Growing up I used to fly long haul coach all the time. I even flew American Airlines in back to Australia the last time they served Sydney — via Honolulu with a DC-10. Cross country coach trips were what I grew up with, with my dad in California and living with my mother in New York.
Once I discovered frequent flyer miles and elite status I did my best to make sure I avoided flying in back. And since my international travel is largely for leisure I’ve had the flexibility to be able to ensure that’s up front.
Nonetheless I never forget my ‘roots’ and appreciate how fortunate I am to ‘turn left’ as often as I do.
Etihad A380 First Apartment
Matthew flew a United Boeing 767 from Milan to Newark in coach and came away concluding “Economy class is just fine, let’s not lose sight of that.”
I’m going to challenge that conclusion a bit. Economy class can be fine, depending on the airline and the aircraft.
The traditional domestic premium cabin configuration on a 767, before airlines started going with direct aisle access, was 2-2-2. Six across up front, while coach frequently remained just seven abreast (2-3-2). What’s more, many airlines see 767s as close to retirement and haven’t invested in new interior products for economy which is a good thing because you usually get a bit more legroom in back as a result.
In general 767 coach products are better than what you’ll find on the 787 or many 777s. Even there though the airline matters, Delta seats nine-across on a Boeing 777 while American, United, Emirates, Air France and others seat ten-across.
Singapore Airlines has probably the best economy product in the world with meals very similar to what they serve in premium economy, and little touches like extra legroom, a cup holder, and a foot bar.
Singapore Airlines Economy
I recently spent a few hours in a Qantas coach seat onboard on of their Airbus A380s. I came away amazed by the experience. The seat itself was comfortable and well padded. I can’t say enough about the importance of padding, something that many modern ‘slimline’ seats designed to squeeze half an inch of space per row and make it possible to add more seats to the plane compromise on.
Qantas A380 Economy
I fly Southwest Airlines all the time. There’s nothing wrong with Southwest coach for a few hours, even with the new seats on their (currently grounded) Boeing 737 MAX which are stiffer. Thanks to a restrictive pilot contract they aren’t squeezing more seats into their planes, and there’s enough legroom for me to open my laptop and work even without a so-called ‘economy plus’ or ‘main cabin extra’ product.
Southwest has a motto ‘we do short better’ and Southwest coach is great for up to 3 hours or so. I wouldn’t love to fly them to Hawaii, but I’ll gladly jump on their Washington National – Austin flight since they’re the only one that can legally fly it and it saves me a connection.