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What Are the Airlines Doing Right?

SmarterTravel

Air travel has lost its luster for many travelers, who now see flying as a necessary evil to get from Point A to Point B. Flying is more expensive than ever—with airlines tacking on new fees for checked luggage, seat assignments, and even a bottle of water—while airline customer service has become something of an oxymoron.

Thankfully, the air travel climate isn’t completely bleak. There are still some airlines providing decent service to travelers—even customers flying in coach. Read on to find out which domestic airlines are still doing something right.

Free Onboard Entertainment

[[JetBlue | JetBlue]] has long been known for its stellar onboard entertainment. It offers free DirecTV service at every seat, featuring more than 35 channels of live television (and three channels of first-run movies for $5). In addition, JetBlue also offers free XM Satellite Radio.

[[AirTran | AirTran]] also offers free XM Satellite Radio at every seat and [[United | United ]] also offers XM service free on some flights.

Newcomer [[Virgin America | Virgin America]] has a highly touted onboard entertainment system dubbed Red. Each seat has a personal television stocked with free Dish Network Satellite TV, 20 radio channels, more than 3,000 MP3s, video games, and email, instant messaging, and chat rooms. Movies are available for $8.

Legacy carriers such as American and Delta offer personal televisions in economy on some flights. Coach seats on some of American’s Boeing-777s are equipped with seat-back monitors with 10 channels of programming. Delta on Demand, available on some longer flights, includes more than a dozen channels of satellite television, plus MP3s and in-flight trivia. Movies are available for a small charge.

In-Flight Internet

JetBlue has begun introducing BetaBlue, its wireless Internet service, on transcontinental Airbus A320 flights. BetaBlue allows flyers to use Wi-Fi enabled devices (laptops and BlackBerry devices) to access email providers such as AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo, as well as Amazon. Instant messaging via Yahoo is also available.

[[American | American]] charges $12.95 per flight for its onboard Internet, which includes full Internet, email, and VPN access (although VOIP services is not available). Gogo In-flight Internet is available on select Boeing 767-200 flights between New York (JFK) and Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami.

[[Delta | Delta]] plans to offer Gogo, first on its MD88/90 aircraft, and then on its entire domestic fleet by summer 2009. The service costs $9.95 for flights three hours or shorter, and $12.95 on longer flights. Virgin America also plans to offer Gogo in the future.

Free Meals in Coach

[[Continental | Continental]] remains the only legacy carrier offering free meals on domestic flights in coach. Flyers are served a full meal on domestic flights longer than three hours. Travelers on international and Hawaii flights are also served full meals. On shorter flights, Continental serves complimentary beverages and snacks.

Free Snacks

In addition to Continental’s free snack policy (discussed above), JetBlue also offers free snacks on all its flights. Snacks include chips, cookies, crackers, and nuts, as well as typical beverages such as soda, juice, and water, as well as Dunkin’ Donuts coffee.

[[Southwest | Southwest]] offers free pretzels and peanuts on flights less than 600 miles in length, and serves snack boxes on longer flights. Complimentary nonalcoholic beverages are also served on all flights.

Delta is one of the few legacy airlines still offering free snacks in economy on domestic flights. Goodies include peanuts, cookies, and crackers, as well as free nonalcoholic beverages.

Free nonalcoholic beverages are also available on AirTran, Alaska, American, Continental, [[Frontier | Frontier]], Midwest, Northwest, United, and Virgin America.

In addition to complimentary soft drinks, Midwest also offers fresh baked-onboard chocolate chip cookies free of charge on most flights.

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