Economy travel gets classy makeover

Economy class travel has come a long way in recent years. Picture: ThinkStock

Robyn IronsideNews Corp Australia Network

THE rise of low cost carriers is forcing premium airlines to lift their game in the back of the bus, to keep economy class passengers coming back.

In a refreshing change from the emphasis on Business Class passengers, airlines like Qantas, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand, Virgin Australia and Qatar Airways are going to great lengths to keep the people in the “cheap” seats happy.

It comes as budget airlines continue to expand their share of the international market out of Australia.

In January, low cost carriers including AirAsia X, Jetstar, Scoot and Cebu Pacific Air, accounted for 18.1 per cent of international passenger traffic — up from 14.7 per cent three years ago.

But legacy airlines are fighting back.

From snacks on demand to personal In Flight Entertainment systems, flying in coach has come a long way from unrecognisable mush in alfoil trays and having to use folded up jumpers as pillows.

Economy Class dining on Cathay Pacific. Picture: Supplied.

Economy Class dining on Cathay Pacific. Picture: Supplied.Source:Supplied

Air New Zealand now gives economy class passengers the option of a skycouch — or three seats that fit together to create one seamless space, and Etihad’s Flying Nannies help soothe and entertain junior travellers.

Aviation consultant Neil Hansford said economy was no longer something to be dreaded on legacy carriers, and travellers had low cost airlines to thank.

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“The legacy carriers have drawn a line in the sand, and they’re not prepared to give up any more long-haul routes to the low cost,” said Mr Hansford.

“I think in fact, they’re trying to keep the low cost out of the ten-hour plus market — they don’t want them flying to London and LA.”

He said passengers were definitely the winners.

“I recently flew Emirates’ economy to London and it was a very acceptable experience,” Mr Hansford said.

New look cattle class: the amenities provided on Etihad Airways. Picture: Supplied

New look cattle class: the amenities provided on Etihad Airways. Picture: SuppliedSource:Supplied

“The food was acceptable, the service was acceptable, the condition of the toilets was pristine with amenities similar to what you’d get in Business.”

Qantas Head of Customer Product and Service, Philip Capps said they were always looking for ways to offer customers travelling in economy a “more flexible and premium travel experience”.

“We continue to listen to our customers and invest in every step of their journey,” said Mr Capps.

“Our economy in-flight offering is the most competitive in the domestic market and in the past year we’ve seen customer advocacy at its highest levels across both international and domestic flights.”

Qantas has upgraded its international economy food service — with an emphasis on taste and presentation. Picture: Supplied

Qantas has upgraded its international economy food service — with an emphasis on taste and presentation. Picture: SuppliedSource:News Corp Australia

Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker goes even further, claiming their economy cabin is more like “premium economy” on other airlines.

“The amenities we provide even for economy class passengers are second to none,” said Mr Al Baker.

“We are also developing a new economy class seat which will be the lightest and the most comfortable economy class seat in the world.”

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