If economy class was actually great, we wouldn’t dread flying.
All things considered, flying coach raises stress levels, minimizes comfort and passengers endure rather than enjoy the flight. Even flight attendants are reluctant to work in economy (befriend a stewardess, and you’ll discover this is not a myth.).
Most outbursts, fights and unruly passengers getting kicked off planes occur in the back of the plane. Seats are tiny (and notoriously getting smaller), passengers are fighting over armrests, there’s two bathrooms for 200 + passengers and service can be impersonal and average.
While 99 percent of coach is not fun, there’s that 1 percent of airlines that actually get praised for top-notch economy classes.
If I do fly coach, I don’t cry about being booked on these six airlines below. There are better-that-average seats, flight crew who give a F, notable innovations, better food and more amenities. Whenever you’re booking flights, especially long haul, make sure these airlines are a priority, for you might actually sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.
6 airlines with great economy classes (or as my friend would say… that do not stink!)
1. Singapore Air
Consistently ranked one of the top five airlines in the world and the best airline in Asia, Singapore Air pampers passengers in first and business class, and some people consider flying Singapore an experience it itself. In fact, coach class feels premium with great food, spacious seats, amenity kits and award-winning service. Singapore regularly invests hundreds of millions of dollars to stay relevant and up to date with their planes, and it recently unveiled a HUUUGGEEEE upgrade to its A380, which is basically the standard plane used for most of its flights.
What you can expect in coach:
-Seats offer spacious legroom and back support (32-inch seat pitch and 18.5″ seat width), with a six-way adjustable headrest with foldable wings. There’s also 6 inches seat recline, and ergonomically designed footrest with adjustable positions. This is definitely more than you can expect from most major airlines.
-11.1-inch touch-screen, seat-back monitor with award-winning entertainment with more than 1,000 options to choose from.
-Reading light installed underneath setback screen, a coat hook, in-seat power supply.
For the cheapest airfare, book Singapore Air here.
Emirates has an actual bar on board, a mini-bar at every seat and showers in business and first (#goals), so you could expect it to be nice throughout the plane. Emirates (out of UAE) operates flights on 777s and A380s, the best in the biz, and they have great marketing, so you see them EVERYWHERE (Jennifer Aniston, anyone?).
One thing to keep in mind: Emirates hasn’t released new innovations to their coach seats in some years while their competition (like Singapore) has been ahead of the game. Better keep apace, Emirates! Even still, great coach class here that outranks most major airlines.
What you can expect:
-Tons of option for food, and even pizza for snacks.
-Amenity kit with toothbrush, socks, eye mask.
-Seat width ranges from 17.5 (777) to 18.5″ (A380), which is quite small. This is possibly the worst drawback (for scale, Spirit Airlines “Big Front Seats” are 18.5″ and you know that’s not big.). The compromise is that Emirates coach class seats recline more than the average seat, which helps you sleep better on long-haul flights, and seat pitch is better.
-Nice touches like hot towels (generally only business and first receive this) and WIFI.
-Most A380 seats have huge 12.1″ personal screens. This is huge, bigger than some laptops.
For the cheapest airfare, book Emirates here.
3. American Airlines
This is not a joke. American Airlines, a US-based airline, notoriously low ranked among airlines in the world, is on this list, and you can thank the 777-300ER for that. The fleet of new jets that debuted about five years ago are top of the line, and you can actually fly them domestically. This is among the best, most innovative planes you can fly in our country (on longer routes like LA to NYC or LA to Miami), and it’s the same plane that would go long distance, like LA to Hong Kong. It’s only great if you’re flying in the states. I would not recommend flying coach on this plane on international flights unless you absolutely have to but do know it is better than, say, United.
What you can expect:
-Seatback entertainment on big screens (and NO EDITED CONTENT! A lot of airlines edit content, which is a huge bummer… why would an airline offer a movie like Snatched when they edit out the best parts? American Airlines thankfully does not do this).
-The 17” seat width is not great but its better than most other US-based coach class seats.
-There are only 202 coach seats. This is great because other airlines pack passengers in like sardines with 300-400 seats for international flights. So this is basically half the load on American.
-USB and power outlet at every seat.
For the cheapest airfare, book American Airlines here.
Here’s the airline always ranked in the Top Ten Airlines in the World but you’ve never heard of. In fact, you’ll never fly Garuda unless you travel to Asia (more specifically, Indonesia, where the airline is based). The airline is actually quite awesome and surprising. I’ve flown Garuda a few times and my expectations were exceeded, especially recently with their huge fleet renewal.
The planes are clean and modern, the staff is some of the friendliest in the sky, you get meals even on flights as little as an hour and there is seatback entertainment for shorter flights! Garuda is actually well known for its great Airline economy class, consistently winning awards. Just Google any flight review and you’ll see critics LOVE Garuda (yes, even in economy!)
What you can expect:
-Southeast Asian cuisine that is actually quite good.
-Really amazing, personalized service. The flight attendants will win your hearts as they make flying tolerable. In most Asia/Southeast Asian countries, getting a job as a flight attendant is not easy, so flight attendants are like celebrities (think about the amount of candidates that apply, maybe in the hundreds of thousands, and only a handful are selected). Because these are great gigs, flight attendants a) work hard to keep their job and b) love their job.
-Skytrax gave Garuda a 9/10 for seat review, which is a huge achievement.
-Tons of legroom, foot rest and USB/power outlet at every seat.
For the cheapest airfare, book Garuda here.
I LOVE Cathay Pacific. I’ve flown them at least a dozen times in business class, and once in coach. The award-winning airline based out of Hong Kong has exceptional service, seriously great food (often better than the business-class lounge), and nice, cozy seats. Cathay Pacific is considered among the best airlines in the world, much credit to its hospitality. While business class is pretty mindblowing (passengers have their own pod), economy is very good.
What you can expect:
-While flight attendants on many airlines are super old school (and so over it), the crew on Cathay Pacific is young, able, eager and very professional. Press that call button and you’ll get someone fast.
-The planes have a 3-3-3 configuration (as opposed to many competitive airlines, that have 3-4-3 or even 3-5-3!). Because it’s a 3-3-3 configuration, seats are huge! 18.5-inch wide and 32-inch pitch.
-Seatback entertainment with really good clarity of picture, and huge selection in many languages.
-Universal power plug at every seat! You don’t have to bring a convert on board when traveling internationally.
-Great Chinese and Western food, and tons of snacks mid-flight.
-Extremely streamlined check-in process.
For the cheapest airfare, book Cathay Pacific here.
I’ve flown ANA (All Nippon Airways) several times, and this Japan-based carrier is truly impressive. They don’t have as many routes in the US as, say, Emirates or Cathay Pacific, and I also think they don’t have a huge marketing/PR budget because they just don’t get that much attention.
ANA is a superb airline, and it’s a shame not a lot of Americans know about them. They are one of 7 airlines ranked 5/5 of best airlines in the world, and they even beat Singapore in ratings (back to the PR/Marketing thing.. Singapore has a great team behind their communications, so everyone in the US knows about them, where ANA doesn’t. They have about the same number of routes in the US, so see how marketing/PR really does work here?)
What you can expect:
Most of the planes are new (either 777-300 or 787 Dreamliner), and the 777-300ER just got a massive facelift. This automatically makes the coach class one of the best. Quiet as a whistle, sleek design, bigger bathrooms, power ports at every seat, award-winning entertainment system with seatback entertainment.
Amazing food, both Western and Asian.
Footrest, blanket, pillow at every seat.
9-inch TV screen.
34 inch pitch, which is quite roomy.
Great service. Coach comes with at least 12 flight attendants.
For the cheapest airfare, book ANA here.