YOUR choice of airline can have a huge bearing on your overall travel experience, especially when travelling in economy class.
A bad night’s sleep, cramped seat and small cabin luggage limits can all get things off on the wrong foot.
To help you make an informed decision when booking your next flight, Skyscanner Australia has compared economy class of the six most popular airlines with flights from Australia — Air New Zealand, Emirates, Etihad, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.
This is how their economy class seats compare when it comes to legroom, seat width, luggage limits, entertainment and customer feedback.
It also includes Skyscanner’s pick for the best airline based on legroom, seat width and entertainment.
The leg room — or the seat pitch — is one of the most important factors on a flight, and on these six carriers the amount offered is incredibly similar.
At the lower end, all airlines have seats with 31 inches of seat pitch (just under 79cm), except Singapore Airlines whose smallest seat has 32 inches (around 81cm) of leg room.
Flying with Singapore Airlines on a Boeing 777-200 (772) V2 or Boeing 777-200ER (772) V2 will bag you an extra two inches, or five centimetres, of leg room.
While Qantas economy has a uniform 31 inches across all planes, the others vary in size. Etihad goes up to 32 inches, Singapore Airlines and Emirates up to 34 inches, and Air New Zealand up to 35 inches — but the most generous is, or at least can be, United Airlines with 37 inches (almost 94cm) to stretch out.
Look for United flights on Boeing 737-800 (738) V3 or Boeing 757-200 (752) V2, but be aware that not all economy seats have that generous offering.
Best economy airline for leg room: United Airlines
Again, the seat width is similar across most airlines. Emirates, Qantas and United offer the smallest option at 17 inches (a touch over 43cm) while Singapore Airlines has the biggest economy seats (on some planes) at 19 inches, or just over 48cm. If you’re looking for that wider seat, try to book a flight on one of Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A380-800 or Boeing 777-300 routes.
Best economy airline for seat width: Singapore Airlines
All airlines offer a variety of on-board entertainment, with films, TV shows, music and flight maps all common across each brand.
Some of Qantas’s smaller planes only offers 500 options (although you get up to 1500 on its larger operations), while Emirates leads the way with 2000 channels.
Best economy airline for entertainment: Emirates
Air New Zealand, Etihad, Qantas, Singapore Air and United Airlines let you take one piece of cabin luggage in economy, weighing up to 7kg, plus one small personal item (such as a handbag or slim laptop case).
Emirates has the same limitations on your one piece of hand luggage, but does not allow a second piece on-board.
Each year SKYTRAX tallies results from its Customer Satisfaction Survey and releases a top ten for best economy seats. For 2015, the only one of the six airlines being compared here made the list, with Singapore Airlines coming in at number five. Number one was awarded to Japan Airlines.
Each airline has a great safety record and a good reputation, but all have a slightly different offering when it comes to economy class seats, so the best economy class airline will come down to personal preference, and whether you’re looking for spacious seats, entertainment or low cost flights.
This article originally appeared on Skyscanner Australia.