If you’re like me, you not only sift through essential details like flight timing, carrier and layovers, but also secondary considerations, such as what aircraft operates each potential itinerary. Most people probably don’t think this way.

But I do. I almost always check over any potential itinerary to see which aircraft operate every leg.

Why Operating Aircraft Matters

I mean, to the masses, the operating aircraft typically doesn’t matter. Most people book flight simply based on a balance between price and convenience. But it’s a consideration for me. There are three primary reasons I might pay a bit more or go slightly out of my way to book a specific aircraft over another.

The first is the “coolness” factor of the aircraft. During the numerous SkyTeam sales between the U.S. and Europe, I’ll find myself gravitating toward KLM, primarily because they operate a 747-400 between Amsterdam and the U.S. on several routes. Typically, I’ll find myself deciding between flying their 787-9 directly out of SFO or their 747 out of LAX, which adds an extra short hop. KLM does operate a 747 between SFO and AMS seasonally, so this isn’t always an issue.

If given the chance to fly on a 747, I’ll rarely pass it up, all other things being equal. I was bummed to not fly their 747-400 out of SFO last year when our flight was canceled, but we did end up with some EU261 compensation out of the deal. There is a reason to pick the 787-9, however.

After flying Xiamen Airlines 787-9 economy class between China and California, I found out firsthand that the passenger experience is certainly better. This was my first long-haul 787 flight, and the greater cabin pressure and increased humidity mean the flight doesn’t wear on you as badly. If cabin comfort is a major concern for you, consider flying a 787, if possible. The A350 is another plane that offers greater passenger comfort.

The last consideration is whether I have flown a particular aircraft. I’ve yet to fly on an A350, although I do have one trip booked aboard one. If there is a choice between flying a new aircraft or not, I’ll almost certainly pick the new aircraft.

Xiamen Airlines 787 Economy Cabin

Why Carrier Matters

I’ll also typically choose to fly with a new carrier, all other things being equal. It’s fun to try out new airlines whenever possible, and I really enjoyed my last two: China Airlines and Xiamen Airlines. The latter was even in economy class across the Pacific. One of the other reasons for booking the KLM tickets mentioned above is that I have not yet flown KLM long-haul. Flying Delta is a bit ho-hum at this point, so both the aircraft choices and new carrier are both appealing.

I was bummed we didn’t get to fly KLM long-haul due to a flight cancellation, but this illustrated yet another reason why the operating carrier matters. As an EU carrier, the KLM cancellation qualified us for EU261 compensation. This was an unintended outcome of my booking decision. If we had gone with one of the Delta options, we would have simply been re-booked. Instead, Delta re-booked us and KLM put $100s in our pockets.

Why? All because I wanted to fly a 747. Sure, it’s old. But it is a classic. I will forever be in love with the Queen of the Skies.


It’s always fun to explore the various flight options when booking a trip. I still typically favor the cheapest option, but sometimes I would be willing to spend a bit more to fly a specific aircraft or a new carrier.

Are you as particular when booking flights? Will you go out of your way to fly a specific aircraft?