and there’s lots of room.
I like Cathay Pacific a lot too, since they have non-stop flights from HK to Chicago, although Cathay flights usually tend to be packed. Cathay’s also part of the OneWorld alliance, don’t forget to get one that or the Asia Miles card!
Which Asian airlines do you prefer?