The thought of flying economy class on a long-haul flight triggers a degree of panic. No one wants to fly for hours cramped between seats with not enough legroom to stretch. But some airlines offer economy seats so luxurious that many would be tempted to fly again and again in the same class.
Of course, flying business class, or first class as it is also known, is something that anyone would want to experience when flying long distances. Yet, there is always a possibility of not being able to book a seat on time. To save travellers the trouble, some international carriers make sure that those flying in economy class on a long-distance flight experience as much comfort as possible.
This doesn’t mean that there will be private cabins or seats that can be converted into full beds, though. These flights simply have wider seats than any other airline in economy class, along with some special in-flight amenities and food, which, in some cases, is typically the same as it is in first class.
It is noteworthy that besides the airline, passengers should also take note of the type of aircraft they would be flying economy. This is because airlines operate multiple aircraft in their fleet. Depending on the manufacturer, things such as space between rows and width of seats will be different in each. For instance, the economy class of Airbus 350 has wider seats than the same class in Boeing 787 and Boeing 777 — even though all three are wide-bodied aircraft. This is where comfort comes into the picture.
The best economy class in long-haul airlines
Imagine sipping the highest quality ume-shu (plum wine) or sake with Japanese Soba noodles on a long-haul flight in economy class. That’s what Japan Airlines delivers to its flyers. The seats are among the widest in the industry and the space between rows is also fairly wide.
Additionally, flying in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner of Japan Airlines would make flyers notice how different the carrier is from many other airliners operating the same aircraft. The Dreamliner is famous for its low-cabin altitude that helps reduce jet lag and has auto-dimming windows that make external viewing better. But it is not as famous as other aircraft for its narrower seats.
Besides that, the Dreamliner of Japan Airlines is the only one of its kind where the economy seating follows a 2-4-2 configuration instead of the 3-3-3 configuration in Dreamliner aircraft of other carriers. This means that there are only eight seats abreast in the Japan Airlines variant as against nine in others, resulting in wider seats than the others.
Service is what makes the economy class of Singapore Airlines stand out from the rest. However, this is expected of the flag carrier of the country whose international airport has been a consistent topper on the list of the world’s best airports.
In fact, the service is so sophisticated that many equate it to the treatment passengers get in business class, which was ranked the best in the world by Skytrax in 2022. In addition to toothbrushes and toothpaste, passengers flying on economy-class seats receive an amenity kit containing eye shades and socks to ensure they have luxurious sleep during the long-distance flight.
The world-famous Singapore sling or any other premixed cocktail can be ordered by flyers in all cabins with meals. Irrespective of where they are seated, the service extends to all passengers on board the aircraft.
One of the world’s best airlines, Qatar Airways not only offers one of the best first-class travel experiences but also has an economy class that is certainly among the finest across the globe.
Besides the unlimited snacks and drinks during the flight, passengers are given three meal choices to select from a menu card. They are provided with a pillow and fleece-lined blanket to catch forty winks before they land at the destination. Qatar Airways also provides socks, eye masks and Institut Karite Paris lip balm to ensure that their flyers feel fresh when the journey is over.
The double-decker Airbus A380 is among Emirates’ wide-bodied aircraft fleet. The Airbus A380 is the world’s largest passenger aircraft and is famous for the exceptional luxury it offers to flyers.
The economy seats of the Airbus A380 in Emirates measure 18 inches in width. Seats have screens on which passengers can watch any of the over 5,000 channels for their entertainment.
In August 2022, Emirates announced that it is upgrading the premium economy seats and other classes in its fleet of 67 Airbus A380 and 53 Boeing 777 aircraft.
On the flight, economy passengers get an amenity kit containing the necessary items for travel, including socks and a bookmark for those who prefer reading while travelling.
What makes Emirates economy flight special is that flyers can pre-order a bottle of Moët and a chocolate cake just in case there is a need to celebrate a special occasion on board.
All Nippon Airways (ANA)
Japan’s ANA is widely hailed as one of the best airlines in the world, and it lives up to its reputation when it comes to economy-class passengers, too. Being a direct competitor of Japan Airlines, the first factor that passengers would note is the distance between rows. It isn’t as wide as Japan Airlines, but at 86 cm is still wider than many other airliners.
And if flying between Tokyo and Honolulu on ANA’s Airbus A380, flyers can have the luxury of a single couch seat by combining up to four seats.
Staying true to the high degree and ideals of Japanese customer service, ANA ensures that its economy-class seats receive the finest of luxurious treatments available in the industry. They can go for high-end wines or sake and combine it with dishes such as Udon noodles or grilled red rockfish teriyaki. When flying out of Japan, there is an option to pay for a pre-order gourmet meal — a service that is available in business class.
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When it comes to offering world-class amenities in economy class, Turkish Airlines is no different from the other luxury service providers. However, what makes the national carrier of Turkey different is the onboard cuisine.
Indeed, food is perhaps the finest in any economy class anywhere in the world. For instance, flyers can take their pick from a wide range of dishes, including cheese pies, baba ghanoush, hummus and dried apricot mousse. And the taste of virgin olive oil in delicious salads with their lemon dressing is simply unforgettable.
Evergreen Airways (EVA)
The economy class in the Taiwanese airliner may not come with seats as wide as in ANA or cuisines as fine as those offered by Turkish Airlines, but some amenities certainly make the flying experience in this economy class more luxurious than most of the other airlines not mentioned in this list.
Instead of plastic cutlery, the airline offers metal spoons, forks and other items for a more comfortable eating experience. The seats have 12-inch-wide screens, which make the in-flight entertainment more immersive.
Of course, they don’t provide the business-class Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kits and pyjamas to economy-class passengers, but eye masks and slippers are there for everyone. Additionally, the legroom in the EVA aircraft is more spacious than the average in the industry.
(Main and Featured images: Fabian Joy/@fab_joy/Unsplash)