Q1. My favorite airline to fly was always Continental. Even as everyone else in America started going to low cost models, nickle and diming passengers however they could, Continental still seemed to believe in classic service. I think they were the last to ever offer me something resembling a complimentary meal. I flew my first post-merger flight with United a couple of months ago. Something was definitely missing but it was still a good experience, especially considering that someone was in my seat so I got to sit in "premium economy" instead right across from the door. Had to buy it but the snack box was still better than anything the budget carriers offer.
People will probably call me crazy but I'm also a big fan of Spirit. Since I'm usually flying between Florida and New Jersey, I am most often flying them from Tampa to Atlantic City these days. Usually you get one of just two A-321s they operate on that flight which is comfortable enough for short haul. The staff is always friendly, you don't need to pay the carry-on fee, microwaved cup noodles passes for awesome airline food these days and whenever they've screwed up, I always get a meal voucher and at least $100 towards my next ticket. I just flew on one of their newest A-320s and while the seats infamously don't recline on those, I don't sleep on planes anyway and it wasn't uncomfortable. I also enjoyed how talkative the captain was on my last flight, giving frequent updates of what was going on and even providing a lengthy travelogue about the history of Florida and Tampa at the halfway point. I think he's flown me at least once before and I'm probably going to remember his name from now on.
Q2. I probably first flew as a baby but my first memories are flying 727s to Florida and something gigantic to California on two occasions. One of those flights was with United in the old days so they gave me pilot wings to pin to my shirt, showed me the cockpit mid-flight and even gave me a nice toy 747 to keep.
Q3. September 16, 1986. In New Jersey.
Q4. US Airways. I don't mind the planes, I don't mind the crews (one guy actually gave a hilarious apology over the gate intercom before boarding once about how if the plane was full of trash, we should blame the disembarking passengers from the city they just flew in from) and I'm fine with the amenities such as they are. However, their customer service in a crisis will leave them forever on my black list. They let hundreds of passengers fly from Tampa to Philadelphia without informing them that their connecting flights were most likely already cancelled at the other end. About three agents were left to deal with all of us and it took about three hours on line before I was able to even attempt to speak with one of them. (in the mean time I watched rats crawling around in the open under the waiting area seats but that's on the filthy airport, not the airline) All they were giving anyone was $10 vouchers for dinner and breakfast, keeping in mind that it was late at night so most places to get dinner were already closed. I lucked out and managed to get a sandwich right before the doors closed.
Since I had somewhere to be the next day, specifically a wedding where the rest of my family had already arrived, I had to change my final destination to an even closer airport with a better timed flight very early the next morning. I go to the baggage office which is now over-flowing with the luggage of my fellow stranded passengers but under no circumstances were we allowed to claim our bags. I could see my own bag and explained that I was now going to a different city but without the least bit of sympathy or apology, they informed me that policy dictated my bag go to where it was originally intended whether I was going to be on the flight or not. I had to buy new clothes at my own expense and have the bag shipped back to Florida after it was needlessly flown to the wrong city.
Meanwhile it's now after midnight and I'm stuck in an unfamiliar city with nowhere to go. I managed to grab the very last room in one of the few hotels still running shuttles at 2AM, again all at my own expense. I had not budgeted for a hotel stay so my credit card was declined but thankfully the clerk gave me the room anyway in the end by forcing an overdraft with my permission saying he could not in good conscience let me wander around Philly alone at 3AM.
I'm normally very patient and understanding towards airlines but US Air never even apologized for the inconvenience and their agents were rude and completely unsympathetic to all the people they stranded that day. They basically just wanted to get rid of us and go home.