How To Find Business-Class Service On An Economy Flight

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Photo: Xhanatos via Flickr

Note: This post was originally published on OPEN Forum.Once you fly business class, it feels utterly impossible to go back to coach.

Well, impossible until your company stops paying for it.

Downgrading to economy class isn’t easy emotionally or physically – especially on those long-haul flights. But at the end of the day, the cost to fly business and first class can ring in at double and triple the price of an economy-fare ticket. That kind of spending is murderous on budgets.

The good news is that some airlines do appear to care about their finance-conscious passengers.

So if you’ve had to say goodbye to the sweet life up front, but still want a comfortable business travel experience, here are some things to look out for when flying economy on your next trip.

Premium economy

Seat pitch

familiarise yourself with aeroplane jargon, like seat pitch and seat width.

In premium economy, the seat pitch allows for 10 inches or more space than regular economy seats. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways offer 38 inches. Virgin America and United Airlines offers 36 inches. South African Airlines offers up to 34 inches of legroom along with special designed cushion seats in its regular economy seats. But Thai Air tops this chart with a whopping 43 inches.

By comparison, short haul flights on American Airlines, Continental, and Delta offer between 30 and 32 inches. (In terms of seat width measurement, 18 inches is average, and 22 inches is your lucky day.)

International vs. U.S. domestic carriers


A free drink can make that economy-class seat feel a whole lot better. We're not recommending that you get smashed on your flight, but it's always nice to be able to enjoy a glass of wine or a cold beer, and not be gouged again for it.

United Airlines kindly buys their passengers a first round of drinks in economy. South African Airlines cleverly offers their economy class passengers complimentary local wines to promote the country's wine industry.

And if it's not free, you can at least ask for a little variety: Virgin America tops the bar offerings with champagne cocktails and Hornitos-sponsored margaritas.


Because Asian and Arab airlines excel in the long-haul flight, they have mastered offering up tastier products. Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, and Emirates have notably tasty in-flight menus. (Think: Lamb marinated in Arabic spices.)

Cathay Pacific planes have in-flight toaster ovens and rice cookers, which adds a fresh quotient to the dining experience.

Singapore Airlines can count Gordon Ramsay as one of eight world-renowned chefs who are part of a panel that contributes to the in-flight menu.

And if you're flying to Turkey for business, also note that Turkish Airlines has some lovely dishes for economy passengers. (The cheeses, from our experience, were most memorable!)

In-flight entertainment

In-flight wi-fi

New innovations

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