Best Economy Airlines to Take You Around the World

In a time where everyone is once again looking at their international travel plans, it seems prices have gotten out of hand.

Thankfully, there are the trusty budget airlines that have always been there to offer a bargain, so you can resume globetrotting without breaking the bank.

What are the best economy airlines?

According to the recent Skytrax World Airline Awards, some of the best and most affordable airlines in 2021 are Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Korean Air, and ANA All Nippon Airlines.

These include both those with the best economy fares and seats and overall economy airlines.

If you’re getting the itch to travel again and would rather spend money once you arrive at your destination, not before it, an economy airline is a way to do it.

We’ve rounded up some of the best in this class, allowing you to fly without breaking the bank, and hopefully not missing out on too many of the usual perks.

The Best Economy Airlines on the Globe

Economy airlines can give you the most bang for your back when it comes to air travel, all the while ensuring you reach your destination safely and on time.

In this category, there are some airlines that do it better than others, so check out the ones worth considering.

#1 Japan Airlines

#1 Japan Airlines

Number one on the list is Japan Airlines, consistently known as a top choice for economy travel.

While traveling with Japan Airlines, you’ll enjoy little perks like airplane food that’s fresher than most, comfortable seats, and an overall relaxed experience that doesn’t feel rushed like some airlines.

They offer both economy and premium economy for those who want a little boost in luxury.

However, one downside is that on an economy flight, you won’t get drink service that’s as attentive, but considering the other pros, it’s not that hard to ask an attendant if you need something.

#2 AirAsia

#2 AirAsia

AirAsia Berhad is a Malaysian-based airline that offers budget airfares in 25 different countries, with 165 destinations around the globe.

AirAsia has some of the cheapest fares possible, impeccable customer service, and good food, plus the chance to save even more with an Unlimited Pass that lets you travel as many times as you want.

The worst thing about AirAsia is their inflight entertainment options, which travelers have stated are a little lackluster.

As long as you bring your own device or book with you, this won’t be too much of a hassle.

#3 Emirates

#3 Emirates

Known as the national airline of United Arab Emirates, Emirates has made a name for itself in both the luxury and economy categories of travel.

For those wanting to fly economy, Emirates still offers exceptional service and professionalism, great inflight entertainment, and free-flowing complimentary drinks, which is more than most economy airlines can say.

However, a few customers have noted that the economy seats don’t have as much legroom, so this could be a dealbreaker for some.

If you can put up with less space for some free drinks, you’ll find that Emirates is one of the more luxury budget airline options.

#4 SouthWest Airlines

#4 SouthWest Airlines

The US-based SouthWest Airlines has cheap fares going for it, and their most praise was earned for comfortable seats, a good range of in-flight food and drinks, and reliable WiFi.

However, they lost some points due to customers’ experiences with flights being delayed, and it appeared that this happened more than some of the other budget airlines.

Once you’re on the flight, though, it’s one of the best, and if you happen to travel over 250 miles, those delicious snacks and drinks we mentioned will be free.

#5 Singapore Airlines

#5 Singapore Airlines

Consistently ranked as one of the best economy airlines, Singapore Airlines is all about the customer’s experience.

They rate highly in service, cleanliness of their fleet, and in-flight entertainment, but their seats have lost some points in comfort and legroom, so it depends on what your preference is as you fly.

Their services span 30 countries and 60 destinations, and you can always depend on them for professionalism from check-in and boarding, the in-flight journey, and beyond.

#6 Etihad

Etihad Airways is another United Arab Emirates airline and their second-largest airline, after Emirates.

Their economy option goes above and beyond what others do with exceptional service and lots of inclusions with your fare.

The dark brown seats and dated cabin can make some of the flights with this airline feel cheap but, and they don’t appear as wide as on other aircraft.

However, they manage to make up for it in other ways including in-flight moves, your own electrical socket, and larger-than-most meals that don’t taste like your average airline food.

#7 Qatar Airways

#7 Qatar Airways

If you’re looking for maximum legroom on a minimally priced flight, Qatar Airways can deliver.

This premium airline offers plenty of perks for their economy travelers, including a complimentary eye mask and blanket for your travels and an intuitive in-flight entertainment service.

On the downside though, the meals weren’t that amazing, and more than a few customers noted issues with food mix-ups, so Qatar isn’t 100% perfect.

They fly to over 150 international destinations including those in Africa, Australia, and North American, so you’re guaranteed they can get you where you need to go.

#8 Air New Zealand

The flagship airline of New Zealand is Air New Zealand, and they have a long, reliable history of being one of the best, especially when it comes to catering to economy travelers.

This airline is all about making the trip enjoyable, with funny in-flight safety demonstrations, deliciously fresh food, and clean, modern cabins.

They’re not as expansive as other airlines though, with only 20 countries being visited, so you might need to use other airlines to get you to the final destination.

#9 ANA All Nippon Airways

#9 ANA All Nippon Airways

All Nippon Airways is the largest domestic air carrier in Japan and has a solid reputation for being one of the best economy options.

Headquartered in Tokyo and with over 70 years of experience, it’s no wonder they rate so highly, with perks for economy customers including impeccably clean cabins, precise customer service, and efficiency with check-in and boarding that takes the stress out of travel.

The downside is their legroom is lacking and the seat comfort isn’t the greatest, so this is where ANA has cut costs for their economy customers.

#10 Thai Airways

The Asia-based Thai Airways is another fan favorite for affordable travel, and it’s known as one of the cheaper options as well.

Some of their fleet is older than you might like, so it can feel a little dated, but if you can look past this, they do have a lot to offer.

On the upside, their flight attendants are committed to doing whatever they can to make your flight enjoyable, they wear traditional colorful sarongs, and you get access to in-flight entertainment, amenities, and food service that’s second to none for an economy option.

#11 Qantas Airways

#11 Qantas Airways

Qantas is the official airline of Australia and they offer everything from economy through to first-class travel.

Their economy airline options include complimentary food and drinks for most of their flights, detailed menus to choose from, and in-flight entertainment that included a large touchscreen display and Bluetooth headphones, so you can use your own if you choose.

Most of their fleet have been upgraded so they have a modern look, but the legroom can feel barely there when you compared it to other carriers.

Qantas is committed to delivering the true Australian spirit so their flight attendants and friendly and helpful, which can make a huge difference on long haul journeys.

#12 Cathay Pacific Airways

Cathay Pacific is the flag carrier of Hong Kong and its most renowned airline.

A standard flight on economy class with Cathay Pacific will feel like an upgraded class, with a complimentary multi-course meal, pristine cabins, and seats that offer you plenty of space to stretch out.

Where they seem to falter is issues with communication after booking tickets and dealing with issues at the check-in counter, so as long as you don’t experience any of these, the following flight should be a breeze.

Cathay Pacific flies to over 190 destinations which makes them one of the most expansive, and a smart option for budget-friendly travelers.

#13 Garuda Indonesia

#13 Garuda Indonesia

Garuda Indonesia offers 600 daily flights and there’s no shortage of affordable economy options to choose from, even if they don’t travel to as many countries as others.

During your flight, you’ll get first-class service from ground and cabin staff, unique and delicious in-flight meals, and a fairly modern layout inside of the plane and on the seats.

Where they ranked lowest was value for money, as people found their prices a little higher than other economy fares, so these should be considered a more premium costing budget airline.

#14 EVA Air

EVA Air is a Taiwanese international airline that’s based near Taipei and visits Europe, Australia, Asia, and North America.

EVA Air is another five-star airline with good economy options, and they rank fairly highly in all areas.

Their seats are large and comfortable with lots of legroom, you get modern in-flight entertainment, and some of the most attentive flight attendants of any airline in the world.

The negative is that they only travel to 40 destinations around the world so you’re limited in where you can go with them.

#15 Hainan Airlines

#15 Hainan Airlines

Hainan Airlines is a China-based airline and consistently rated as one of the best options for economy travel.

Their customer service is second to none, with previous travelers reporting eye masks, eye drops, and blankets to be on hand if you need them, along with anything else you require.

The seats didn’t rank too highly in comfort and size, which is their downfall, and taller travelers might want to choose another airline.

Overall though, the fourth largest airline in China seems to know how to treat economy customers just as well as their business class, so Hainan is another of our favorites.

Related Questions

International travel is starting to become a possibility once again, and most people are still looking for an affordable and efficient way to travel.

To find out more about international travel and other FAQs that travelers had about it, check out these questions and our expert answers.

What Is Not Allowed on International Flights?

Some of the most common items not allowed to travel in the cabin during an international flight are dry cell batteries, sharp instruments, electronic devices that can’t be turned off, and genuine or replica weapons.

The airport you’re traveling from and the airline you’re traveling with will usually direct you towards a list of prohibited items before the flight.

Can You Take Snacks on International Flights?

Most airlines and airports will allow you to carry on or place in your checked bag any types of solid food items.

However, while you’re making your way through security checks, you might be advised to empty the items in your bag or separate them before the officers inspect them.

Can I Use My Passport Until the Day It Expires?

In many countries, a passport needs to be renewed at least a few months before the date of your proposed travel, and up to six months in others.

It’s your responsibility to check the expiration date on your passport and give yourself at least two months to organize its renewal before you plan on traveling.