a woman sits in economy class typing on her laptop

The Different Classes of Airfare

Air travel today offers three separate classes for passengers. The three general categories include first class, business class, and economy. The lines have become blurred in recent years regarding differences between business and first class air travel. What exactly is included within each area will vary depending on the airline. The following describes the three general choices a passenger has when flying and some examples of what certain airlines have to offer.

Economy Class

Economy, or coach, is the largest section in a plane and how most passengers travel. A traveler would be able to bring one carry-on bag on board. Most airlines now charge for any checked in luggage in economy. There is the least amount of leg room, with most airlines providing 32 inches from one seat to the seat in front of it. For domestic flights travelers get a soft drink and a small snack for no charge. Sometimes complimentary meals are served for longer flights.

Similarities Between Business and First Class

Generally, there are two sections on a plane for domestic flights. This means that first and business class are in the same section with only slight variations in amenities. On international flights there are often three sections, with the first class having its own separate area. Both business and first class offer larger seats. Food and service are of higher quality. There are also a variety of audio and video options to choose from. Both business and first class will oftentimes offer a drink before take-off and a hot towel so passengers can refresh themselves.

Differences Between Business and First Class

One of the primary differences between first and business class is that some airlines provide retractable walls that offer a traveler the option to completely separate himself from other passengers. Other differences include seats that may recline considerably or don't always lie completely flat in cheaper areas of the cabin. Screens for entertainment are usually not as large, either.

There are sometimes differences between first class and business class that go beyond the seating area. Some airlines offer access to a first class lounge and a full meal before boarding the plane. Usually first class allows three pieces of luggage checked in at no charge while business allows two. While international economy flights will allow one checked bag for free, most domestic flights do not.

Costs for Each Class

Pricing can sometimes be as much as ten times more expensive for an overseas business ticket than for economy. First class would be even more. Domestically the price differences probably wouldn't be as vast. There is, however, usually more luxury and perks involved when flying internationally as opposed to domestically. An approximate example of costs for an overseas flight from London to Australia would be $2,000 for economy, $7,000 for business, and $14,000 for the top tier.

Last Updated: November 11, 2015