10 First-Class Amenities You Can Now Find in Coach

Some airlines are trying to improve the economy experience, meaning it's now possible to fly routes that serve afternoon tea and offer more movies than you could possibly watch.

December 16, 2019
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Photo By: Delta

Photo By: Delta

Photo By: Qantas

Photo By: JetBlue

Photo By: Virgin Atantic

Photo By: British Airways

Photo By: Emirates

Photo By: All Nippon Airways

Photo By: American Airlines

Photo By: Singapore Airlines

Photo By: French Bee

The (Economy) Skies Are Getting Friendlier

It's hard to imagine a time when flying economy involved restaurant-style meals and actual dishware; flight attendants happily served unlimited drinks from a bar area; and seats provided enough legroom to prevent losing circulation in your lower extremeties. In recent decades economy passengers have been subjected to meal reduction (or flat-out meal elimination), shrinking seats and zero free alcohol; some airlines barely serve more than water. In a small sign of changing times, a growing number of airlines are once again trying to improve the economy experience by providing amenities typically reserved for first class and its equivalent. Read on to learn who's serving welcome drinks, providing multi-course meal service and increasing seat comfort.

Delta

As of November 5, economy passengers on Delta’s international flights longer than 6.5 hours can now experience a version of what some international airlines have offered for years. This enhanced meal service includes a welcome Bellini, hot towel and healthier, larger meals. For example, a typical meal might include a caprese salad; harissa shrimp with apples, celery and arugula; ricotta ravioli in pesto sauce and marinated chicken with jasmine rice. Dessert service follows with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. And while coffee and tea are standard, expect free wine as well. Enjoy this meal service on custom-designed dinnerware instead of in plastic containers, along with Alessi-designed cutlery — almost making you forget you’re stuck in coach.

Qantas

Qantas added the Dreamliner to its fleet in 2017, translating to cushier seats with ergonomic support, more legroom, netted footrests so you can prop up your feet, USB and charging ports, shelf for electronic devices and mood lighting. Another bonus? Seatback entertainment provides more than 1,000 hours of amusement for flights that feel that long. International economy perks also mean a welcome drink, unlimited snacks like fresh fruit from the cabin’s self-serve bar and more meal choices with larger servings. Basic amenity kits are provided on some flights.

JetBlue

JetBlue remains a market leader in domestic economy service, as evidenced in the Airbus A320 that debuted in May 2019. The new planes feature ergonomic seats that are 18-inches wide with up to 33 inches of legroom, a 10-inch seatback screen, USB and charging outlets and free Wi-Fi from the moment you sit down. Entertainment remains strong with free DirectTV and SiriusXM Radio. Showtime is available on some 320s. Meanwhile, all of JetBlue’s flights offer Shut-Eye service. Those flying red-eyes won’t get pillows and blankets for free, but the airline does provide an eye mask and ear plugs in case you forgot your own, then helps you wake up with a hot towel, along with coffee, bottled water or OJ. Sometimes it’s the little things.

Virgin Atlantic

As of 2018, trend-setting Virgin Atlantic now serves afternoon tea on all daytime flights, the result of a partnership with celeb chef Eric Lanlard. Granted, the level of tea service depends on which class you’re flying. While first class gets to enjoy an eclair, macaron and financier as part of the spread, even the hoi polloi in economy get to partake of a box containing a fresh roll with tomato and mozzarella and a scone with jam and cream. Other elements that make economy tolerable are USB ports at every seat, fast Wi-Fi, three-course meals with free beverages (including alcohol) and snacks from UK-based companies. Due to sustainability efforts amenity kits are available upon request, and contain eye masks, ear plugs, socks, pen and dental care.

British Airways

Those flying economy on British Airways' Airbus A380, Boeing 787 and 777-300ER planes can look forward to redesigned interiors, larger seatback entertainment screens, seat charger and more seat recline. International flights have expanded economy dining options to include a welcome drink, two meals (with one four-course) and free full-bar service. The airline is also equipping 90 percent of its planes with fast Wi-Fi by the end of 2019.

Emirates

Other airlines have yet to catch up to the level of economy service that Emirates has been offering for years. International flights provide a hot towel and print menus (with options), serve above-average meals, as much alcohol as you can handle, and hand out reusable amenity bags filled with socks, eye mask, ear plugs and dental needs. Large seatback screens contain extensive entertainment options, like more than 1,500 movies (including the latest hits), saving you $$$ at the box office. Free Wi-Fi, USB ports, roomy legroom and pillow and blanket also help to make a long haul in coach seem more like first class.

All Nippon Airways 

All Nippon Airways (ANA) is the latest (and first Japanese) airline to offer the couch seat in economy, marketed as ANA COUCHii. This feature, as it sounds, involves converting three or four seats into a makeshift bed. A raised foot rest provides a bit more width, while a pillow and blanket is included with the additional cost. The ability to lie flat on a long-haul starts at $590 a person for three seats during low season. Four seats will run as high as $2,520 a person in the high season; more people sharing the seats will cost less. Note the couch seat configuration is only available on the Airbus A380 to and from Honolulu. It’s also worth mentioning that this route hides a number of prize tickets in meal trays, entitling winners to small gifts like ANA luggage tags — a rare treat for any class. Not least, a complimentary Blue Hawaii cocktail is another nice touch for economy fliers.

American Airlines

In a small win for improved domestic airline offerings, American Airlines is once again serving free meals on cross-country flights between New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. In 2018 American added free live TV to its economy experience, offered on all Airbus A320 planes and some A319, A321 and Boeing 737 flights. This applies to both domestic and international flights equipped with high-speed Wi-Fi. The only con is that you need to watch it on your own device. But the good news is that the airline is working to equip more than 700 planes with the service by the end of 2019.

Singapore Airlines  

Singapore Airlines continually ranks as one of the world’s best, so little surprise that the airline has just improved the economy experience on its Airbus A350, A380 and Boeing 787-10 fleet. This means roomy, ergonomic seats with a six-way headrest, power outlet and USB port, personal device storage and HD touchscreen with endless movies and advanced capabilities to save playlists and preferences via its KrisWorld system. Know that all international economy flights also provide amenity kits and serve multi-course meals with proper cutlery and free alcohol (opt for the Singapore Sling). Another perk not always found in coach? Substantial snacks like sandwiches and muffins are always on hand in the galley.

French Bee

French Bee may be a budget long-haul airline, but it employs a fleet of new planes. In fact, it’s the world’s only airline to exclusively fly Airbus A350 craft as of June 2019. (French bee currently flies to a small number of destinations like Tahiti and the Dominican Republic.) The A350 benefit to passengers is multifold: First, the entire plane provides a quiet ride compared to others (it’s four times quieter than a Boeing 787), and is equipped with soft LED lighting to help circadian rhythms. Then there are high ceilings, making the cabin feel less cramped, while more overhead luggage space is another feature rarely associated with economy. But the biggest differentiator is the airplane’s pressurization and filtration system. Cabin pressure can be set to 6,000 feet (8,000 is the norm), air circulates every three minutes and humidity resides around 20 percent (10 percent or less is more common, explaining why you dry out so quickly on flights). All of this contributes to feeling less jet lagged, dry and miserable — perhaps the biggest economy perk of them all.

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