I don’t know what gives me a bigger rush: researching a complex travel itinerary or actually setting foot on a new aircraft to take me someplace exotic. I love flying! I keep track of all my destinations, the different airport codes, the airlines and planes that take me there, even the aircraft tail #’s and plane names if one is christened with one. It’s a hobby that exploded for me in 2006 and has been going strong since. I record my air travel in several log books online: OpenFlights.org and BA97.com being my favorites.
So far I have flown on 9 Aircraft manufacturers, though several of them have been absorbed into or merged with a larger entity. Similarly I have flown on 60 Airlines, many of which no longer exist while others have merged or re-branded in recent years:
- Air Berlin
- Air Canada
- Air Europa
- Air France
- Air New Zealand
- Air New Zealand Link
- AirAsia X
- AirTran Airways
- Alaska Airlines
- All Nippon Airways
- American Airlines
- American Eagle
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Cebu Pacific
- Continental Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Etihad Airways
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Helvetic Airways
- Iberia Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- JetBlue Airways
- Jetstar Airways
- Jetstar Asia Airways
- KLM Royal Dutch
- Kulula Airlines
- LAN Airlines
- LOT Polish Airlines
- Pacific Blue
- Qantas Link
- Qatar Airways
- Shanghai Airlines
- Singapore Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Swiss Air Lines
- Thai AirAsia
- Thai Airways International
- Tiger Airways
- Tiger Airways Australia
- Transavia France
- United Airlines
- United Express
- US Airways
- Virgin America
- Virgin Atlantic Airways
- Virgin Australia
- Virgin Blue
- Wizz Air
- de Havilland Canada Dash 8
- McDonnell Douglas
- see also:
Air Berlin ceased operations in 2017 but I got some good mileage out of them in 2013/2014. Even though it was a low cost carrier that I booked with my AA miles it was worth the redemption, because the planes were new and a comfortable way to get to Europe.
Air Canada was a good way to redeem my United Airlines miles to get to Europe in 2013. I flew them to get to Le Mans in France. A few years later in 2017 I went up to Montreal on an Air Canada Express flight for the Montreal ePrix. It was much better than the Greyhound bus on the way back.
The only time I flew Air Europa was on a last minute booking after the new year in January 2011 to fly from Valencia, Spain to Paris, France to visit my cousin. At that time they were a major competitor to Iberia.
Air France and I have quite a relationship. They love to destroy my cheap Chinatown luggage I usually bring when I fly on them, and provide me with a brand new Samsonite replacement. I flew them for the first time in 2009 visiting my cousin from Australia. I have repeated the experience a few times since flying to Clermont-Ferrand because they are basically the only option to fly there directly.
The first experience I had flying with this group was actually on Air New Zealand Link a regional service that I used very frequently when I lived in Auckland in 2011 and 2012. Basically one “12 days of Christmas” promotion meant I booked a ton of cheap round trip flights with lowest costing just $1 each way. I saw most of the North Island from the air. I also used their Grabaseat promotion to fly standby for $39 to the South Island once… and then I had a hard time leaving.
I think my very first time flying Air New Zealand mainline was when I got stuck in Blenheim, South Island for a few days because there were no standby fares available due to a rugby player’s wedding and all flights being oversold. As a result I drove with a friend to Christchurch and flew back to Auckland from there. Subsequently I used my United Airlines miles to book flights via Star Alliance in 2016 to fly home from the Cook Islands and New Zealand.
Air Asia X was my introduction to Southeast Asia when I lived in Australia in 2009. I booked my first super cheap round trip flight to Langkawi and Penang, Malaysia flying from the Gold Coast in Queensland when Air Asia X first started flying to Australia. It was amazing. Brand new aircraft. Super cheap flight.
I nested in a domestic Air Asia flight on my first visit to Malaysia in 2009 and fell in love with the whole region. As a result I moved to Singapore in 2011 and flew Air Asia as frequently as I could, often booking cheap fares for weekend getaways throughout the region. I went to Borneo a few times, and Thailand multiple times. There’s also Thai Air Asia which operate similar flights under a different flight number and are based out of Thailand instead of Malaysia.
I started flying frequently to Florida in 2006 with all of my flights on JetBlue to take full advantage of their True Blue frequent flyer program. The one time I needed to take a flight from Savannah to Atlanta it wasn’t an option but Air Tran was a cheap alternative. I did feel like I was cheating on JetBlue flying them… lol
I feel like I was grandfathered into the Alaska Air experience. I used to fly Virgin America lots. Had their credit card to maximize the frequent flyer program. And then Alaska took over VX and merged them into their operation. I converted my elevate points into Mileage Plan but then used those miles to book a flight to California on Virgin America metal most of the way with just one leg on the Alaska / Horizon Air regional prop-plane to get to Monterey Airport.
I booked a one way to Europe in 2016 on Alitalia using my Delta SkyMiles account since they are in the same Sky Team alliance. The destination was Brussels in Belgium but I flew via Rome, Italy. It was my first visit to the city so I scheduled a few hour layover so I can go in and fast-forward sight see as much as I could.
I hate All Nippon Airways. There’s no other way to put it. I booked a trip to Asia using my United Mileage Plus account. It was supposed to be a wonderful experience that definitely did not pan out and instead was disgusting and gross. Upon landing at Tokyo the cover slipped off the pillow I was using for the whole flight where I discovered there was blood all over it. It was not my blood, I had no wounds. So all this time on a 10+ hour flight I was sweating over someone’s blood on my pillow. Ewww, never again! ANA also switched my desired Dreamliner flight to an old 777. Boo!
American Airlines like many other domestic airlines have grown on me. Initially I signed up for their credit card to use the miles to fly on One World Alliance partners. And it was a good experience for a while. But now I actually enjoy flying American metal, like my recent trip in 2019 from Munich to Dallas on the 787.
Most of my flying around the US involves getting to a Motorsport event that typically is in some remove part of middle-America. Often times regional jets are the main way to get there, save for driving, and I enjoy flying too much not to take advantage of it. Often the little Canadair and Embraer regional jets feel like private jets when I’m flying light on luggage.
My first British Airways experience was taking the graceful Boeing 747 from Sydney to London for my very first trip to Western Europe (all the way from Australia when I lived there in 2009). It was tremendous. Flight was delayed as they often are. I got to hop around Europe on smaller Airbus A320 and A319 afterwards as my family waited for me in Lyon. Another time I ended up switching my flights with American Airlines instead of flying Air Berlin I ended up on British metal to get to Portugal in December 2014 due to a winter storm in the Northeast US.
Cathay Pacific 777 took me on my longest flight flown yet from New York to Hong Kong in 2011. It was pretty miserable as the seat recline was weird, only the butt slides forward giving a false impression of reclining. And the person in front of me kept on bumping his head on the seat which would restart my inflight entertainment system. I was on my way to live in Singapore on that flight. The next leg from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur on their regional 777 was significantly better.
Cebu Pacific helped me with a quick getaway from Singapore to the Philippines. It was a cheap weekend flight booked from Singapore to Manila. Cebu Pacific was super cheap to fly back to Singapore and nest a quick trip down to Lapu Lapu to check out Cebu City. JetStar Asia was the cheapest option to get to Manila.
Continental Airlines the home airline of Newark, NJ has since merged with United Airlines. But before they did I got a chance to use the frequent flyer miles I earned by signing up for their credit card to go to Colorado Springs, Colorado to participate in one of my SRT track experiences in 2010.
Delta was the last of the major US carries I started flying. As usual I signed up for their credit card to get a big sign up bonus and then booked some flights on partners first. Delta is a very convenient way to get to Atlanta their hub. So anytime I volunteer at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia I check Delta first. They often have promotions to go to Texas which I took full advantage of going to COTA whether direct into Austin or via Dallas or Houston.
Though it feels like I’ve flown them more frequently, I’ve only taken one repositioning trip on easyJet leaving London after the UK F1 Grand Prix going to Copenhagen, Denmark for my Air Canada flight home.
I used American Airlines miles to book my single Etihad flight to get from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia back to Abu Dhabi for the Gulf 12 hour race in December 2013. That trip was nested with multiple combinations of Air Berlin, Wizz Air and Qatar bookings, but ultimately I went to Malaysia for a weekend because it was cheaper to volunteer there for a race than stay in the middle east between an event in Bahrain and UAE.
Finnair frequently showed excellent availability using American Airlines AAdvantage miles to fly on this One World partner via Helsinki. I went several times to volunteer in Europe back in 2015 and 2016. Though it was pricey I actually got to check out Helsinki for a few hours thanks to this routing. I also got a chance to see Chicago because that was the only flight option available in the peak summer time season, on one trip, to get back to New York from Europe.
I was debating an overnight ferry from Langkawi to Penang on my first visit to Malaysia in 2009. But seeing the news that ferries often go under I decided to fly, and it was an excellent choice because FireFly uses brand new ATR 72 planes, service was quick and good and I got to put another line on my map of travels. I flew them again in 2015 to get from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur’s second airport in Subang.
Hawaiian was booked using my American Airlines AAdvantage miles to get home from South Korea via Hawaii. It gave me my first opportunity to see Waikiki Beach which encouraged me to come back several years later. The planes on Hawaiian were dated and I probably would have been better off flying American, but it was worth setting foot in Hawaii for the first time as a result. Later I flew them all the way to Australia.
My first Iberia experience was in 2010 when I booked a cheap $220 round trip flight from US to Spain for a month. Though I had family in Spain staying with them that long drove me crazy so I decided to travel around Spain… and one of those trips was between Alicante and Madrid as a positioning flight for cheap Lufthansa and Ryanair flights elsewhere. More recently in 2019 when weather was going to delay my American 787 flight to Europe I got rerouted on Iberia’s new Airbus A350 via Madrid to Paris Orly.
I booked Japan Airlines using my American Airlines AAdvantage miles to get home from Kuala Lumpur in 2012 on one of my round the world trips that year. The experience was excellent and I even got a passport stamp in Tokyo leaving immigration to get some sushi at the airport before heading back for my flight.
JetBlue was my absolutely favorite airline to fly around the US. I started out going to Florida frequently to hang out in Ft. Lauderdale but after a few trips I earned enough miles in their True Blue program to take myself to Aruba. Then St. Martin, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic because points came quick using promos and their branded credit card. Over the years JetBlue has changed their frequent flyer program and their planes aged making Virgin America my more favorite airline before they went poof and disappeared.
My first experience with JetStar was a positioning flight to get from Sydney to the Gold Coast for my first Air Asia X international flight to Southeast Asia in 2009. Subsequently I booked JetStar to get between Australia and New Zealand when it made sense to book them over their parent company Qantas or competitor Air New Zealand.
JetStar Asia was a really great alternative to Air Asia when I lived in Singapore in 2011. I flew them to get to Phuket, Thailand; Taipei, Taiwan; and Manila, Philippines. I also used JetStar Asia to fly from Auckland, New Zealand when I lived there to get to the Malaysian Grand Prix in Kuala Lumpur in 2012.
KLM ended up rescuing my plans when the leg I booked on Air France went sideways. I ended up doing a few hour sightseeing tour of Amsterdam for the first time as a result in 2009. The next chance I got to fly KLM was from New York to Paris in 2010 when I booked another cheap month in Europe. Unfortunately that trip went sideways and I ended up heading to Ukraine to spend the bulk of my time there.
Kulula was my South African low cost airline experience in 2019. I flew to Joburg to volunteer but really wanted to a side trip to Cape Town to see the ocean which is exactly the experience Kulula provided for me. Both Kulula and British Airways in South Africa are operated by local Comair. At one point I got an invite to switch my flights free of charge from Kulula to BA which would have earned me some frequent flyer miles but I blew my chance because I was busy during the day and by the time I clicked the link it had expired.
I booked LAN Chile using my British Airways Avios miles that I got from signing up for one of their credit cards. It was an attempt to balance out my flight map with a trip to New Zealand via South America. I flew several hops from New York to Lima, Peru then onto Santiago, Chile before heading to Auckland, New Zealand via the South Pacific. I don’t know why I rushed to burn off my Avios miles then, it was an OK flight but those miles would have been more valuable for other more useful flights.
LOT Polish airlines was my first experience being on a plane in 1995 when my family moved from Ukraine to the US. We came back for a visit in 1999 flying via Warsaw and connecting to a turbo-prop ATR 72 on their regional EuroLOT service.
My first Lufthansa experience was on Lufthansa Italia subsidiary booking cheapo flights from Madrid to Milan in Italy and then another nested flight from Milan to Stockholm, Sweden. This was a rather crazy experience in January 2010 but enjoyable nonetheless.
Pacific Blue was the International arm of Virgin Blue in Australia along with Polynesian Blue, each flying to specific destinations in South Pacific before reverting to Virgin Australia. I flew Pacific Blue several times in 2009 first to Christchurch in New Zealand on a happy hour fare that Virgin Blue would have at noon each day. Then an exotic trip to Fiji.
Qantas took me to live in Australia in 2009. It was the first expensive flight that I booked outright because I didn’t have enough frequent flyer miles at that point. And the trip yielded me enough miles to book a domestic flight within Australia later. Subsequently I used a variation of my Qantas and American Airlines miles to book future trips. Though Virgin Blue, JetStar and Tiger Air Australia were cheaper low cost alternatives.
There were a few opportunities to fly Qantas to destinations that low cost carriers didn’t serve. And so to join my buddy on a trip to Bundaberg, Queensland we went on a little prop-plane operated by regional Qantas Link.
My very first Qatar Airways experience was actually flying entirely within Southeast Asia. I stumbled upon a cheap fare from Singapore to Bali, Indonesia that not only included a flight but a hotel room as well. The hotel was shit, but the airline fantastic. I flew them again both booking direct and using my American Airlines AAdvantage miles to fly between Dubai and Bahrain and Dubai and Kuala Lumpur via Doha without actually legally entering Qatar in 2013.
Ryanair was an exciting experience that took me to Africa for the first time in 2010, almost on a one way journey. I booked Ryanair nested into my cheap American Airlines trip from US to Spain. It was supposed to go for a few days in Marrakesh, Morocco but on the flight back to Spain we were stopped on the runway for some time because Spanish air traffic control went on strike. I don’t think Ryanair would have accommodated me getting back if the ATC remained on strike.
My original Scoot experience was taking their brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Bangkok to Singapore in 2015. Since then the parent company Singapore Airlines folded their Tiger Air operation into Scoot making all my short hops on Tiger’s A320 appear as the fancier Scoot that was introduced later.
I booked a leg on Shanghai Airlines using my United Mileage Plus frequent flyer miles. It also afforded me an opportunity to check out Shanghai, China for a few hours visa-free before continuing onto Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia back in 2015.
I would never book a flight on Singapore Airlines especially their famous A380 service because it was way too expensive. Luckily they are in the Star Alliance and redeeming my United miles on Singapore A380 flights from New York to Frankfurt and onwards to Singapore was my favorite redemption which I repeated a few times in 2013.
Southwest never seemed attractive to me when compared to other low cost airlines like JetBlue or Virgin America. Because generally speaking they were never that cheap, until I started flying to Texas when all of the sudden their flights provided good value. I even signed up for their credit card. And after some intensive use out of their program in 2013 the rates went back up. I flew again in 2015, 2016 and 2018 but much more selectively only when it was convenient.
I flew Spanair a bunch of times in 2010, usually on a repositioning mission between Madrid and Alicante and Barcelona, Spain. It was the cheapest option and the experience was good. Unfortunately Spanair went belly-up in 2012.
The only reason I got to try Swiss Air was because my Lufthasa Italia cheap flight from Madrid, Spain to Milan, Italy in 2010 went sideways. It was the start of two nested trips, first MAD-MXP and then MXP-ARN in Stockholm, Sweden. Luckily because Lufthansa is in the same Star Alliance as Swiss and actually owns them I was rerouted via Switzerland.
The Zurich, Switzerland to Milan, Italy leg of my Swiss trip was actually operated by their regional airline called Helvetic flying a Fokker 100 aircraft. It was quite an educational experience when I learned Switzerland does not use the Euro when I rushed to buy a post card on my quick stopover in the airport.
The brilliance of the Air Asia brand was that only part of it ran out of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. For many of the markets they served they launched partnerships and Thai Air Asia was one of them serving specifically the Thai market. I flew Thai Air Asia to Bangkok and Phuket, and though both airlines served the markets the difference was in flight designations, AK for Air Asia and FD for Thai Air Asia.
There was a time when I wanted to try as many different Airbus A380 operators as possible. Thai Airways was one of them taking me from Bangkok to Frankfurt and connecting to a Singapore A380 the rest of the way to New York in 2013. I was on one of my round the world trips that ended in Phuket and Thai Boeing 747 picked me up there to connect me to the Thai A380 experience on the way home. It was nice!
Tiger Airways was shuttered up in 2017 and merged into the Scoot operation since both low cost airlines are owned by Singapore Airlines. I used Tiger Airways frequently scooting around Southeast Asia when I lived in Singapore in 2011. Went to Borneo. Phuket and Krabi in Thailand. Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia as well as Macau and Hong Kong in China.
Tiger Airways Australia was initially launched as it’s Southeast Asian namesake to operate in Australia and New Zealand but their safety record was so poor there were real concerns of going bust before Virgin Australia stepped in and bought controlling stake. While Virgin Blue itself was a low cost carrier compared to Qantas once they rebranded it as Virgin Australia they went upmarket from Tigerair. I flew them in Australia from Melbourne to Sydney and Adelaide. They were fine.
Transavia France is a low cost carrier of Air France that took me in 2011 from Paris to Krakow, Poland. Unlike it’s regional and mainline operations preferring Airbus A320 products (which I love) Transavia operates Boeing 737 planes (which I don’t love).
There was a time when the best thing I loved about United was using their frequent flyer program to book flights on their Star Alliance partners overseas. But now they are just fine using their brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliners. I do miss the days of flying Thai and Singapore A380’s via my Mileage Plus miles.
My very first United experience was in January 2010 booking a cheapo flight that yielded a bunch of frequent flyer miles to Montreal, Canada on a few different United Express regional carriers. It was a fantastic experience to be honest. Got to see Montreal all frozen. Taste amazing food. And check out Circuit Gilles Villeneuve even before I started volunteering by driving on it in the snow with my rental car.
US Airways merged with American Airlines in 2015 but before that I got to take a few trips with them in 2013 for volunteering purposes. Often booking crazy out of the way flights to save some $$$. For example traveling to Daytona in January 2013 I took a bus down to Washington DC to fly DCA-MCO and then rent a car in Orlando to drive to Daytona Beach. Fun!
Valuair is a low cost Singapore based company that at one point operated JetStar Asia flights between Singapore and Indonesia. And that’s exactly what I booked them for in 2011 taking a day trip to Jakarta. I flew out first thing in the morning and returned later that same evining. The departure tax that was collected in cash at the airport cost almost as much as my flight did but it was worth the visit.
Virgin America stole my heard from JetBlue as my favorite airline… before of course they were merged with Alaska Airlines recently. I signed up for their credit card and collected those elevate points religiously trying not to waste them on anything. Ultimately I converted them to Alaska air and then wasted them on a trip to California in 2017. I would have been much better off using them on a flight to Hawaii instead as they have better value than American Airlines.
Virgin Atlantic was always this halo airline that I thought of very highly but surprisingly never flew until 2019 when I booked them to South Africa via priceline.com Though I got to try their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 I was not terribly impressed. The seat was cramped. Entertainment was limited on the screen in front of me. And food was absolutely terrible. Never meet your heroes I guess.
Virgin Blue looked so cool when I first arrived to live in Australia in 2009. I thought it was just like JetBlue in the US and at some point reading the history of both companies JetBlue could have easily become a Virgin brand. I didn’t like their Boeing 737 planes but the frequent flyer program was great and their daily “happy hour” fares that popped up at noon were something to look forward to. I booked many day and weekend trips all over Australia. Including a day trip to Tasmania with the first flight out of Sydney and last flight back to get home. Good times!
While flying around as Virgin Blue during my time in Australia in 2009 the airline re-branded in 2011 to Virgin Australia and when I came for a visit again in 2013 the planes were no longer red but silver in color. Inside didn’t really change though the airline seems to become a bit fancier.
Wizz Air a Hungarian low cost carrier gave me an opportunity to get to Dubai in a creative way. I was going to volunteer in the Middle East for the first time but didn’t have enough frequent flyer miles to get there. So I booked Air Berlin using American Airlines miles to get to Budapest and for under $100 each way booked Wizz Air to get to Dubai before booking Qatar Airways to fly to Bahrain etc. It was good experience.
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