After spending the best part of another day of its life having its knees splintered in the 12 inches of legroom offered on a recent Trans-Atlantic flight, Road Junky recently ordered a tray full of miniature whiskeys – each costing the price of Ireland’s toxic debt – to see if downing it would help drown out the wail of screeching children and the smell of microwaved omelette and was left wondering if there are any airlines operating anywhere that leave any enjoyment in flying. RJ was also reminded of those airlines where in retrospect it would have been preferable to walk than fly, even if the trip were London to New York.
“Taking a plane today, regardless of the destination, amounts to being treated like shit for the duration of the flight.” (Michel Houellebecq)
Here, in no particular order, are the world’s five best and five worst airlines according to our highly subjective list which we scribbled on the back of what was posing as our “fresh bread roll“…
The world’s five worst airlines
- Transaero (Russia)
To be truthfully honest, any airline which has ever agreed to carry more than five Russians on one aircraft could happily slot in on this list. Anyone who has ever been misfortunate enough to be incarcerated on a domestic Russian flight, or worse – flown between Moscow and Egypt or Dubai – will have questions of their own as to why people carrying RF passports are allowed on any form of public transport at all, let alone when they have consumed enough hard liquor to knock out a bear beforehand. Transaero, Russia’s third largest carrier and a major long-haul operator seemingly encourages this by training its stewardesses to rip open duty-free bags containing sealed alcohol with their teeth as part of the safety demonstration. That’s the only time you’ll see the trolley dollies until landing, as they then lock themselves in the galley to protect themselves from the hail of peanuts, plastic cutlery for food which doesn’t exist, and empty cognac bottles that appears approximately five minutes after cruising altitude has been reached and one minute after every millilitre of alcohol on board has been consumed.
- Delta (U.S.A.)
Normally, the high pitched whine of a jet engine at 120 decibels is kept outside the plane, but Delta seems to have specially selected its onboard staff on the basis of who can most accurately mimic the sound of a Rolls Royce through a smile faker than a Ukrainian prostitute’s blonde hair. The forced grins might go some way to explaining why their stewardesses are seemingly only capable of speaking through their noses, but do not explain their insistence on treating each and every traveller as if they have a mental capacity somewhere between Sarah Palin’s daughter and people who holiday in Ibiza out of choice. You’d have thought anyone who could deal with either their telesales or self-check-in terminals would have already proved otherwise, being as it is easier to solve pi than it is to figure out some of their booking systems. To add insult to injury, they also think passing off Jack Daniels as whisky is somehow acceptable.
- SAS (Scandinavia)
You might expect an airline bearing the flags of Norway, Denmark and Sweden to have some service standards befitting the social democratic utopias rather than offering the frills of overnight desert accommodation favoured by their British soldier namesakes. Instead this Scandinavian carrier prefers to shepherd 95% of its passengers into 5% of cabin room, leaving the rest of the aircraft free for its staff to stretch out, pretend connecting flights don’t exist while replacing them with made-up routes to destinations presumably named after women from the Viking Sagas, and to generally let you know that they’re pretty happy to have won the genetic lottery, thank you very much.
- Scat Air (Kazakhstan)
The name of Kazakhstan’s second carrier says all you need to know about this airline. Nobody uses Kazakhstan’s second best anything if there is an alternative of any viability whatsoever and the only people who choose scat out of choice are middle-aged men with tikka-tinged skin who like having their mouths filled with… An experience not dissimilar to how you’ll feel after disembarking from one of this airline’s planes. However, Scat has a sneaky trick to make sure you fly them again: by flying only to destinations so abominably horrific the sole choice a sane person has is to take their return flight rather than delay staying there by a single minute, nobody flies Scat just once.
- Yeti Airlines (Nepal)
Yeti Airlines is the Nepalese equivalent of a Russian nuclear submarine – you know it’s going down, you just don’t know how fast, or if it’s ever coming back up again. With some of the biggest slabs of rock on the planet set as obstacles to avoid, many Yeti pilots seem to have attached magnets to their landing gear which are somehow attracted to Himalayan stone meaning the duration of the flight, often in planes with the aerodynamic blueprint of a feather, is spent marvelling at your continued existence, rather than the scenery.
And the world’s five best…
- Druk Air (Bhutan)
Wheeeee! Flying into Druk’s hub at Paro is an experience guaranteed to make you feel like a kid on a rollercoaster. Just eight pilots are qualified to negotiate the descent through three separate Himalayan valleys to the airport, which can only be carried out in daylight and clear weather due to the difficulty. A runway seemingly shorter than the distance Usain Bolt covered to break his world records adds to the fun. As almost no-one pre-pensionable age actually visits Bhutan, there is the added morbid bonus of watching Australian tour groups feel death become slightly more imminent as the pilot aborts a second landing attempt at the last second.
- Air Madagascar (Madagascar)
When not having their fleet hijacked by ousted presidents or hosting airborne binges for current ones and their entourages, Air Madagascar sometimes manages to get a couple of its fleet out onto the runway. This once even happened on time. AirMad has some of the most luxurious economy seats and generous service anywhere – against British Airways for example it looks like the Ritz-Carlton with wings, let alone when placed alongside other African carriers. Name a cocktail and the cabin crew on an international route can make it for you, while if you look around on domestic routes you may find seats with beers stacked in trays of ice beneath. There is perhaps concern that these are found where you might reasonably expect a life jacket to be, but let’s face it, if a Twin Otter is going down, a cold one is going to be much more comforting than any luminous vest.
- Turkmenistan Airlines (Turkmenistan)
As the vast majority of people who enter Turkmenistan by air are diplomats, gas company oligarchs, or rich Turks trying to establish retail empires in the Karakorum, it’s maybe not that much of a surprise to learn that the insides of Turkmenistan Airlines’ Boeings are basically one big business class, with the service matching to boot. Thanks to the country’s gas reserves having bought a brand new fleet with no plane old enough to have its first jabs, and Caspian oil meaning kerosene costs little more than sand, you can find out what it was like to fly Aeroflot for ice cream prices back in Soviet times, if Soviet-era Aeroflot had somehow been taken over by Etihad. Domestic prices, even for foreigners can be less than $10 and you can leave Ashgabat International knowing that the beaming smile of Turkmenbashi blesses every flight.
- Icelandair (Iceland)
With economy class legroom seemingly bigger than the country whose flag it carries, Icelandair would already be a winner without factoring in chairs which won’t recline and a management which near forces you to take a stopover in Reykjavik or the Blue Lagoon when flying Trans-Atlantic. For free. Which is probably what some global carrier will big this company up for now Iceland’s assets are worth less than Lonely Planet advice on morality.
- Belavia (Belarus)
Simply because it’s amazing what manner of evils Belarusian stewardesses can avert your eyes from…