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Economy class, also called coach class, steerage, or standard class, (colloquially: Cattle class), is the lowest travel class of seating in air travel, rail travel, and sometimes ferry or maritime travel. Historically, this travel class has been called tourist class on ocean liners and third class, or even fourth class, on railways.
In North America, it is known as coach class by companies such as Amtrak. European railways call it second class. Standard class is used in United Kingdom and Ireland. It has been re-branded in some cases to broaden expectations. In Canada Via Rail now refers to coach as Comfort class. In India, the lowest class of service was branded third class under the British colonial rule. It was re-branded as second class following independence to avoid its former segregationist connotations. Today Indian Railways offers Economy AC-3 also in the same class. In Indonesia, the cheapest class for train is an economy class train and it is the highest percentage of train users in Indonesia for intercity and long distance travel. The economy class coach in Indonesia doesn't have an air conditioner and as the service of PT Kereta Api is developing, PT Kereta Api has launched an economy class coach with air conditioner
Generally economy class seats consists of a seat, sometimes with a fold-down tray, that may recline. The seat may also include a pocket attached to the back of the seat in front for storage of small items such as magazines. Depending on the configuration of the passenger compartment, luggage can be stowed in overhead racks or at each end of the coach cars.
Standard class seating on British intercity trains often includes seating around permanent tables. Power sockets are available and some services offer (chargeable) Wi-Fi Internet access.
North American intercity passenger trains are separated into different coach classes by the type of car (e.g., sleepers). Economy seating on North American passenger trains typically does not include meal service in the fare.
Economy class also exists on some sleeper services, most notably on most Russian Railways routes, which designates the class as "Platzkart", with cars featuring an open 9-bay layout, where each bay has six bunk beds in two tiers — four transversally, and two longitudinally on the opposing side of the aisle, with the lower bunks functioning as seats in daytime. Several European railways also provide similar "coach class" sleeper cars, commonly dubbed Couchette cars. There is a debate, though, whether Platzkart class is a full tier down from the traditional second class/"coupe", or it's just its cheaper variant, as there used to exist an even cheaper "hard bed" class with three-tier bunks and no bedding, which is long since discontinued in Russia, but is still employed in China.
Economy class seats usually recline and have a fold-down table. Seat pitch ranges from 29 to 36 inches (74 to 91 cm), usually 30–32 in (76–81 cm), and 30 to 36 in (76 to 91 cm) for international economy class seats. Domestic economy seat width ranges from 17 to 18.25 in (43.2 to 46.4 cm). Full economy class is usually denoted 'Y' with schedule flexibility, but can be many other letters.
A pocket on the seat in front will contain an airsickness bag, inflight magazine, Duty-Free catalogue and a safety and evacuation card. Depending on the airline, extras might include a blanket, an amenities bag (e.g. ear plugs, toothpaste, eye mask) and headphones. In-flight entertainment in economy class is either a "mainscreen" mounted to the aircraft bulkhead providing the same viewing for all cabin passengers or individual screens for each seat that may show Video on demand. Some low-cost carriers can charge a fee for headphones. But economy standards vary between carriers. Aeroflot, Qantas and Cathay Pacific offer in-flight audio and visual entertainment and meals on both international and selected domestic routes to all passengers, including those in economy, while other airlines such as Transaero may charge an additional fee for the in-flight entertainment.
Availability of food varies too. Some major carriers no longer serve meals in economy for short flights. Meals are now only generally provided on international flights. Some airport vendors have started to offer packaged meals to economy travellers that can be carried on to flights. Low-cost carriers, such as EasyJet and Ryanair, now charge for food and drinks on flights under two hours long. In addition, many carriers also make economy passengers pay for airport check-in, checked bags, pillows, blankets and headphones.
Some airlines have remarketed economy class because of its poor reputation — 'cattle class', 'sardine class' or 'baggage class'. Examples of its renaming include World Traveller from British Airways, the Kingfisher Class from Kingfisher Airlines, Classica by Alitalia, Hospitality/Hospitalité from Air Canada, Fiesta Class by Philippine Airlines, Tourist class at LAN, and Air France's Voyageur.
Perhaps the first cheaper-than-standard airline flights were United's Boeing 247s between San Francisco and Los Angeles (Burbank) in 1940. Their nonstop DC-3s carried full-fare passengers ($18.95 one way) and Boeings flew a couple of two-stop flights each way for $13.90. That ended in 1942, and low fares didn't reappear on scheduled airlines until 1948 when Pan Am started one DC-4 flight a day from New York La Guardia to San Juan with a $75 fare instead of the normal $133. In 1949 a Tourist seat on a Pan Am DC-4 from New York to Rio cost $382 instead of $460 on the standard DC-4 making the same stops.
In late 1948 Capital Airlines started one DC-4 flight each way a day between Chicago and New York La Guardia. Each flight left at 1 AM and stopped for ten minutes at Pittsburgh (Allegheny County). Chicago-NY fare was $29.60 plus 15% federal tax; seats on all other flights cost $44.10 plus tax. Coach flights slowly spread (all domestic flights were one-class, coach or standard, until TWA started two-class 1049Gs in 1955); in 1961 domestic coach passenger-miles for the year exceeded first-class for the first time.
IATA allowed transatlantic tourist fares in summer 1952 — New York to London cost $270 one way instead of $395. In the next few years tourist fares spread around the world.
Premium Economy class
Airlines offer a Premium Economy class to passengers willing to pay more for slightly better seats and, in some cases, better service. These include Alitalia, American Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, British Airways, Virgin Australia, Virgin Atlantic, EVA Air, Qantas, Delta Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Air India (only on A320 Family) and United Airlines, Virgin Australia, Qantas, Virgin Atlantic, and China Southern Airlines.
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- Aircraft cabin
- Airline seat
- Business class
- Economy class syndrome
- First class travel
- First class (aviation)
- IATA class codes
- Wide-body aircraft
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