Transatlantic airline quality

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Transatlantic airline quality


Choosing an airline

Many airlines travel over the Atlantic and charge fairly identical prices for service that is of varying quality. In my experience, the most important factors are seat recline, personal space, and food quality; personal space is closely related to the widely available measure of "pitch", or the measurement from the same position on two seats, one behind the other.

Lately, profitable European airlines are distinguishing from unprofitable North American ones by offering far better service at the same price (or less, given the disparity in additional fees). Also, if your travel includes a connection in the US on any airline other than Continental, prepare to pack food with you or pay for undesirable cold sandwiches.

Here is some information updated as of November 2009 on transatlantic planes of airlines that publish fares to Milano or Torino. The information refers to actual planes, i.e. the operating carrier in case of codeshare.

Operating airline Alliance Seat pitch Economy Seat pitch Economy + Seat pitch Business Comments
American Airlines oneworld 31-32" N/A 60" lie-flat In economy have to pay extra for second bag, wine or beer
Air Canada Star 32-34" N/A 70" flat bed or 58" 777 and a few 767-300 have the new business-class seats
Air France SkyTeam 31" N/A 61" lie-flat Economy very cramped
Alitalia SkyTeam 32" N/A 61"; some lie-flat Often impacted by unannounced wildcat strikes; 767 have lie-flat
British Airways oneworld 31" 38" 73"
flat bed
Economy very cramped. Award winning best business classes over the Atlantic
Continental Star 32-33" N/A 55"; some lie-flat Highest-rated US carrier on this route; 777 have lie-flat seats
Delta/Northwest SkyTeam 31-32" N/A 60"; some lie-flat; some 78" flat bed Sells many codeshares on KLM or Alitalia planes
Iberia oneworld 32" N/A 72"
flat bed
One of the most comfortable business class seats; conversion from 55" lie-flat due by March 2010
KLM SkyTeam 31" N/A 60" lie-flat Economy very cramped
Lufthansa Star 31" N/A 60" lie-flat Economy very cramped
Swiss Star 32" N/A 55-60" lie-flat A340 planes have 60" lie-flat business class seats, A344 are horizontal,
United Airlines Star 32" 36" 55"; some 74" flat bed A few 777 have 55" biz. class (not lie-flat)
US Airways Star 31" N/A 60" lie-flat Sells many codeshare flights on United planes
Virgin Atlantic N/A 31" 38" 79.5" flat bed Must connect in london to bmi or Alitalia
Source: airline websites, Skytrax, and
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