Main | Economy Class Comparison: 4 Best Airlines for Short-Haul & Long-Haul Flights 2024

Economy Class Comparison: 4 Best Airlines for Short-Haul & Long-Haul Flights 2024

Zoey Peregrine Avatar

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Economy Class Features

economy class comparison 1

Seats: Economy class is the most budget-friendly and the most popular choice among travelers. These seats typically occupy the majority of the airplane’s space. On average, the width of a standard economy seat is 17-18 inches (43-46 cm), and the pitch (distance to the next seat) ranges from 29 to 32 inches (74-81 cm) on regional flights or 30-36 inches (75-91 cm) on international flights. It’s important to consider these dimensions, especially for long flights.

Baggage: Economy class baggage allowances are the most modest compared to other classes. Generally, this includes one piece of carry-on luggage and one checked bag weighing up to 66 pounds (30 kg). However, low-cost fares often do not include checked luggage at all. Each airline has its own specific rules, so be sure to check them when purchasing your ticket.

Check-In: Economy class ticket holders check in at the general desk at the airport and wait for boarding in the common lounge area.

Food and Extras: In economy class on full-service airlines, you can expect some convenient perks: meals (for flights longer than two hours), coffee, and sometimes even a special travel kit for children (depending on the airline). However, don’t count on free Wi-Fi. Economy passengers can also enjoy amenities such as seat comfort, spacious pitch, and availability of amenities like slippers, eye masks, and entertainment options.

Ticket Refund and Exchange: Changing your flight date or canceling your trip with an economy class ticket can be quite costly. If you need to return your ticket or postpone your trip, you might lose up to 70% of the ticket cost. If the ticket was bought during a sale, you might not get any refund at all.

Common Questions Travelers Ask Before Booking a Flight

economy class comparison

Which economy seat is the best?

The best economy seat is typically an exit row or bulkhead seat, as these offer more generous legroom. Seats in the front of the cabin can also be preferable as they allow for quicker boarding and deplaning. Always check the airline’s seating chart and reviews on websites like SeatGuru to choose the best seat available.

Which is more comfortable in Emirates Economy Class, the Boeing 777 or the Airbus A350?

The Airbus A350 is generally considered more comfortable due to its quieter cabin, better humidity, and improved cabin pressure, which can reduce fatigue on long flights. However, the comfort level can also depend on the airline’s specific configuration and seating options.

Direct flight or one with layovers?

This depends on your priorities. Direct flights are obviously faster and more convenient but often have a steeper price tag. Flights with layovers can be significantly cheaper, but they can also be longer and more tiring. Consider your time constraints and budget when making this call.

How can I find the cheapest flights on Google Flights?

To find the cheapest flights, use a fare comparison website like WowFare. Booking in advance, being flexible with your travel dates, and considering nearby airports can also help you find better deals. Additionally, using Google Flights can help compare ticket prices and find the best deals.

What are the baggage allowances for economy class?

Baggage allowances vary by airline, but most economy class tickets include one carry-on bag and one checked bag weighing up to 50 pounds (23 kg). Low-cost carriers may charge extra for checked baggage, so always check the specific airline’s policy when booking.

What amenities are included in economy class?

Amenities in economy class typically include in-flight entertainment, meals on longer flights, and complimentary beverages. Some airlines also offer blankets, pillows, and amenity kits on long-haul flights. However, services like Wi-Fi may incur additional charges.

How early should I arrive at the airport?

Arriving at the airport at least 2 hours before departure is recommended for domestic flights. Aim for 3 hours early for international flights. This allows time for check-in, security screening, and any potential delays.

Economy Class Comparison: Short-Haul Flights

Let’s start by comparing short-haul airlines. Based on reviews and comments from travelers, we’ve identified the four most popular airlines: Southwest Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. These airlines differ according to the parameters we set earlier. Let’s begin with the seats.

economy class comparison_short-haul flights

When comparing seats in economy class for short-haul flights, each airline offers distinct advantages. Southwest Airlines provides seats with a pitch of 32-33 inches and a width of 17-17.8 inches, offering decent legroom and comfort. JetBlue Airways stands out with its spacious seats, boasting a pitch of 32-34 inches and a width of 17.8-18.4 inches, making it a top choice for comfort. Alaska Airlines offers seats with a pitch of 31-32 inches and a width of 17-18 inches, providing a good balance of space and comfort. Delta Air Lines features seats with a pitch of 30-32 inches and a width of 17-18 inches, which are comfortable but slightly more compact than JetBlue.

Winner: JetBlue Airways is the clear winner for short-haul flights, thanks to its more spacious seating with the best legroom and seat width, ensuring a more comfortable journey.

Baggage allowances for economy class on short-haul flights have different policies. Southwest Airlines is notable for its generous policy, offering two checked bags for free, plus one carry-on and a personal item. JetBlue Airways allows one carry-on bag and one personal item for free, but checked bags incur additional fees. Alaska Airlines also permits one carry-on bag and one personal item, with checked bags available at an extra cost. Delta Air Lines follows a similar policy, allowing one carry-on and one personal item for free, with checked bags incurring extra charges. Low-cost carriers often charge extra for checked baggage and other services, making it important to consider these additional costs when booking.

Winner: Southwest Airlines stands out with its two-free checked bags policy, making it the best choice for travelers who need to carry more luggage without incurring additional fees.

economy class comparison - short-haul

For a quick and easy check-in on short-haul economy flights, Southwest Airlines reigns supreme. They don’t assign seats beforehand, so check-in is fast, and their free checked-bag policy is a huge bonus. JetBlue follows online and mobile check-in options closely, but assigned seating can lead to longer lines. Alaska and Delta offer standard online and airport check-in, but both charge for checked bags and may have long kiosk lines, especially during peak hours.

Winner: Southwest takes the crown for speed and value on short trips.

In the battle of short-haul economy food and extras, JetBlue edges out the competition. While all airlines offer limited complimentary snacks or drinks (if anything) on short flights, JetBlue stands out for its buy-on-board program. Partnering with name-brand restaurants and offering a wider selection than usual airplane fare, JetBlue allows flyers to customize their experience.  Southwest offers some snacks for purchase, but Alaska and Delta’s options are even more limited. While all airlines might sell similar extras like headphones or travel kits, JetBlue’s focus on food and beverage variety makes them the winner for foodies on short hops.

Winner: JetBlue Airways shines with its free, unlimited snacks and a wide variety of brand-name options, making it the top choice for travelers.

Southwest Airlines takes the cake for stress-free ticket changes and refunds on short-haul economy flights. They don’t charge change or cancellation fees, simply offering travel credit for future flights if you need to adjust your plans. JetBlue offers similar flexibility but with a fee for basic economy fares. Alaska and Delta have more restrictive policies, usually charging change fees and offering travel credit (minus the fee) or vouchers with limited validity for non-refundable tickets.

Winner: Southwest Airlines clearly leads with its no-change fees and highly flexible policies.

So, if comfort and checked bags are most important, JetBlue is your pick. Choose Southwest for a quick check-in, free checked bags, and maximum flexibility. If food variety is key, JetBlue wins again. Ultimately, the best airline depends on what matters most to you for your short-haul trip.

Economy Class Comparison: Long-Haul Flights

Now, let’s take a look at the top four airlines for long-haul flights. Leading the pack are the invariable classics: Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates, and ANA (All Nippon Airways). These airlines are renowned for their exceptional service, comfort, and overall travel experience in economy class. We’ll dive into what makes each of these airlines stand out, from seating and legroom to in-flight amenities and customer service, helping you make an informed decision for your next long-distance journey.

economy class comparison_long-haul flights

When comparing seats in economy class for long-haul flights, each airline offers impressive comfort and space. Singapore Airlines provides seats with a pitch of 32-34 inches and a width of 18.5 inches, featuring ergonomic designs and adjustable headrests for added comfort. Qatar Airways offers seats with a pitch of 31-33 inches and a width of 18-18.5 inches, equipped with lumbar support and adjustable headrests. Emirates features seats with a pitch of 32-34 inches and a width of 17.5-18 inches, designed for comfort with adjustable headrests. ANA (All Nippon Airways) offers seats with a pitch of 31-34 inches and a width of 17-18 inches, providing good comfort with ergonomic designs and adjustable headrests.

Winner: Singapore Airlines stands out with its generous seat width of 18.5 inches and a pitch of up to 34 inches, ensuring maximum comfort and space for long-haul travelers.

A tie emerges between Emirates and ANA in the long-haul economy class baggage allowance battle. Both airlines offer two generous pieces of checked luggage, weighing up to 23kg (50 lbs). This is ideal for long trips where packing extra clothes and essentials is necessary. Qatar Airways follows closely with a 2-piece allowance but with a slightly lower weight limit of 20kg**(44 lbs)** per bag. Singapore Airlines comes in last, offering a standard 1-piece allowance with a 30kg (66 lbs) weight limit. While 30kg is a good amount, it forces travelers to consolidate into one bag, which can be inconvenient.

Winner: ANA (All Nippon Airways) is the clear winner with its two checked bags, up to 23kg each, offering the most generous baggage allowance and making it the best choice for travelers needing more luggage on long-haul flights.

Singapore Airlines offers online check-in 48 hours before departure, with a smooth seat selection and boarding pass issuance process. Qatar Airways also allows online check-in starting 48 hours before departure, featuring a straightforward interface for seat selection and check-in. Emirates provides online check-in 48 hours before the flight, making it easy to choose seats and get boarding passes. ANA (All Nippon Airways) allows online check-in 24 hours before departure, with a user-friendly process for selecting seats and obtaining boarding passes.

The long-haul economy class food and extras showdown is a close call between Emirates and Qatar Airways. Both airlines are renowned for above-average meals with regional specialties and multiple course options. They also boast impressive in-flight entertainment systems, extensive movie libraries, and even video games on some Emirates flights.

While Singapore Airlines offers decent meals and a good entertainment selection, they might not be quite as extensive. ANA’s food quality is generally good, but the variety and entertainment options might be below Emirates and Qatar Airways.

Winner: Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Emirates all offer online check-in 48 hours before departure, providing ample time and convenience for travelers to complete their check-in process. This extended window makes them the best options for a hassle-free check-in experience on long-haul flights.

economy class comparison 4 | Economy Class Comparison: 4 Best Airlines for Short-Haul & Long-Haul Flights 2024

In the battle of short-haul economy food and extras, JetBlue edges out the competition. While all airlines offer limited complimentary snacks or drinks (if anything) on short flights, JetBlue stands out for its buy-on-board program. Partnering with name-brand restaurants and offering a wider selection than usual airplane fare, JetBlue allows flyers to customize their experience.  Southwest offers some snacks for purchase, but Alaska and Delta’s options are even more limited. While all airlines might sell similar extras like headphones or travel kits, JetBlue’s focus on food and beverage variety makes them the winner for foodies on short hops.

Winner: For a truly luxurious economy experience with top-notch food and entertainment, Emirates and Qatar Airways are neck-and-neck for the win.

When comparing ticket refund and exchange policies for economy class on long-haul flights, each airline offers different levels of flexibility. Singapore Airlines allows changes and cancellations for a fee, with the amount depending on the fare type. Some economy fares may not be refundable. Qatar Airways has a relatively flexible policy, allowing changes and cancellations for a fee, with more lenient conditions for higher fare classes.

Emirates offers the option to change or cancel tickets for a fee, but their policies can be quite restrictive for lower economy fares. ANA (All Nippon Airways) provides a similar approach, with changes and cancellations allowed for a fee, which varies based on the fare type, but generally, their policies are quite customer-friendly.

Winner: Qatar Airways is the winner with its relatively flexible policies and more lenient conditions for changes and cancellations, providing the best balance of flexibility and customer service for economy class passengers on long-haul flights.

Overall, Singapore Airlines emerges as the top choice for long-haul economy flights, thanks to its spacious seating and exceptional comfort. ANA (All Nippon Airways) is the best option for travelers needing generous baggage allowances. For a hassle-free check-in experience, Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Emirates lead the way with their 48-hour online check-in windows. Emirates and Qatar Airways offer the best food and in-flight entertainment, making them ideal for a luxurious economy experience. However, Qatar Airways stands out for its flexible ticket refund and exchange policies, providing the best balance of flexibility and customer service.

Conclusions

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Zoey Peregrine Avatar

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