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What Is An Economy Flight?

Published by FareCompare on November 28, 2023

Understanding Economy Flights: What You Need to Know

The term "economy flight" goes beyond the price you pay; it's about the comfort you can expect during your journey. For Farecompare readers keen on finding the most affordable airfare, understanding what an economy flight entails is crucial.

What Economy Class Is

When you purchase an "economy flight" ticket, it means you are sitting in the main cabin, not first or business class. Seats are smaller and packed more closely together, and in-flight services are limited. Very few economy flights today have meal service, and in many cases, passengers on economy flights pay for their meals and snacks separately from their ticket.

Economy flight seats on domestic routes usually have seat pitch measurements ranging from 29 to 32 inches. Seat pitch is the distance between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat directly in front of it. Seat pitch is usually slightly greater on international economy flights.

Legroom and Airline Seats: Do We Need New Measurements?

The terms "economy flight" and "economy class" have come to represent unpleasant, crowded conditions to so many people. Perhaps as a result, different airlines around the world have begun using different terminology for their economy flights. Here is a chart of some airlines' terms for economy flights:

AirlineEconomy Flight Terminology
Air CanadaHospitality / Hospitalité
Air FranceVoyageur
British AirwaysWorld Traveler
Kingfisher AirlinesKingfisher Class
LAN (Chile)Tourist
Philippine AirlinesFiesta Class

What Economy Class Is Not

It is also important for FareCompare readers to know what an economy flight is not. An economy flight is not:

  • Necessarily non-refundable
  • Always cheap
  • Necessarily the cheapest ticket for a given flight

Making the Most of Economy Class

To make an economy flight more pleasant, you can try to book bulkhead or emergency row seats (assuming you are qualified to sit in the emergency rows). Most people consider aisle seats to be the most "comfortable" economy flight seats, because they do not have to climb over others to access overhead bins or go to the lavatory.

Several airlines, such as Virgin America and JetBlue, offer amenities like seat-back video screens to make economy flights more pleasant. More airlines (including AirTran, Alaska Air, Delta, Frontier, Southwest, United, US Airways and Virgin America) now offer in-flight Wi-Fi on some or all flights for a fee, so that passengers can surf the web to help pass the time. And of course, old stand-bys like MP3 players, earplugs and portable gaming devices are helpful on long economy flights.

Understanding the nuances of economy flights empowers travelers to make informed decisions and find the right balance between affordability and comfort.

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