What influences your airline ticket purchases?

The IATA’s 2015 Global Passenger Survey reported prices (43% of survey participants), schedules and convenient flight times (21%) and frequent flyer programs (13%) as three of the main factors influencing ticket purchases for particular airlines.

Every day, over eight million people around the world fly. Whether domestic or international flights, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) reported that U.S. and foreign airlines serving the United States carried 895.5 million passengers in 2015. 199.4 million of those passengers were on international flights.

So which airline would you choose for a long-haul coach flight? That was a question asked by Trippy member Brett Synder from Long BeachLong Beach, CA. ‘Long-haul’ refers to flights longer than five hours, according to the IATA’s definition.

His question sparked a few interesting answers. Maja Gray from Sweden said it took her less than two seconds to choose Qantas as her first choice for a long-haul flight in economy class. Brian Huang preferred Singapore Airlines, Ahson Ahmad tried Emirates and loved it, and Amanda O’Neill thought Cathay Pacific was the best. Unfortunately for Americans, most members tended to avoid American carriers.

When choosing a long-haul coach flight, I consider these 10 factors:

  1. Price
  2. Reviews from other travelers
  3. Flight time, number of connections and the stopover airport
  4. In-flight service
  5. Seat size
  6. Frequent flyer program
  7. Food
  8. Potential delays
  9. Planes’ age and model
  10. Safety

Here are the 10 best airlines I would choose for a long-haul coach flight:

1. Qantas

Qantas is the airline of choice for flights from the United States to Australia. With a seat pitch of 31 inches and seat width of 17.5 inches, Qantas’ A380-800 coach seats are not the largest, but their direct flights, attentive flight attendants, on-demand TV, quality in-flight food, and drinks make it a great option for flights to Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne.

(Note: Find facts about airplane seat width, seat pitch, and more at SeatGuru)

2. Singapore Airlines

Year after year, Singapore Airlines appears as one of Skytrax World’s Top 10 Airlines and wins countless awards. It is known for its in-flight service, having one of the youngest average fleet ages and variations of in-flight food. Singapore Airlines’ A380-800 seat pitch is 32 inches and seat width is 19 inches, which gives above average legroom in economy class. Though a little more expensive than other carriers, Singapore Airlines is one you won’t regret paying a little more to take. Plus, Singapore is a worthy stopover destination for anyone wanting to get a taste of Asia for the first time.

3. Qatar Airways

Boasting its great airfare value, young fleet and seats with some of the most legroom, Qatar Airways is one of the most attractive airlines for long haul flights to anywhere in the world. Flight from Atlanta to Doha on Boeing 777-200LRs offer a 33-inch seat pitch and a seat width of 18.9 inches in coach.

The airline was named as the top airline in 2015. Americans are not required to hold a visa while in transit at the Doha International Airport.

Check out the complimentary tour of Doha which is offered on a first come, first served basis during stopovers. Here is my conversation on Twitter with Qatar regarding tourist visa:

4. Air New Zealand

With a seat pitch of 33 inches and seat width of 17.1 inches, Air New Zealand’s coach seats for their flight from Auckland to San Francisco on the Boeing 777-300 is two inches longer than those on Qantas’ A380-800. The airline is known for its safety, friendly flight attendants and above average selection of New Zealand wine from Villa Maria, New Zealand’s most awarded winery.

Air New Zealand in Auckland

5. Cathay Pacific

Innovation, good connecting flights in Hong Kong, and service set Cathay Pacific apart from many of its competitors for flights to Asia. Cathay Pacific has more than 200 aircraft and flies to almost 200 destinations worldwide. The airline is adding new products to improve its customers’ in-flight experience and 48 new A350s are scheduled to be delivered to the airline. Their new Airbus A350-900 offers supportive six-way headrests, space for mobile devices and internet access (for a fee).

The economy class on Cathay’s new aircraft offers a 32-inch seat pitch and an 18-inch seat width. The new seats have the same size as those in their Boeing 777-300ER series planes.

6. Korean Airlines

Korean Airlines offers direct flights from Atlanta, New York City, Dallas, Seattle, Washington, DC, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco to Seoul. The airline offers one of the best options for minimal connections from anywhere throughout the United States to Asia.

The Boeing 747-8 plane, which Korean Airlines primarily uses for its long-haul flights, has a 34-inch seat pitch and an 18.1-inch seat width in coach class. Comparatively, seats on China Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER, have a 33-inch pitch and a 17-inch width. Besides longer legroom, Korean Airlines’ in-flight service, entertainment, and amenities (slippers, eyeshade, and toothbrush) are worth mentioning as well.

7. Virgin Atlantic

I’m a fan of Virgin America and Virgin Australia. Even though both are considered low-cost airlines, from my experiences their in-flight services were better than those in some major U.S. carriers. Virgin America’s last minute fares are worth a thumbs up.

So I agree with Valerie Stimac, a Trippy member from Seattle. She wrote:

Great question… I’d go with the Virgin family.

They seem to

A) love their work, and
B) love taking people from place to place.

It’s one of the few airlines anymore that seems to actually care about the passenger’s experience.

I asked them about it once, on a long-haul from Chicago to London… their answer was that it’s better to keep the customer happy when you’re going to be stuck for any number of hours in a small cramped tube in the sky together. 🙂

For my recent long haul flight from London Heathrow to JFK New York, I chose Virgin Atlantic – same brand, but not a budget airline. Though the seats were a little tight (seat pitch 31 inches and seat width 17.5 inches), the wine, in-flight entertainment, in-flight service, and free magazines made the flying experience quite memorable. Added to that, I was able to accumulate Delta sky miles by booking my flight through Delta.

8. Jetstar

Jetstar is a low-cost airline that flies from Australia and New Zealand to the Asia-Pacific region including Honolulu, Hawaii. It is the only low-cost airline I would choose for a long haul flight in Asia-Pacific because of its value for money, frequent flyer program with Qantas and easy connections and convenient stopovers.

You’ll need to pay extra for check-in luggage, seat selections, and meals, just like any low-cost carriers, but Jetstar still comes out cheaper than other airlines (around $200 less per ticket including the extras) when I booked a one way flight from Denpasar (Bali) to Auckland New Zealand via Sydney Australia. The flight was pleasant and on time.


9. Delta

Delta is the largest airline in the world and serves over 160 million customers each year. From the recent flights I’ve taken with Delta, I’ve noticed it’s becoming a friendlier airline. It was named domestic “Airline of the Year” and “Top Tech-Friendly U.S. Airline.” I gave Delta a thumbs up for easy check in, on time arrivals and frequent flyer miles that never expire.

I’ve flown six times with Delta in the last 12 months, three of which were long haul flights. Delta did not disappoint. Seats in economy were tight, with a 31-inch pitch and a 17.9-inch width on my plane from Atlanta to Stuttgart. Delta’s joint ventures with KLM, Air France, Alitalia, Virgin Atlantic, Kenya Airways, Korean Airlines, Garuda Indonesia and Aeromexico mean Delta offers customers more options to fly around the world and to earn miles. 

10. Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has a small network compared to many of the other airlines listed here, but their recent acquisition of Virgin America has increased their network, which now offers more flight options. The only time I flew with Alaska Airlines was on my round-trip flight from JFK to Seattle. The coach seats had a 32-inch seat pitch and a 17-inch width – a fairly tight seat width for an over five-hour long flight.

But just like the Virgin brand, Alaska Airlines is known for its award-winning customer service and low fares – two important factors that many travelers are looking for these days.

Alaska Airlines

Trippy member Rhonda Albom from Auckland New Zealand concluded:

For me it depends where I am going. Most Emirates flights stop over in Dubai and if that isn’t too far out of the way, it’s worth it for the extra service, even in coach. Plus you extend your Dubai stopover as long as you like for no additional airline expense – last time we stayed a week. I did get a tour of Emirates’ business and first class once while in the air, and it is pretty impressive.

Second choice Singapore Airlines or Air New Zealand

I also will choose a non-US carrier if traveling outside the USA. The definition of service and quality is changing, and for some odd reason the US carriers are lagging way behind. It seems the more others like Emirates and Singapore improve their service, many of the US carriers decrease theirs.

Which airline will you choose the next time you fly coach (economy class) on a long-haul flight?

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See you there!

Article by Claudia Looi

Mentioned in this post
  1. Sydney
    City in Australia

    Sydney Australia
  2. Brisbane
    City in Australia

    Brisbane Australia
  3. Melbourne
    Melbourne Australia

    Melbourne Australia
  4. Singapore

    Singapore Singapore
  5. Atlanta
    City in Georgia

    Atlanta Georgia
  6. Qatar

  7. Auckland
    City in New Zealand

    Auckland New Zealand
  8. San Francisco
    City in California

    San Francisco California
  9. Hong Kong
    City in China

    Hong Kong China
  10. Atlanta
    City in Georgia

    Atlanta Georgia
  11. New York City
    City in New York

    New York New York
  12. Dallas
    City in Texas

    Dallas Texas
  13. Seattle
    City in Washington

    Seattle Washington
  14. Washington, DC
    City in District of Columbia

    Washington D.C. District of Columbia
  15. Chicago
    City in Illinois

    Chicago Illinois
  16. Los Angeles
    City in California

    Los Angeles California
  17. San Francisco
    City in California

    San Francisco California
  18. Seoul
    City in South Korea

    Seoul South Korea
  19. London
    City in United Kingdom

    London United Kingdom
  20. Honolulu
    City in Hawaii

    Honolulu Hawaii
  21. Denpasar