This site is part of an affiliate sales network and receives compensation for sending traffic to partner sites, such as CreditCards.com. This compensation may impact how and where links appear on this site. This site does not include all financial companies or all available financial offers.We often get asked which airline is the most comfortable to fly in economy class for an infrequent international traveler. For international coach travel here is what we value (weighted by percentage):
- Coach pitch – the distance between your seat and the seat in front of you – 30%
- Coach width – the distance between armrest to armrest – 30%
- Inflight entertainment – individual screens? On Demand? – 10%
- Internet – does the airline have WiFi and is the speed and fee reasonable? – 10%
- Catering – is the food edible? – 5%
- Ease of transit at respective hub airports – 15%
To East and Southeast Asia:
- Japan Airlines
- All seats have at least 33″ pitch. To put that in perspective, some US based airline sell 33″ pitch as Economy Plus, Main Cabin Extra or Comfort+. That is Japan Airlines’ default seat pitch!
- Japan Airlines has a humane seat configuration.
- For their Boeing 777 international configured planes, they use a 3 x 3 x 3 or 2 x 4 or 3 (or 9 across) seating. In contrast, majority of the world is going to a 10 across.
- For their Boeing 787 international configured planes, they use a 2 x 4 x 2 seating. In contrast, the majority of the world is going to a 9 across seating
- All Japan Airlines planes have WiFi — they charge $18 for 24 hour of usage. So you can fly from New York to Tokyo, connect to Singapore same day and only pay $18 to be connected the entire way. It works mostly okay over the Pacific and you get decent speed — though, expect an outage for a few hours over / near the North Pole.
- Transiting in either Tokyo – Narita (NRT) or Tokyo – Haneda (HND) is a breeze. We rarely encounter long security lines and they use normal x-ray machines versus body scanners.
- The food onboard is edible
- The inflight entertainment system is okay; content could be better.
- Delta Air Lines
- Delta has the most consistent product to Europe.
- They have humane plane configurations:
- All their Boeing 777s are 9 across seating
- Their Airbus 330s are 8 across seating
- Their Airbus 350s are 9 across seating (about the same width as the 777)
- Their Boeing 767s have 7 across seating
- Their seat pitch is on par with all airlines that fly to Europe at 31″
- All their planes have WiFi and the fees are reasonable. In addition, if you don’t want to pay for WiFi, you can use messaging apps like iMessage and WhatsApp for free for the entire flight. They use Gogo for their WiFi service. (Update 2023: WiFi is free as long as you signup for Delta SkyMiles program – which is free)
- They have decent hubs to transit in the US – Detroit for example, is very pleasant to transit through. JFK – our home airport, not so much, but then again, you shouldn’t transit through New York unless you absolutely need to.
- The inflight entertainment is good
- The food? Well, we don’t usually eat it on European bound flights because 99% of the flights to Europe are overnight so we tend to just sleep instead.
- The downside: Delta will have Basic Economy fares to Europe for travel this upcoming April. So you will probably pay a premium to have a regular economy fare. Delta International Basic Economy fares do not included advanced seat assignment or checked luggage.
- Best legroom from the United States at 32″ – 34″ inches (Update 2023: jetBlue is in the process of reconfiguring its planes. Legroom will be a bit tighter but it is still be slightly better than everyone else to the Caribbean in regular economy)
- Free WiFi for portions over the United States
- There is inflight entertainment
- And snacks
- Also, none of the Basic Economy non-sense. (Update 2023: Well, jetBlue is like everyone else and has Basic Economy now)
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