Flying East – 5 of the best economy cabins compared

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Julian Munsey
Last Updated: 21 April 2021

Whether you’re looking to travel for business or on a holiday, sometimes economy is the most cost-effective option to get you where you want to go. With airlines investing in new aircraft such as the A380 and Boeing 787 the experience has never been more comfortable or offered as much entertainment.

Depending on whether you are looking to travel east or west from the UK, the airlines you’ll be considering will be different. Following on from last weeks blog looking at airlines who fly to the US,  this week we’ll be comparing what’s on offer from airlines who fly east of the UK from the UAE right across to Australia; Emirates, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Singapore Airlines.


Emirates has a whopping 100 A380’s and a lot more on order so if you are keen to experience the largest passenger plane ever built, this is the airline you’ll have the most chance of doing it with! The economy experience is generous compared to other airlines with an amenity kit, fleece blanket, 2hrs WiFi, up to 35kg baggage and over 3,000 films/tv shows to watch, you get a lot for your money. You’re able to pre-select your seat 48 hours in advance which, if you are keen to sit next to the people you’re travelling with, we’d recommend doing online rather than waiting to get to the airport. The checked baggage allowance is generous which means they can be quite strict with the hand baggage, both the weight (up to 7kg) and the number of items (only 1, if you have a backpack as well as a wheelie suitcase, the suitcase would need to be checked in). We also love the thought and design that has gone into the economy amenity bags – it is a nice touch and certainly more than you’ll get on some of the other airlines when travelling down the back.


Etihad offers less as standard compared to Emirates but they do give you the opportunity to upgrade your experience with luxury amenities bags and sleepwear which you can buy onboard. Also, on certain fare types you can bid for an upgrade or to buy the seat next to you (known as the ‘neighbour free seat’) so you can guarantee you have some extra space. This is a great option for the opportunity to travel in Business Class for a fraction of the normal price (if your bid is successful) or to get some extra room when travelling in economy. One of the other things we love about Etihad is that they also offer an onboard nanny service (The Flying Nanny) who can provide arts and crafts and help entertain your little ones, although be aware that they can’t hold your child or take them to the toilet.

Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific offers a 3-3-3 configuration on the majority of their aircraft and in a time when most airlines are moving to 3-4-3 (and some threatening to go to 11 across!) the room you get from there just being 9 seats is definitely something to enjoy. They have a generous luggage allowance and a lot of their aircraft have been fitted with a new state of the art in-flight entertainment system which allows customers to watch a wide range of programmes (including entire series such as House of Cards from Netflix) as well as live stream TV from the BBC, CNN and Euronews.


Qantas don’t offer many paid extras and this is partly because a lot is included and partly because they don’t offer the services other airlines do. For example, they include seat selection in the price of the ticket (for the majority of customers) which is a big bonus for some customers who want to ensure they are seated with the rest of their group however they currently only have WiFi for Domestic (Austrailian) flights, not international ones.  They also don’t offer an amenity kit, nor do they have an option to pay for it so make sure you take with you an eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste and headphones if it is important to you. On the 25th March 2018 they recently launched their direct Perth to London flight, a 17-hour record-breaking flight, and in to celebrate this they have launched a new food and drink menu which focuses on health and wellbeing as well as initiatives to help reduce jetlag.

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is well known for offering impressive service to its customers, whether they are in First Class or Economy. So the experience you’ll have onboard will probably vary more with the aircraft you are flying on, rather than the cabin crew who are serving you. They offer 3 different types of Economy seat depending on which aircraft you’re travelling on with the main differences being in the in-flight entertainment and comfort of the seats. The newest seats offer increased legroom and support for your head and back to help improve your comfort while travelling. In addition, on some aircraft, they offer ‘forward zone seats’ for customers who want to ensure they can get off as quick as possible.

The table below compares the key elements of each of the airlines economy cabins:

Emirates Etihad Cathay Pacific Qantas Singapore Airlines
Baggage Allowance


Between 20kg – 35kg (depending on the fare type)

7kg hand luggage

Between 23kg – 35kg (depending on the fare type)*

7kg hand luggage

Up to 30kg

7kg hand luggage

Up to 30kg

7kg hand luggage

Between 30kg – 35kg (depending on the fare type)

7kg hand luggage

Seat Pitch:


32”-34” 31”-33” 32” 31” (except 787-9 which is 32”) 32”


3-4-3 3-4-3 except for 787-9 which is 3-3-3


3-3-3 3-4-3 except 787-9 which is 3-3-3 3-4-3 lower deck A380

2-4-2 upper deck A380/A330

3-3-3 777/A350

Food and drink:


Complimentary bar and food throughout flight, including alcohol, main meals and snacks. Special meals available on request. Emirates website gives you the option to find out what will be served on your flight before you travel. Complimentary bar and main meals. Champagne and additional snacks available to buy. Complimentary main meal, snacks and accompanying drinks. Special meals available on request. Complimentary bar and food throughout flight, including alcohol, main meals and snacks. Complimentary bar and food throughout flight, including alcohol, main meals and snacks. Special meals available on request.
In Flight Entertainment:


3,000 channels of on demand entertainment and the opportunity to watch live TV (selected aircraft) Hundreds of hours of on-demand entertainment. 10.6” touch screen TV. State of the art touch screen entertainment system. 1,500 options on the on-demand inflight entertainment system. 1,000 options on the on-demand inflight entertainment system.
Paid extras


After free allowance, SMS/data roaming and WiFi connectivity is an additional cost (from £4.99).

Seat selection (depending on fare type)

Option to buy sleepwear (USD$35) and/or a luxury amenity kit (USD$22).


SMS/data roaming and WiFi connectivity.


Seat selection


WiFi and SMS/data roaming is an additional cost (from USD$9.95 on A350 aircraft only).

Seat selection (unless on a Y class ticket)

Onboard WiFi
Complimentary extras


Amenity kit in a waterproof pouch.

Environmentally friendly fleece blanket.

Free WiFi for 2 hours/20MB.


Full-size fleece blanket and comfortable pillow.

Dental kit and eyeshade available on request.

Complimentary WiFi (A350 only) for access to moving map, destination info, Cathay Pacific website/ duty-free and live streaming of BBC, CNN and Euronews. Free seat selection at time of booking (unless travelling on a ’Sale’ fare)

Blanket and pillow

Free seat selection (dependant on ticket type, more restricted tickets need to pay from $5).

Basic amenity kit

*recent changes to the Etihad baggage policy means it now varies between destination as well as fare type. To check your allowance, click here.

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