Friday, April 15, 2011

Why You Should Fly With A National Airline

By Bobbie Laurie via

A national carrier is an airline, which by law or not, takes on the role of representing its country. The US doesn’t really have a single one, but our neighbors to the north have Air Canada. And it turns out most countries of the world have a national carrier – think big names like British Airways, Qantas (of Australia), Japan Airlines or Turkish Airlines.

Back in the old days of the jet age (the 1960s-1980s), these carriers were often the only airlines connecting their countries with foreign lands. Over the years as air travel picked up globally, these airlines assumed roles as flying ambassadors for their countries. On board, they’d serve up traditional foods, play classical music from their countries, and carry their countries’ flags across the world on their planes. With massive changes in the airline industry in the past decade or 2, things are a bit different today. Many airlines, though, have managed to retain their national brands – from uniforms to service to food on board.

On your next international adventure, flying with a national carrier can add a bit of spice to an otherwise uneventful flying experience. Here’s why:

A splash of culture
Setting foot inside a national carrier’s airplane is like setting foot into a foreign country. When boarding a Thai Airways flight, the flight attendants welcome you with the quintessentially Thai wai greeting. Announcements are made in Thai, English and maybe 1 more language (depending on where you’re flying). The inflight magazine has advertisements in Thai, for products and services in or related to Thailand. The food, unless you request otherwise, will likely be Thai or Thai-inspired. The inflight entertainment will feature Thai movies, TV shows and music. If you ask me, flying on Thai Airways is a sweet opportunity to pretend like you’re in Thailand without even setting foot in the country.

When would you be able to make this happen? If you’re flying to Thailand, or just using Bangkok as your connection point for a longer journey (a Europe-Australia flight, for example).

Pre-game for the country you’re visiting!
This one is probably the most applicable reason to fly a national airline. As a kid, my parents, brother and I would fly to India to visit extended family, and two of those times were with the Indian government-owned Air India. Air India’s an airline known for getting you from point A to B, as long as you’re willing to be late, have a couple bags lost, and be ignored at the customer service desks. What Air India has proven to do well, however, is give passengers a good sample of what’s to come in India – long lines, delays, near chaos all served alongside utterly phenomenal food. Similarly, Singapore Airlines gives you a sample of Singapore – they’re extremely helpful, convenient, but a bit pricey. Lufthansa’s efficient processing of their passengers, lack of on-board smiles, and a near militant on-time record shows off a bit of what Germany’s known for.

If you’re on your way to India, try the messy schedules of Air India! Or Singapore Airlines if you’re heading to Singapore, or Japan Airlines if you’re going to Tokyo, or KLM if Amsterdam is your destination. You get the point!

The fares & the miles!
When looking for the best deal among already expensive flights, the last thing you want to do is add on another condition that you have to fly a ‘national airline.’ Fortunately for you, on a lot of long-haul flights, the best fares can end up being on a national airline. A lot of the European carriers like Germany’s Lufthansa, Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines often have pretty attractive deals from select American cities to cities in Europe. And let’s not forget the major airline alliances – Star Alliance, oneworld and SkyTeam, who are all full of national carriers! This arrangement is great, since you can rack up frequent flyer points while flying on partner national airlines.

So if you’re on your way abroad, try flying with a national airline. After all, the journey to wherever you’re going should be interesting, right?

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