Economy Class in A380 (Photo: Singapore Airlines)
What makes a "best" airline for a long-haul flight in economy class? Mainly, in the view of experienced travelers, it's the amount of room you get. And although few economy cabins offer what most of us would consider adequate room—especially for a long overwater and often overnight flight—some are better than others.
Comparing different airlines is complicated by the fact that most airlines outfit different planes in their fleets with different seating. And seating can vary dramatically within a single airline, so you have to look not just at the airline but at the specific airplane type. And some airlines outfit different versions of the same model differently.
Our determination is based on information from two principal sources: SmarterTravel sister site SeatGuru's data on seat pitch (front-to-rear spacing of seat rows) and seat layout, and Skytrax's worldwide airline star ratings for economy class. No airline/airplane combination with less than a 33-inch seat pitch qualifies for a "best" ranking (except for a few A380 models with 32-inch pitches but extra-wide seats). That’s two or more inches better than the current norm, which is a 30–31-inch pitch on most lines.