Your Guide to All Types of Flights

Airlines · 7 min read · Oct 12, 2022
types of flights

Taking an airplane has become one of the most popular means of transport for us nowadays, not only because it is safe and reliable, but also because it saves us a great deal of time. Especially, if we are looking into long intercontinental trips.

However, only a handful of us really pay attention to the types of flights and flight tickets that are available for purchase. So, in this article, let’s learn about different kinds of flights, flight ticket classes and all the important characteristics.

Keep in mind, in this guide we will stick to commercial aviation only as military flight operations are not available as a means of transport to most civilians.

Departure board of an airport.

How many types of flights are there?

Let’s begin by classifying flights by length.

First, we have short-haul flights that usually last anywhere between 30 minutes to 3 hours. However, there has been some controversy regarding the short-haul – usually domestic – flights in Europe and there were multiple suggestions to ban certain routes if they are possible to travel by train in a reasonable amount of time. This short-haul flight controversy has been in the spotlight due to the efforts to minimize the carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions.

Following are the medium-haul flights which take between 3 and 6 hours to complete and the long-haul flights, lasting more than 6 hours.

Now, what about flights in commercial aviation?

Commercial flights

There are seven different types of commercial flights:

  • Scheduled flights (Direct or connecting): These flights are pre-established by airlines and can be booked months in advance.
  • Charter flights: These flights are operated on-demand by travel agencies, businesses, or private persons.
  • Corporate aviation: As the name implies, corporate flights are booked by companies, celebrities to transport a small (usually 6-24) groups of people to their destination.
  • Low-cost flights: These flights exchange luxury cabin experience for lower fares and additional services such as a meal on board come at an additional cost.
  • International flights: Such flights depart and land in two different countries.
  • Intercontinental and transoceanic flights: Similarly to international flights, these flights still usually land in a different country than they originated from, but they cross continents or oceans. Intercontinental flights are usually classified as long haul or ultra long haul flights.
  • Domestic flights: These are flights which do not cross borders to reach the destination airport.Low cost carrier Ryanair's Boeing 737-800 landing at an airport.

As there are seven different types, what are the most popular three among travelers?

Naturally, most people prefer scheduled flights. The majority of travelers plan their time ahead and scheduled flights make that task easy because the passengers can clearly see specific departure dates, times, and the necessary connections.

Among the most popular are, without a doubt, international flights. 48% of people fly for leisure, family or friends, usually to different countries, so international flights fill this demand. Not only is flying is the safest way to travel, but it is also time-efficient, hence many leisure travelers choose to fly to their holiday destinations to get the most out of their time off work.

Last but certainly not least, the third most popular contender is low-cost flights. This type of flight is especially popular among students or work travelers. Low-cost flight tickets can sometimes start at as low as $15, making air travel affordable for frequent travelers who don’t particularly seek luxury. To add, low-cost carriers often offer discounted tickets during holidays or over the summer. But make sure to monitor these discounts closely since they rarely apply for a round trip, so your return flight might be a tad more expensive. In any case, if you are looking for a quick adventure, LCCs are your perfect choice.

People walking at an airport terminal in Amsterdam Schiphol.

Differences among the airline tickets classes

Everyone, who has ever booked flight tickets, knows the headache when you can’t decide between one or two options.

If it is an international flight, do you take the cheaper or the more expensive tickets? What the benefits of choosing a more pricy option? Will it significantly improve the travel experience? On the other hand, if it is a short haul flight, maybe the economy class ticket will suffice? Ticket classes and the add-ons they offer at a varying price range add additional stress when planning your trip.

So, to help you decide what ticket you really need, here are the types of flight tickets explained.

There are four types of airline classes offered on planes:

  • Economy class
  • Premium economy class
  • Business class
  • First class

Price

Of course, the first difference between airline ticket classes are the price. When comparing economy and first class, the change of price is steep, it might sometimes round up to a couple of thousand dollars. However, economy and first differ greatly in the amount of services the passenger is getting, which brings us to the next point.

Boarding passes, a mobile phone and some money on the table.

Comfortability

Moving to the next difference is comfortability. With the price rising, the quality of the seats, more space between them, and the services you receive are better. For example, the economy seat is often not very wide, it is more crowded. Meanwhile, in business class, even if you have to sit with other people, it is usually less crowded than in economy class, and in first class, people usually sit in private cabins, alone or with a pair, with no interruptions from others, which can bring additional comfort and relaxation.

Cabin service

The last difference is the services. The economy class most often does not have complimentary snacks or a TV screen (except for premium economy). Most airlines in business class offer meals for their passengers if the flight is longer, and complimentary snacks if it is shorter. In first-class most airlines offer adjustable seats, blankets, pillows, headphones with noise cancellation, meals and a TV with the most popular films or TV shows. Business and first-class flights are often a good idea for international destinations, as it takes more hours to fly there, and you would want to be as relaxed as you could.

However, note that on long-haul flights all passengers from economy to first class will get complimentary meals, some freebies (headphones or ear plugs) and blankets. Most larger and newer aircraft also have in-flight entertainment systems available for the travelers. There could also be additional services available to all classes, but it often depends what type of airline you’re flying. As a quick example, you can always expect higher standards in cabin experience from legacy airlines.

Passengers sitting in premium economy class cabin.

What you can expect in each class?

Economy class:

Whether it’s called coach, standard, main cabin, or “cattle class,” economy is the most basic class. Seats here are the narrowest, measuring 16 inches to just over 19 inches wide, and the seat pitch, which is the space between one seat and the one in front or behind it, ranges from 30 inches to 34 inches.

In today’s economy, a seat is little more than something to get you from here to there. Some airlines offer free snacks and beverages and in-flight entertainment systems, such as JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines.

Premium economy:

In 1992, Virgin Atlantic introduced the concept of a premium economy. The concept has since been adopted by dozens of airlines. It was once only available on international flights, but now it is widely available on flights within North America.

A slightly more comfortable seat, more legroom, and a comfier price are some of the benefits of premium economy class. Some airlines classify economy and premium economy under premium economy seats are usually physically partitioned on international and some long-haul flights, with added space and sometimes in more desirable locations, such as the front row of the aircraft.

Additionally, it may offer more perks such as complimentary or better food, a larger baggage allowance, and amenity kits than economy class on international flights. Typically, premium economy refers to the “better” seats in an aircraft on domestic flights.  

Types of flights: Economy class cabin seats in an aircraft.

Business:

In business class, you have the best of both worlds. It is the perfect middle ground between coach class and first class. The introduction of business class as an upgrade was due to the deregulation of airlines, before that business class was simply seats reserved for frequent passengers traveling for work.

Today, there is a major difference between economy and business class. Airlines have improved the quality of the latter category so much that some airlines have replaced first class with business class. Others, such as Continental Airlines did in the early 1990s, combined the privileges of business class with the luxuries of first class, which it called BusinessFirst. 

First-class:

The highest ticket upgrade available is first-class, which is a luxurious experience that varies by airline. It is usually the most expensive class of service. The seating in the first-class section is usually more comfortable, and the services are often more extravagant. It is common for celebrities and wealthy passengers to occupy these sections of the plane.

According to Business Class Experts ‘First class, lounges offer a wealth of luxury not seen in regular waiting lounges. From hotel-room-like private suites to take a nap, free spa services such as facials and massages, lounge-to-plane escorts, and world-renowned-chef designed a la cart menus, these top-quality, peaceful havens make a wonderful place to relax while waiting for your flight.

You’ll find the most opulent first-class lounges in major hubs, like New York JFK, Los Angeles LAX, and London Heathrow.’

A man sitting in the first class type of flights and looking through the airplane window.

So which type of flight and ticket should you purchase to reach your destination?

Ultimately, you would have to decide based on your needs. As mentioned before, the business class offers a reasonable middle ground if you plan to be in the air for quite a long time due to the distance of the flight. But economy class will be your best bet if you are looking to save money and simply reach your destination for a short trip. But don’t forget your luggage allowance if you are flying economy, these tickets are often cheaper since you are not permitted to take any additional luggage other than a carry-on.

On the other hand, if you have decided to experience first-class, reservations are recommended in advance since these seats usually fill up quickly and are limited. In addition, it would be wise to research what each airline offers in first class as it varies from carrier to carrier and weigh if the ticket is worth the money.

A man standing at an airport terminal with a passport and boarding pass in hand.

Closing thoughts

There are a lot of aspects to take into consideration when booking your next flight ticket. While a higher price of the ticket might include extra baggage allowance and a more luxurious cabin experience, you have to decide what you are ultimately after. Sometimes an economy class ticket will fulfill all your flying needs for a fraction of the price.

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Eglė Bartaševičiūtė
A passionate traveler and an avid aviation enthusiast bringing you the most well-founded, accurate and up-to-date industry content.

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