How Do You Choose Your Flight?

A great deal is, well, great, but it’s not always the whole story when it comes to booking airfare. Other factors, including airline loyalty (or avoidance), routes, schedules, and past history with an airline can also influence which flight you choose.

I started thinking about this recently while booking a fall flight to my husband’s family reunion in Nebraska. Though price was, ultimately, the deciding factor, I was surprised at how many other elements I considered when choosing a flight. I realized that I have a pretty clear flight decision pattern that I apply whether I’m flying to the Midwest or Europe:

First I find my benchmark, figuring the lowest price range. Then I calculate how much more it would be to book a nonstop flight. If it’s not too much more, I’ll usually choose it, since nonstop means fewer delays and getting to my destination faster. If I do have to connect in winter, I try to avoid snow-prone airports such as Chicago, Denver, and New York. I also have airline preferences; there are a few carriers I try to avoid, and others I seek out. I tend to favor airlines with newer planes and seatback entertainment systems, while I hesitate to book on airlines on which I’ve found the flight attendants particularly unpleasant or the plane interiors worn and depressing.

What about you? Which factors do you consider when choosing a flight? Does price always come first, or do you also consider routes, schedules, airline, in-flight amenities, customer service, past experiences, loyalty programs, or other factors?