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Which airlines offer the best economy classes from Australia?

Your choice of airline can have a huge bearing on your overall travel experience, especially when travelling in economy class. A bad night’s sleep in a cramped seat, small cabin luggage limits and poor entertainment can all get things started on the wrong foot.

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Which airline has the best economy class?

There’s no one answer to this question, as ‘best’ can mean different things to different people.

To help you make an informed decision when booking your next flight, Skyscanner Australia has compared the six most popular airlines with flights from Australia to find the best economy class seats. These are Air New Zealand, Emirates, Etihad, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.

Take a look at how their economy class seats compare when it comes to legroom, seat width, luggage limits, entertainment and customer feedback.



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infograph of airlines

Our infographic above can help you visually compare the economy class seats from Qantas, United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Etihad, Air New Zealand, and Emirates.

Which airline has the most legroom in economy class?

The legroom – or the seat pitch – is one of the most important factors on a flight, and on most airlines the amount offered is incredibly similar, however it’s United Airlines that has the most legroom with up to 37 inches (almost 94cm).

At the lower end, all airlines have seats with 31 inches of seat pitch (just under 79cm), except Singapore Airlines whose smallest seat has 32 inches – around 81cm – of legroom. Flying with Singapore Airlines on a Boeing 777-200 (772) V2 or Boeing 777-200ER (772) V2 will bag you an extra two inches (5cm) of legroom.

While Qantas economy seats have a uniform 31 inches of legroom across all planes, the others vary in size. Etihad goes up to 32 inches, Singapore Airlines and Emirates up to 34 inches and Air New Zealand to 35 inches.

The most generous is, or at least can be, United Airlines with 37 inches (almost 94cm) to stretch out. Look for United flights on Boeing 737-800 (738) V3 or Boeing 757-200 (752) V2, but be aware that not all economy seats have that generous offering.

See how other airlines compare for legroom in economy class:

Airline Economy Class Seat Pitch
Air China 31-33
Air New Zealand 31-35
British Airways 31
Cathy Pacific 32
China Southern 29-33
Delta Air Lines 31-35
Emirates 32-34
Etihad Airways 31-33
Jetstar 29-30
Qantas 31
Qatar 31-33
Scoot 31
Singapore Airlines 31-34
Thai Airways 31-34
tigerair Australia 29-31
Virgin Australia 29-31

Data from seatguru.com

Best economy airline for leg room: United Airlines.

Which airline has the most comfortable seats in economy?

As well as legroom, the main deciding factor in your comfort in the air is the width of your seat. Although this is similar across most airlines in economy class, Singapore Airlines generally has the widest seats with some up to 19 inches (48cm) wide.

Emirates, Qantas and United offer the smallest option at 17 inches (a touch over 43 cm) while Singapore Airlines has the biggest economy seats (on some planes) at 19 inches, or just over 48 cm. If you’re looking for that wider seat, try to book a flight on one of Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A380-800 or Boeing 777-300 routes.

Best economy airline for seat width: Singapore Airlines.

Which airline has the best entertainment in economy?

All airlines offer a variety of onboard entertainment, with films, TV shows, music and flight maps all common across each brand. It’s Emirates that has the widest selection.

Some of Qantas’s smaller planes only offer 500 options (although you get up to 1500 on its larger operations), and most airlines are between these two figures. Emirates leads the way with 2000 channels.

Best economy airline for entertainment: Emirates

Which airlines gives the most cabin luggage in economy?

There’s very little difference between the main airlines for carry-on baggage in economy class. Air New Zealand, Etihad, Qantas, Singapore Air and United Airlines all let you take one piece of cabin luggage in economy, weighing up to 7kg, plus one small personal item (such as a handbag or slim laptop case).

Emirates has the same limitations on your one piece of hand luggage, but does not allow a second piece onboard.

Which airline has the best economy class as voted by passengers?

Each year Skytrax tallies results from its Customer Satisfaction Survey and releases a top ten for best economy seats. For 2017, two of the six airlines being compared here made the list: Singapore Airlines coming in at number five. followed by Emirates at number seven. Top place was taken by Thai Airways.

Best economy class as voted by passengers: Singapore Airlines.

Each airline has a great safety record and a good reputation, but all have a slightly different offering when it comes to economy class seats, so the best economy class airline will come down to personal preference, and whether you’re looking for spacious seats, entertainment or low cost flights.

Now you know the ins and outs of the different airlines’ economy options, check out Skyscanner Australia to get the best deals on flights, wherever you’re going.

Part 2: Which airlines offer the best economy classes from Australia?