Skies Explored: A Year in Flight, Rating 15 Aircraft

Last week, I shared insights into the 83 flights that defined my 2023 travel adventures. I offered my candid ratings for the airlines I flew. That aerial odyssey meant i travelled on 15 distinct aircraft types. Now, join me in ranking those planes, gauged by my personal impressions of these flying machines…

The List-Ranked from my most favourite aircraft

#Aircraft2023 Km Flown2023 FlightsMy rating
1Airbus 3806,3011100%
2Embraer 1751,4332100%
3Airbus 35023,364596%
4Boeing 78712,646394%
5Boeing 7171,118192%
6Boeing 77743,736790%
7ATR 72258288%
8Airbus 32128,8271286%
9Airbus 320neo4,916386%
10Airbus 33056,814884%
11Embraer 1901,157180%
12Airbus 2202,929280%
13Airbus 319630176%
14Airbus 3206,6161272%
15Boeing 73719,5952370%

1. There is always a sense of joy for me when I choose an Airbus 380. This plane holds a special place in my air travels. I have now had 22 awesome rides on 380s with seven airlines. Taking off in an A380 is one of the most insanely beautiful flying moments ever. I still have this sense of awe every time the largest civil aircraft in history lifts gently into the sky. An object of 400 to 500 tonnes taking off so gracefully is nothing short of a miracle to me. I know many cabin crew dislike the 380 but for most passengers, it gives a spacious, comfortable ride. Sadly, I only had one A380 ride in 2023 with the wonderful Singapore Airlines, upstairs in their all all-business class upper deck to Sydney, Australia. Singapore was the first airline to fly the world’s largest commercial aircraft and as of this month has 12 of them in active service.

2. My second favourite aircraft, the Embraer 175 will be considered an unusual choice by some, but this is another aircraft I sincerely look forward to boarding. The large entrance, large aisle, two abreast seats (no middle seats on this plane!), and “proper” airline-sized windows offer an immediate sense of spaciousness. Moreover, with seats boasting a width of around 17 inches (ca. 43 cm), they rank among the broadest economy seats I get to experience. These all defy the notion that one is on a small aircraft. In 2023, KLM provided excellent service during my two delightful flights on this Embraer aircraft, adding to my previous excellent experiences. Hence, top marks!

a glass of champagne and a bowl of nuts on a table with windows

My third favourite aircraft flown in 2023 is the Airbus 350, a true masterpiece in the skies with a stellar rating of 96% for me. Designed for unparalleled fuel efficiency and passenger comfort, I had five flights (with Qatar, Singapore and Thai) on this innovative marvel covering an equivalent distance of halfway around the world Earth’s circumference.

4. In my life I have flown every one of the Boeing 7*7 series commencing with the Boeing 707 back in July 1971. Eight hundred flights have followed on 727, 737, 747, 757, 767 and 777s! Now I have been thrilled to experience the greatest Boeing shift towards more sustainable and comfortable air travel with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner flying since 2009. I note I rate it a little lower than its competitor the A350 but the high rating of 94% shows what a delight this plane is.

5. I enjoy the Boeing 717, which started life as the McDonnell Douglas MD-95. It has been my companion on 40 flights now with three airlines, and I rate it a substantial 92%. Recognized for its distinctive design and compact size, the Boeing 717 has a seating capacity ranging from 100 to 130 passengers. It is equipped with two beautiful Rolls-Royce BR715 high-bypass turbofan engines, ensuring fuel efficiency and reliability. Many of those 40 trips have been Qantas journeys, as the airline uses the 717 extensively as a regional workhorse. This year’s only 717 trip was a comfortable ride to the Australian beachside town of Coffs Harbour.

6 Debuting on June 7, 1994, the Boeing 777 (My Rating: 90%) has revolutionized long-haul travel with its extended range. Reliability and its huge twin fuel-efficient engines for almost thirty years. I love the “Triple Seven”. It remains a flagship model and I enjoyed seven trips with the model in 2023 with five airlines.

We now move from the planes I love to those I merely like…

a plane with a propeller

7. The ATR 72 has a couple of unusual features of the ATR 72. You board from the back of the plane, not the front. The ATR was introduced in 1989, as a twin-engine turboprop short-haul regional airliner, with a seating capacity of 70 to 78 passengers.

It is known for its versatility in short to medium-haul flights Its high-wing design and a large forward-bending winglet, provide stability making ti a very smooth ride. I have flown it on 35 occasions in seven countries. The picture here is from a 2023 ATR ride between Ireland and the Isle of Man in 2023.

8/9/13/14: The Airbus A320 family of aircraft comprises four different variants, along with additional configurations within each: the A318, A319, A320, and A321. I have very different reactions to each of them. Among these, my top pick, the A321, has consistently stood out, earning an impressive 86% rating from my experiences. Since its service debut in January 1994, the A321 has been my preferred variant, providing a cabin experience that resonates with my travel preferences. Its expansive layout, comfortable seating, and enhanced amenities contribute to an overall journey that I find exceptionally satisfying.

Equally, noteworthy is the A320neo, a variant that shares my favour with an 86% rating. This model incorporates cutting-edge technology, featuring new engine options designed for improved performance and fuel efficiency. The innovations in the A320neo have notably elevated my in-flight experiences, influencing my preference for it over the standard A320, which holds a rating of just 72%.

Nestled between these variants is the A319, which I’ve rated at 76%.

The nuances in design and performance between the A321, A320neo, A320, and A319 are intriguing, prompting reflection on what exactly sets the A321 apart for me. Pictured below left to right: Sri Lanka 321 at Colombo Airport, aboard the same aircraft and a Vietjet A320 at Don Muang airport in Bangkok.

10 Airbus 330 (Rating: 84%): I flew the most number of miles in 2023 on Airbus 330s. Launched on May 30, 1994, this wide-body twin-engine aircraft carries an average of 250 to 300 passengers in a two-class configuration, while a three-class configuration usually accommodates approximately 240 passengers. The A330 is notable for its range exceeding 6,000 nautical miles, making it a preferred choice for airlines operating transatlantic and transpacific flights, contributing to its popularity in the wide-body, twin-engine category.

11 The longer, larger Embraer 190 earns an 80% rating from me. While the Embraer 190 offers a commendable flying experience, my preference for the smaller Embraer 175 (rated at 100%) is influenced by factors like a more intimate cabin setting and a heightened sense of comfort during regional flights.

an airplane wing with a city in the background

12. Still getting used to the Airbus 220 which comes in at 80%. Formerly known as the Bombardier C Series, 303 Airbus 220s have now been delivered. Its features are a spacious cabin that accommodates approximately 100 to 150 passengers and highly fuel-efficient engines. As more airlines embrace this innovative aircraft, I’m eager to observe if my impressions evolve over the next few years. Pictured here is a Delta 220 lifting out of DFW in May 2023.

15. At the bottom of the heap is the Boeing 737, my least-liked aircraft type (70%)! Ironically because of its sheer popularity with airlines, I can’t escape this best selling type. I have been inside a 737 for a massive 482 flights with 37 airlines across 31 countries.

Its popularity is attributed to continuous updates and innovations. With its maiden flight on April 9, 1967, the Boeing 737 has evolved into a family of short to medium-range, narrow-body jets with seating capacity for up to 200 passengers I first flew the 737-100 decades ago and have worked through every model to the 783-800. I have still not flown a Boeing 737MAX yet. My lower rating is associated with my dislike of the cabin layout and the seat layout most airlines employ, especially during longer flights. I do appreciate the type’s amazing safety record (up the MAX).

So, which aircraft delight/dismay you?

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  1. My impression of the author’s ratings are that there is little to separate different aircraft given that the Embraer 175 is in second place but the E190 is 11 of 15.

    I like the 787-9 and 717. I liked the A340-500 but that is out of service. I have never flown aboard a 747-8i but have a -100, -200, -200 Combi, SP, -300, and -400.

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