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Editors' Choice Awards 2011: Best Free Airline Perk

by SmarterTravel Staff
Editors' Choice Badge: Free Airline Perk
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on May 14, 2011. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue, low-cost airline, Southwest.

Winner: Two Free Checked Bags on Southwest

The free perk landscape has shifted dramatically over the past few years. Gone are the days when a solid flight-improvement offering, such as onboard food or movies, could dominate (or even be available for free at all). The widespread adoption of baggage fees has created a sort of instant-win scenario for the few airlines that eschew the industry trend of charging $15 to $25 for the first checked bag and up to $50 for the second.


For the second year in a row, this industry shift makes Southwest our clear winner for the best free airline perk. With its policy of two free checked bags, you don't have to choose between the cost of dinner and bringing something to wear out to said dinner on your next vacation. And when passengers aren't trying to skirt baggage fees by squeezing oversized carry-ons into a plane's overhead bins, travelers enjoy the additional benefit of more efficient boarding. JetBlue secures the runner-up position with its first-bag-free policy.

JetBlue also deserves special mention for its suite of free offerings that make flights feel shorter and more comfortable. Snacks such as chips, cookies, and nuts that would easily cost $5 each on most other airlines are free for the taking on JetBlue. Pair that with better-than-average legroom and free seatback DirectTV and you've got in-flight perks that go the distance.

Finally, this airline's limited route network prevents it from being an overall contender, but Hawaiian Air deserves an honorable mention for being the only U.S. airline to still serve something resembling complimentary meals. Free options on flights include manicotti, breakfast frittatas, and chocolate cake. To that we say aloha.

Editors' Choice 2011 homepage

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