Living away from family certainly has advantages as well as disadvantages. One huge disadvantage is that our kids don't get to see their grandparents very often, and with our most recent addition we decided to travel home to show her off. Keeping in mind that we had a two and a half year old as well as a two month old, we needed a direct flight - being stuck on a layover just wouldn't cut it.
We found a very convenient airline called Express Jet (www.xjet.com) that offered direct flights from our closest airport to our destination and we were thrilled! The price of our tickets were very comparable to other airlines, and every other airline had a layover in a bigger city which we absolutely didn't want to happen at all. Online booking was very easy, even with booking a seat for our 2 year old and requesting a "lap child" seat. Some airlines require you to call and verify your "lap child" but I didn't have to do that here, so that saved me even more time.
Express Jet does offer a frequent flier program where after 8 round trips within a certain time period, you get a free round trip flight. We didn't sign up for this, however, as it appeared that all eight flights have to be acquired by the same person, and we knew that one of us wasn't going to fly eight times in a year. If they would let all flights for a family count toward the free flight, then we would have signed up and the program would have had much more value to us.
With Express Jet offering so many direct flights, their destinations are a bit limited, and it appears that some of the bigger cities aren't options at all (Los Angeles, Denver, Detroit, etc.) but that was great news for me as I was flying out of and in to smaller cities.
The thing that I didn't like about Express Jet was when I went in to confirm our seats before we left (within the 24 hour before the flight window), I was unable to confirm or even change seating. I have a feeling that it had to do with the fact that we had a lap child, but it was still frustrating that we couldn't select seats and had to get whatever the agent gave us when we checked in. The planes are small, with no middle seats, so there is a row of one seat on the left ("A" seats) and two seats on the right ("B" and "C" seats) and with our special situation, we were unable to sit all in one row. On the return flight, the agent didn't even have us in the right configuration with the "lap child" in a row with the extra oxygen mask and our 2 year old in the "C" seat because of his car seat. So after we were situated, the flight attendant instructed us that we had to re-arrange ourselves in order to comply with the rules so that everyone was as safe as possible. Not a big deal, and I'm glad she was on top of things, but it was frustrating that the agent when we checked in couldn't take care of that and get us in the right seats in the first place.
All of their flights offer a small "meal" - ours on both trips were a roast beef sandwich. On our return flight, they did offer our two year old a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, so that was greatly appreciated. There is also a snack and/or chips PLUS the beverage service (Coke products) and another snack of your choice of various 100-calorie packs. You could also purchase beer for $1 or mixed drinks or wine for $3.
My favorite part of the flight, however, was the XM satellite radio offered to everyone. They hand out free ear buds upon boarding the plane, and you can listen to XM radio the entire time. This was great for me as my hubby decided to call dibs on our ipod, so I just listened to various XM stations for the duration of the flight.
The seats are leather, which I feel is a bit cleaner than cloth - at least I can pretend that they get wiped down occasionally, right? The legroom is also surprisingly adequate. I am over 6'1" and hubby is as well (and he's over 300 lbs too) and we both were quite comfortable on both flights.
If you're flying to cities supported by Express Jet, I strongly recommend using them, you not only get a meal, snacks and drink, but you can listen to the radio too!