Take a few flights outside of the United States, and you’re likely to notice a slightly disappointing observation: Many U.S.-based carriers simply don’t measure up when it comes to perks in economy class. Whether it's a free snack, or real wine glasses filled with (free!) vino, here are a few coach class airline perks we love on the foreign carriers...
If there’s one airline that deserves a gold star for economy service, it’s Singapore Airlines. The company has set the standard for stellar amenities across the board, and even in economy passengers feel like they’re getting luxury treatment. Since the 1970s, the airline has offered free drinks (alcoholic drinks, too) and meals to all of its passengers, and upscale, thoughtful extras like fresh orchids in the bathrooms and hot towel service help ease the hassles of long-haul service.
In addition, the airline is rolling out an entirely new economy class, which was first unveiled last year, featuring seats with a built-in footrest, power plugs (in every other seat), and seat-back pockets designed in the shape of a cell phone and a tablet to keep easy track of gadgets. Other thoughtful extras we love: a coat hook (it's a great spot to hang up your earphones, too) and a fold-up cup holder (which is much more convenient than messing with the whole tray table).
U.S.-based airlines could learn a lot from this northern neighbor: we’ll start with Air Canada's 8.9-inch, touch-screen TVs for every seat, which will keep you plenty occupied with a mind-spinning array of programming. Other extras we love: a USB port for every seat and two power outlets per three seats, a coat hook, and a single-pin audio jack. (No more one-sided sound for the vast majority of us who bring our own headphones.) And hey, if you feel like going old-school and cracking open a paper book, there’s an individual reading light for that, too.
First, the wine: It’s not just that Chile's premier airline, LAN (which recently merged with Brazil-based TAM) offers up a delicious selection of Chilean wines, including varietals like carmenere – the country’s signature grape – in economy class on its international flights. It’s that it serves them how they should be served: In actual glasses, not the clear plastic ones that make you feel like you’re at a frat party. The glasses also go along with real silverware, and even if you’re not on a flight long enough for a real meal (which is free, of course), you won’t have to shell out $3 for a tiny can of Pringles. LAN’s snack boxes are complimentary and represent whatever country you’re flying in. Heading to Argentina? You'll enjoy alfajores, the country's signature cookie.
British Airways takes some of the hassle out of flying with kids with Britax child seats, complimentary baby cots, and a “kids eat first” policy, so frazzled parents can at least try to enjoy their own meal after Junior has had his. The airline is also rolling out upgrades to its international economy class, which will include deeper-reclining seats, a TV screen that's 35 percent larger, and in-seat power supply.