a row of seats with screens on the back

The economy experience can be so much more than we think. On five airlines: it really is. While countless airlines have slashed away at everything but the planes rivets- some airlines have kept real dignity, comfort and class in the most affordable part of the plane. We’ve compiled a list of what we firmly believe are the best airlines to fly economy with, which planes- and what makes them each oh so special.

a row of airplanes with tail fin#5 Cathay Pacific

Refined Service, Wide Seats, Amazing Padding, Power

The Reasons: Cathay Pacific was one of the first to offer a remarkably nice economy cabin, and they’re still a top five player. The airline features 18.5” wide seats offering 33” of pitch, which puts the Hong Kong airline right near the top in both categories. But it’s the padding- the old school, wonderfully comfortable padding that wins. Throw in power ports, delicious noodle dishes and a pending fleet wide wifi offering, and this is serious comfort.

Planes For Best Experience: 777-300.

a row of seats with monitors on the back#4 Emirates

Big Screens, Big Seats, Big Planes, Power & Wifi

The Reasons: The first class suites are tough to beat, but Emirates economy cabin is as comfortable as it gets. Featuring between 32-34” of pitch and a nice 18” wide seat, made even better by an oversized, adjustable headrest- things are off to a flying start. Add in delicious meals made to be fragrant and flavorful in the sky (hello, curry), and the largest economy entertainment system in the sky– at a whopping 13.3” of video display and this is already feeling a lot more like premium economy than economy.

Planes For Best Experience:  A380, 777-300.

a seat in an airplane

#3 Air New Zealand

Couches in the sky, super padded seats, great beverages.

The Reasons: Unlike offerings up front, innovation is a word rarely associated with the economy cabin- but not on Air New Zealand. The airline was the first to bring couches to the economy cabin, offering couples and solo travelers alike the possibility of turning their specially designed seats into an entire row in the sky- complete with mattress pad for sleeping. Even for those not lucky enough to score an entire row- the seats offer some of the healthiest padding in the sky, with remarkably good 33” pitch. In between rest, the meals are worth eating and the New Zealand wine is absolutely fantastic, not just by economy standards.

Planes For Best Experience:  777-300, 777-200, 787-9

a large white airplane in the sky#2 Singapore Airlines

Delicious Food, Great Blankets, Widest Seat, Wifi & Power.

The Reasons: If you’ve ever been to Singapore, you know the food is delectable- and things are no different in the sky with Singapore Airlines. Tied for the widest seat, with a rock solid 32” of pitch, you’ll have everything an economy passenger could hope for: like wifi and power ports. Singapore crews are extremely friendly and professional, and meal service is something you might want to wake up for- though the comfy blankets and pillows make for great sleep. There’s also a top of the line 11.1 inch touch screen chock full of (mostly) quality entertainment.

Planes For Best Experience: A380, 777-300, A350. 

a white airplane on a runway#1 Japan Airlines

Widest Seat, Phenomenal Catering, Wifi & Power, Staggered Rows

The Reasons: Japan Airlines offers one of the very largest economy seats in the sky, with 34” of pitch and an industry winning 19” available in the airlines “Sky Wider” seat. In addition to one of the most spacious seats, you’re all but guaranteed wifi and power ports in flight- which comes in handy on a flight to Japan, along with a 10.6” HD entertainment system. Going a step further, the seats have handy storage compartments for water bottles, headphones and anything else- and on certain aircraft, the right side of the plane has just two seats together, making a really private experience for travel duos. Plus, the food is beyond edible.

Planes For Best Experience: 777-300, 787-9, 777-200, 787-800. 

Now it’s time to check out the best business class seats in the world, which are beyond imagination. 

Featured image credit: Sorbis / Shutterstock.com

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Good to see JAL as no.1. If I have to fly economy they are the airline I want to do it with. You can *almost* look forward to it.

  2. Note, NZ has 10-abreast 777s, and CX is moving to 10-abreast 777s as well. (Though they’re both fabulous economy class cabins still.)

  3. I’m surprised ANA didn’t make this list! Although Cathay is great, I’d bump them to the 6 slot and put ANA at 5.

  4. I’m an Economy wh*re when I’m not collecting tier points, and I can agree with some of this, but Asiana, ANA and Korean are noticeably missing.

    Air New Zealand wasn’t that special when I flew with them, but it was a super short flight, so maybe they didn’t get a chance to shine. And the flat bed in Economy prices are stupidly expensive, as 3 seats somehow end up more expensive than a single seat multiplied by 3.

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