Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Around The World In Economy Class

I booked a round the world ticket with the Flight Center back in 2006 for £1400 inc. taxes. I knew this was an economy ticket but was still extremely impressed with the price considering our route took us 29,000 air miles and I have seen budget tickets to Australia alone for £749. I was definitely not expecting top notch anything for the money I paid but there are three things I look for in a good flight.

  • Firstly you must have adequate leg room to allow you stretch out. Even better is to have an aisle seat where you can spill over and block the gangway.

  • There must also be good films and entertainment available with a decent view of a screen.

  • Possibly the most importantly is a tolerable cabin of fellow flyers. This means no young children, stag parties of people sleeping and dribbling on your arm.

My round the world ticket used the Star Alliance Group. There are a number of airlines in this group including Air New Zealand, Thai Airlines, and Singapore Airlines each of which I flew with using an economy ticket. I was impressed with all of these airlines as they fulfilled all of my criteria mentioned above on most of my flights. The majority of the time I got to the airport early enough to choose my own seat, had an on demand entertainment service with my own screen (something I was very impressed with as I only held an economy ticket), and most importantly had a good cabin full of quiet passengers. Well this was true for all but one journey when we were seated next to the entire group of contestants of Shipwrecked 2007 flying back with us on a 9 hour flight from the Cook Islands to LA. They were seriously hyperactive and partied the whole way back; not great for a night flight.

The best airline I experienced from the Star Alliance was Singapore Airlines. The leg room in economy was brilliant, there were on demand movies and the food was great and that is something I do not normally say. It was a total contrast from our first flight with Virgin from London to Tokyo where the leg room was non existent and was generally an awful flight. This could be because at 11 hours it was 3 times longer than my previous longest flight to Egypt.

I also took budget flights in Australia and the USA using Jet Blue, Delta and United. Many of the USA internal budget flights I found quite pleasant as the planes were never particularly busy and the journeys in comparison not too long. In contrast, the Australian internal flights did not seem to be as spacious and it was quite cramped. I think this is probably because there are more budget airlines in the states and they fly more frequently than in Australia.

It is possible to circle the globe in economy class. It does have its uncomfortable moments and you do wonder what treats are being handed out behind that curtain in first and business class. We did sometimes get lumbered with the seats on the back row where the chair did not recline the full way and the rows next to the toilet but we still got from A to B. Who said backpacking was supposed to be luxurious anyway?



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