Which European airline has the best Economy seats?

Which European airline has the best Economy seats?

With so many airlines, flight routes and options these days, is spending the extra dollar here and there to make your flight more enjoyable worth it? This summer we went on a big European getaway flying multiple routes and airlines to find out.

So the big question is, is there a huge difference between six different airlines? Aren’t the planes all made at the same Boeing or Airbus factory?

And does it really just come down to food, service and entertainment when trying to pick who to fly?

Well, we sat down (literally) on six different airlines to compare them just for you.


Aegean Airlines

Aegean Airlines seat
Aegean airlines seat

Aircraft: Airbus A320
Route: Frankfurt to Athens (3+ hours)
Class: Economy
Cabin configuration: 3 x 3
Seat: We flew Aegean multiple times but mostly had window seats
Pitch and Width: 30 and 18


The front end of our travels took us to the beautiful coast of Greece, so getting in and around the islands meant taking a couple flights, for which we found Aegean to be the most reasonable with price and flight times.

We booked a standard economy seat which had no power, and entertainment came from the overhead TV playing mostly videos on what to see and do in Greece. On the walk in we usually look out for the business class seats to see what we are missing out on, and to be honest they looked quite standard from the quick glimpse we had as we did our walk of shame to the back of the plane.

The aircraft's 3 x 3 seating arrangement was very European in style, and was a feature we noticed throughout our trip this summer. We did find the foot space to be quite minimal, especially for the window seat where a small backpack takes up the majority of the space due to the seat leg placements.

We would suggest you book an aisle or middle seat to get the extra legroom. The seat itself couldn’t hold much beyond your phone and wallet, so if you need your bag with you (as I did for my camera) then you will have to suffer through the small leg room.

The seat itself was bearable with no headrest, so using Aegean for short European flights (around three hours) is doable based on our budget.

EgyptAir

EgyptAir seat
EgyptAir seat

Aircraft: Embraer E170
Route: Cairo to Athens (2+ hours)
Class: Economy
Cabin configuration: 2 x 2
Seat: Window
Pitch and Width: 31 and 17


We decided to give Aegean a miss after flying over four of their routes in and out of Athens, so for the next part of our European getaway we gave EgyptAir a go. Leaving Cairo we booked through EgyptAir,  and since it was a short haul international flight they fly in a smaller 2 x 2 jet.

On the way towards Economy, we noticed that the business class and economy class seats were the same. However, we can only assume the service is the difference between the two classes. Just a quick note when booking, if you're wanting comfort in your seats, save your money and skip the upgrade.

Even though we did not have any TVs or on-board entertainment we were more than happy to sit back and watch offline Netflix in our very comfortable seats. Having the smaller 2 x 2 configuration meant a lot more leg room with no seat leg barriers between the two seats. If EgyptAir flew all the routes we did throughout Greece, we would’ve flown them in preference to Aegean.

On an interesting note, because the plane predominantly sits in Egypt the windows had a thick layer of sand blocking most of the view, which was a fitting goodbye to our two weeks exploring the sandy Egyptian desert.

Icelandair

IcelandAir seat
IcelandAir seats

Aircraft: Boeing 737
Route: London to Iceland (3+ hours)
Class: Economy
Cabin configuration: 3 x 3
Seat: Window
Pitch and Width: 32 and 17


With more and more flights heading towards Iceland, and the airline itself offering a free stopover extension service where you can easily extend your layover up to seven nights with no additional charges, we expected this flight to be very busy.

The seats themselves did offer a welcome headrest on our redeye flight, which meant we were comfortably able to get in a quick nap before touching down. There was on-demand TV available for a fee, as well as phone charging built into the screen.

I honestly can’t remember much of this flight as the moment we got on I put a podcast on and fell straight asleep, which speaks louder than words on how comfortable the seat was.

Norwegian Air

Norwegian Air Flying The Nest
Norwegian Air seat

Aircraft: Boeing 737
Route: Croatia to Ireland (3+ hours)
Class: Economy
Cabin configuration: 3 x 3
Seat: Window
Pitch and Width: 30 and 17


Out of all the flights we have taken so far in Europe, I must say that Norwegian Air was the least comfortable, to the point that I had quite the sore neck by the end of the three-hour flight. With the lack of any headrest, and leg room being quite limited (even for a short person like myself), I just couldn’t get in the right position due to the seat legs being placed to cut off your bag and feet space.

It was a low-cost airline so you do get what you pay for, but next time I think I will be shopping around, even if it means paying that little bit extra.

Since it was a low-cost carrier there was no in-flight entertainment, but you could log into a portal to purchase a very small selection of TV and movies. However, the surprise was that Wi-Fi came free on the flight, and even though it wasn’t too fast I was able to load a few YouTube videos during the flight to keep me entertained.

Scoot

Scoot Flying The Nest
Scoot seats

Aircraft: Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Route: Perth to Singapore (5+ hour flight)
Class: Economy Premium (Scoot in Silence)
Cabin configuration: 3 x 3 x 3
Seat: Aisle left
Pitch and Width: 36 and 19


To make the inaugural flight from Singapore to Berlin we had to initially make our way to Singapore. On this flight Scoot has a few premium seat options, including their Scoot in Silence for which we booked.

We expected that, as with Norwegian Air, you get what you pay for, but even though this is one of the cheapest routes to Singapore we were surprised to quite enjoy our flight. Having the headrest included in our seat, plus a longer incline, meant sleeping on the flight was quite easy.

Also, booking a Scoot in Silence seat meant there were no small children in the surrounding cabin, and being at the front also placed you further away from the jet engines, leading to a much quieter flight.

Leg room was ample, and having large overhead storage meant we could easily stow everything we required, leaving the ground space for our feet rather than our bags.

All the seats did have an AC power port available but this is with an additional fee, which was the same for Wi-Fi and a web portal entertainment system.

Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines seat
Turkish Airlines seats

Aircraft: Airbus A321
Route: Brussels to Istanbul (3+ hours)
Class: Economy
Cabin configuration: 3 x 3
Seat: Aisle
Pitch and Width: 29 and 17


Leg room was very minimal on Turkish Airlines, but for some reason it didn’t make this flight a deal breaker. We thoroughly enjoyed our seat. It was very comfortable, including the plush headrest. In-flight entertainment was  premium and the service was top-notch. 

Next to the EgyptAir seats, the seats on Turkish Airlines come in as a very close second when ranking the most comfortable seats we have experienced during this trip.

What we learnt from flying six different airlines across Europe

At the end of the day, with so many airlines and flight routes on offer, it’s quite hard to complain about a uncomfortable seat when the flight times are around three hours plus. However, when trying to get anywhere from Australia, which requires a full day's work of sitting, it may be worthwhile to do a bit of research.

With so many of our flights, in-flight entertainment was generally lacking and it was a 50/50 split on who fed us for free or not, so it really came down to the seats. Full-cost airlines like EgyptAir and Turkish Airlines provided the best seats for us, but we still managed to enjoy our time on low-cost carriers like Scoot.

We would recommend checking out seat and flight reviews to get a better understanding of who you are flying with, as the quality can change quite dramatically for just a few dollars more.

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