International flights – The best features and benefits

As international travel becomes more accessible for many people, airlines need to find new ways to entice travellers to fly with them. While cost plays an important role in choosing an airline, there are a number of other factors that come into play to. Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood looks at the features and benefits on international flights offered by 10 international airlines.

It can be difficult to compare all aspects of an airlines services, however, for this comparison, we compare the entertainment selection, whether or not Wi-Fi is available on-board the flights, and the luggage weights for both hand luggage and checked-in luggage.

The comparison

The below details are for flights into/out of South Africa for economy class only. Some of the features listed below may be available for business class and higher but not for economy class, which is what is compared here. In some instances, the offering for business class is different, including baggage allowances.

A comparison of some of the features and benefits of 10 international airlines.

A comparison of some of the features and benefits of 10 international airlines.

A comparison of some of the features and benefits of 10 international airlines.

A comparison of some of the features and benefits of 10 international airlines.

Information subject to change, correct as of 3 July 2017.
Most of the airlines include an entertainment offering for children, with cartoons and child friendly shows available.

Who offers the best entertainment?

It is difficult to give a definitive answer to this question without experience all of the entertainment options first hand. However, Emirates is the only airline that advertises up to 2,500 entertainment channels, appearing to offer the most.

All the airlines boost a large selection of up-to-date and relevant TV shows and movies on offer. At the time of writing, Beauty and the Beast (the new live action version) was showing on many of the airlines inflight entertainment offerings.

Wi-Fi offering

Only British Airways and South African Airways appear to not offer Wi-Fi as a standard offering on flights. However, some of the airlines note that Wi-Fi is only available on selected flights and aircrafts, such as Air France and Emirates.

Of the airlines that listed Wi-Fi as an offering, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways highlighted that their Wi-Fi is not free, whereas others allow you some free access and then charge you thereafter.

Virgin Atlantic Airways has two Wi-Fi pricing guides, based on the aircraft you are flying on. On the 787 aircraft there are two Wi-Fi packages available. “Connect to Wi-Fi light for just £4.99 and you’ll have 40MB of data, ideal for those who want to chat to friends, update their social media or spend a little time browsing. If you want to spend more time online, Wi-Fi max for £14.99 includes 150MB of data,” explains the website.

On A330, A340 and 747 aircrafts there are also two Wi-Fi packages available. Virgin Atlantic Airways explains: “The Messaging Pass is just £2.99 for the entire flight. There’s no data cap, but remember this is just for messaging services such as WhatsApp and doesn’t support sending photos and videos. To browse for a continuous hour, Wi-Fi light is £4.99, or for £14.99, Wi-Fi max means you can stay online for the entire flight, and there’s no data cap.”

With Singapore Airlines, inflight connectivity is available on their Airbus A380, A350 and Boeing 777-300ER aircrafts. With regards to the cost of using the Wi-Fi, the airline notes: “Depending on the Wi-Fi service provider and aircraft type of your flight, price plans provided may be either volume-based or time-based sessions.  The price plans will be reflected on the on-board Wi-Fi portal.”

Not all airlines specify whether fees are applicable. So be sure to check beforehand what kind of accessibility you will have and whether there are any costs involved.

Baggage allowances – hand luggage

Hand luggage allowances appear to be standard across most of the airlines, with the weight limited to between 7-10kg, with a handbag or laptop case, plus another hand luggage item being permitted. Emirates is the only airline that states only one hand luggage item is permitted for economy class, as such your handbag or laptop bag would be your only hand luggage item.

British Airways appears to break the mould when it comes to hand luggage restrictions for international flights. While the same dimension restrictions apply to British Airways hand luggage as other airlines (about 40cm x 30cm x 15cm for a handbag/laptop bag, and about 56cm x 45cm x 25cm for an additional bag)* the weight allowance differs considerably. For British Airways flights you are allowed a handbag or laptop bag of 23kg, as well as an additional hand luggage bag at 23kg. While this increased hand luggage weight allowance may appear to be a bonus, you need to remember that you have to be able to lift your bag yourself to place it into the overhead compartment, so a lighter bag may be easier to travel with.

*Check with your airline for the specific dimensions allowed on your flight as these can change slightly from one airline to the next.

Baggage allowances – checked luggage

When it comes to checked luggage, the average weight limit is 23kg, with only one checked bag permitted. You can have more luggage or a heavier suitcase, but you would have to pay for this additional luggage and weight. However, Emirates and Air France allow international passengers two checked bags weighing 23kg.

Qatar Airways has the highest baggage weight allowance of 45kg for flights from Africa, while Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific have baggage allowances of 30kg. Turkish Airlines has the lowest checked-in baggage allowance, with a weight limit of 20kg.

If you are taking an extended trip or have a lot that you need to take with you, Emirates or Air France appear to offer the best benefit when it comes to your checked-in luggage.

Who comes out tops?

Without taking cost into consideration, Air France appears to offer the best benefits overall with Wi-Fi available on some of its aircrafts, as well as offering the benefit of two checked-in bags weighing 23kg each, and hand luggage including a handbag or laptop bag and an additional bag of up to 12kg.

For many, cost will play a significant factor when it comes to booking a plane ticket. You can find flights at a lower price if you book in advance, and remember to shop around for the best deal. If you are looking to travel with a lot of luggage, remember to check the airline’s baggage allowances and factor in any additional costs you may have. If you have to pay for an extra suitcase, it might be cheaper to go with an airline that already allows you to check in two bags.