Airlines with the most legroom in economy and premium economy class flying from Australia

Legroom. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, that's what the average flyer wants more of. Forget the quality of the food, the booze, the in-flight Wi-Fi, what we really want is room to stretch out. How else to explain the surging popularity of premium economy class, which delivers little more than an extra 8cm of legroom over an economy seat? That's about the width of a Galaxy S7 phone. For that some passengers are prepared to pay a premium of 50 per cent, and sometimes more, over the cost of an economy seat. 

Seat pitch – the distance between any one point on a seat and the same point on the seat in front or behind – hovers around 78.7 to 86.4cm on most airlines operating out of Australia. Jetstar, tigerair Australia and China Southern cut closer to the bone with just 73.7cm on some flights, and that's crunchy for some of us. 

How to get the best seat on a plane

Ever spent 15 hours stuck in the middle seat in economy class? Then this guide's for you.

I'm 182cm tall. Seated, the distance from my back to the front of my knees is 63cm. Add to that the thickness of the seat back, say around 8cm. In a 73.7cm seat, that leaves me with 2.7cm clearance between my knees and the seat in front. When that seat is reclined my femur says "Hey there!" to my appendix, and there are plenty taller. 

See also: Is premium economy worth it?

Based on data harvested from Seat Guru, Skyscanner has produced a guide to economy-class legroom on long-haul flights. It's not pretty, although some airlines do much better than others. Note the range of seat pitch in economy, which can vary by as much as 17.8cm within the same airline depending on aircraft type. If you're worried about comfort, the aircraft type should be part of your selection criteria. 

According to this data, if you're flying economy out of Australia in a westerly direction, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and – surprise – India-based Jet Airways are your best bets. If it's trans-Pacific, Air New Zealand is the pick, but note that not all seats on the same aircraft are going to give you that refreshing 88.9cm seat pitch. 

Another index that matters only slightly less than pitch is seat width, and according to Skyscanner the seat width of an economy seat on Emirates, Qantas and United is 43.2cm while Singapore Airline stakes the gold medal with 48.3cm, but only on its A380-800 and Boeing 777-300 aircraft. 

Skyscanner's guide to the legroom provided in standard economy on long-haul flights:

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The breakdown

Air Canada
Economy: 76.2 to 88.9cm
Premium economy: 94 to 96.5cm
See: Flight test: Air Canada economy

Air China
Economy: 78.7 to 83.8cm
Premium economy: 91.4 to 96.5cm

Air France                 
Economy: 78.7 to 86.4 cm       
Premium economy: 96.5 to 101.6cm

Air New Zealand      
Economy: 78.7 to 88.9cm                      
Premium economy: 104.1 to 106.7cm

British Airways          
Economy: 76.2 to 78.7cm                          
Premium economy: 96.5cm 

Cathy Pacific            
Economy: 81.3cm                                
Premium economy: 96.5 to 101.6cm

China Southern        
Economy: 73.7 to 83.8cm                          
Premium economy: 86.4 to 96.5cm
See: Flight test: China Southern premium economy

Delta Air Lines          
Economy: 78.7 to 88.9cm 
Premium economy: N/A

Emirates                    
Economy: 81.3 to 86.4cm         
Premium economy: N/A
See: Flight test: Emirates economy

Etihad Airways    
Economy: 78.7 to 83.8cm    
Premium economy: N/A
See: Flight test: Etihad economy

Jet Airways    
Economy: 81.3cm  
Premium economy: N/A

Jetstar    
Economy: 73.7 to 76.2cm
Premium economy: N/A

KLM    
Economy: 78.7 to 88.9cm    
Premium economy: N/A

Lufthansa    
Economy: 78.7 to 81.3cm    
Premium economy: 96.5cm

Norwegian    
Economy: 78.7 to 81.3cm    
Premium economy: 116.8cm

Qantas    
Economy: 78.7cm    
Premium economy: 96.5 to 106.7cm
See: Qantas premium economy on Dreamliner revealed

Qatar    
Economy: 78.7 to 83.8cm    
Premium economy: 96.5 to 106.7cm

Scoot    
Economy: 78.7cm    
Premium economy: N/A

Singapore Airlines    
Economy: 78.7 to 86.4 cm  
Premium economy: 96.5cm
See: Singapore Airlines premium economy

Thai Airways    
Economy: 78.7 to 86.4cm  
Premium economy: N/A

Thomas Cook    
Economy: 73.7 to 78.7cm    
Premium economy: 88.9 to 91.4cm

tigerair Australia    
Economy: 73.7 to 78.7cm    
Premium economy: N/A

Turkish Airlines    
Economy: 78.7 to 86.4cm
Premium economy: N/A

Virgin Atlantic    
Economy: 78.7cm    
Premium economy: 96.5cm

Virgin Australia    
Economy: 73.7 to 78.7cm  
Premium economy: 104.1cm

West Jet    
Economy: 78.7 to 96.5cm    
Premium economy: N/A

Range available dependent on aircraft. Data from seatguru.com

See also: Five ways you can get an upgrade on your next flight

See also: The unspoken rules: Who gets the armrest and other air travel dilemmas

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