This is a lightning round, I’m going to give one quick thing that overwhelms everything else and I’m not going to offer a detailed explanation — just a simple statement of the one best thing about an airline, a hotel chain, or a rental car company.
In a few cases I may mention a runner up, but largely to emphasize that the one best thing is even more significant than that runner up.
These choices are, of course, influenced by my idiosyncratic preferences — but I think they stand up:
- Delta: IT meltdowns and recent operational debacle notwithstanding, they arrive on time and cancel fewer flights.
- United: Star alliance award availability with no fuel surcharges (followed by plan for new business class seats that leave enough on the plane for upgrades and awards — we hope).
- American: very good (albeit varied) international business class seats (followed second by Etihad and Qatar award redemptions).
- Alaska: the last US distance-based rewards program (followed second by operational reliability).
- Southwest Airlines: Their flight attendants have fun.
- Spirit Airlines: cheap prices (followed by great humor if you’re a 13 year old boy)
- Hyatt: the best top elite tier program.
- Marriott: scale, footprint — when people tell me why they love Marriott Rewards they say “wherever I go I can earn my points.”
- Hilton: easy Gold status
- Starwood: unique special hotels (e.g. Cala di Volpe in Sardinia, Al Maha Desert Resort, Mystique on Santorini)
- IHG: strong points-earning
- National Car Rental: Emerald Aisle
- Silvercar: cars don’t suck