San Francisco (KGO) -- American Airlines recently began service on the Boeing 737 Max, a new aircraft that Boeing says is more fuel-efficient than earlier models. It also carries 12 more passengers than American's other 737's, a recent example of the growing trend of cramped air travel. Consumer Reports released its annual best and worst airlines ratings helping you find a way to fly a little comfier in coach.
It's not your imagination: Some airplanes now come with seats closer together, smaller bathrooms, and less space for carry-on luggage. So it's no surprise that flying is less comfortable and more aggravating. But what really bugs passengers most?
"Lack of legroom is the biggest thing," one traveler said. "The turnaround time for baggage," said another.
Another passenger admitted, "You're packed in like sardines." "The food," chuckled one passenger.
And it is not just cramped quarters that makes modern-day air travel so unpleasant. "With the rise of the low-cost carriers, there's been increased competition to get airfares at the lowest possible price, and they hope that travelers will then decide to upgrade their tickets to more expensive fares offering more perks," said Octavio Blanco, Consumer Reports Money Editor.
Airlines offer enticements such as early boarding, extra legroom, and a checked bag, but all for an additional price. "I had to pay 60 this way, 60 that way. Why didn't you tell me this when I was buying the ticket?," one passenger wondered.
So, how do you score a more comfortable, hassle-free flight without extra fees? Consumer Reports says choose a top-rated airline.
In its latest survey of over 52-thousand Consumer Reports members reporting on nearly 100,000 economy-class domestic flights, the airlines that received the best overall scores were Southwest, Alaska, JetBlue, and Hawaiian.
All four scored high marks in cabin cleanliness, keeping passengers informed of flight status, and good service from airline staff.
The bottom two were Frontier and Spirit. They received low marks for ease of check-in, keeping passengers informed of flight status, and pricing transparency.
And, how do you get the best price for your flight? Consumer Reports suggests searching multiple times over multiple days, and shop both at airline websites and third-party sites such as Kayak and Orbitz.
If you are looking to fly in style, Consumer Reports' survey results found Hawaiian Airlines and Alaska Airlines are among the highest rated airlines for first-class flights according to members' experiences on 8,700 business and first-class flights.
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Consumer Reports reveals which airlines fared the best and worst in their annual survey
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