Here are the best airlines to choose if you want the most legroom in economy. We look at the US, Europe, Asia, and beyond to find the airlines that’ll fly you in comfort
For most people, traveling in economy (or coach, depending on what the airline calls it) class is a necessary evil. It’s the cheapest option and for a short hop of an hour or two, it’s probably the only choice you have. But for some people (like your author, all 6’2” of him, mostly legs), it can be uncomfortable.
So, which airlines should you choose if you want the most legroom? Well, here’s the list. We’re basing it on what’s known as seat pitch, which is the distance between the same position on two seats, one behind the other. This might not always technically tally with legroom, but it’s generally the best measure available.
The best airlines for the most legroom
US: JetBlue Airways (32” — 34”)
Often voted the best of the US low-cost carriers, JetBlue Airways doesn’t only offer the best legroom — a spacious 32 to 34 inches — but adds free Wi-Fi and TVs at every seat, giving customers a generous experience.
Europe: Eurowings (30” — 32”)
For a European short-haul carrier, Eurowings is relatively spacious, offering legroom of 30”— 32” across the board. The low-cost subsidiary of the Lufthansa group continues to expand its range of routes across the continent.
Asia: Japan Airlines (33” — 34”)
The nation’s flag carrier is extremely generous with its cabin space, and its medium- and long-haul economy is among the best around. The company now also uses Airbus A350s for short-haul domestic flights, but even these compare well (31”) with similar airlines, as we’ll see later on.
US: Alaska Airlines (32” — 34”)
Alaska is one of the airlines that’s now offering power points and USB ports in their economy section, a nice bonus that just makes the journey a bit more pleasant.
Europe: TUI Airways (33” — 34”)
This airline under the TUI Group doesn’t have a huge network — just over 70 destinations doesn’t seem that many compared to many of the bigger operators — but their fleet of Boeings flies from many of the UK’s regional airports, offering something a bit different.
South America: Aerolíneas Argentinas (32” — 33”)
The national airline of Argentina has good space in economy across its 80 aircraft, with a 15-kilogram baggage allowance on domestic flights, and a bag allowed free of charge on other routes.
Asia: ANA, Emirates, EVA Airways, Singapore Airlines (32” — 34”)
These four are consistently ranked highly in customer satisfaction awards, and the legroom almost certainly has something to do with it. If you can afford it, it’s worth splurging for Premium Economy too, where you’ll get wider seats, footrests, as well as USB and power outlets.
US: United (30” — 34”)
United has a wide range of seats across its fleet, depending on aircraft and flight time (domestic medium-haul, domestic short-haul, international, etc.). But you’ll generally get a decent amount of space, as well as on-demand TV, power points, and Wi-Fi on many routes.
Europe: Aer Lingus (31” — 34”)
Ireland’s flag carrier is a good option, offering 31”- to 32”- seats on short-haul flights, and up to 34” on transatlantic trips. They also boast of their Irish-sourced food, a full bar service, and Wi-Fi’s also available.
How to get the best legroom on a flight
There are certain seats that give more legroom — exit-row seats and bulkhead seats, for example — but these are often left unfilled. Sure, they have extra space in case people need to exit the aircraft quickly, but because of this, airlines often charge a premium to sit there. However — and here’s the thing — airlines are obliged to have at least one person on these rows to comply with safety and security regulations. As long as you seem physically capable of opening the emergency exit door, you might be able to bag yourself one of these seats simply by asking.
That’s another tip that seems like common sense: be friendly to the staff on board. It’s amazing how far a smile and a polite request will get you, especially when those exit-row seats need to be filled. Common courtesy seems sometimes to go out the window when flying, but hey, it’s nice to be nice.
One more tip for comfort: if you’re flying with a friend and you have the option to choose your seats, try going for one window and one aisle seat, ignoring the middle seat. It’s less likely this one will be given away unless the flight is very full indeed, meaning that at least you get a row to yourselves. Plus, even if the middle seat is booked, you might very well be able to swap with that person and at least have the benefit of battling for the armrest with someone you know!
How to make the most of economy class
Check what’s on offer to make the trip more pleasant. As mentioned, a number of airlines have introduced power outlets, USB slots and other, greater pleasantries such as Wi-Fi in their economy cabins. They might seem like little things, but they can make big a difference to the overall experience.
The same goes for food and drink — it’s not common anymore, but a few airlines (mainly flag carriers) still do a free drinks-and-snack service in economy, and others are now making a big noise about using completely recycled material to produce their food packaging. Whatever makes you feel happier about being smushed into an economy seat, there are options out there.
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