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Jet Set Goes Back Down To Earth

First-class travel is one of the many perks of an A-list lifestyle.

Surely all of us would turn left if we had the money to do so? But earlier this month, a high-profile Hollywood family stunned fellow passengers when they chose to sit in the economy cabin. Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and their six kids left the private jet at home and instead opted to travel like everyone else.

It's unlikely Brangelina were trying to save cash, but perhaps they were simply keen to find out how the other half lives. Admittedly, their Air France flight from Paris to Nice was short, but it does demonstrate that choosing to fly in a cheaper class no longer implies roughing it.

While business and first-class seats are still considered to be the most profitable, airlines are now upping their game in economy. Last year, Etihad introduced the Economy Smart Seat onboard their Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, featuring more comfortable fixed wing headrests. Other enhancements include noise-cancelling headsets, mood lighting in the cabin and cappuccinos on the meal trolley.

Brad and Angelina might also like to take note of the airline's Flying Nanny service on long-haul flights, with trained hostesses on hand to help look after children.

Families in economy class are also well catered for on Air New Zealand, thanks to their novel SkyCouch offering. The service allows passengers to book a row of three economy seats to create a flexible space for stretching out or using as a play area. Air New Zealand's excellent food menus, spacious seats and even trendy toilets with piped music make it one of the coolest long-haul economy offerings on the market.

Quantas, meanwhile, has chosen to focus its efforts on the in-flight dining experience, increasing the choice of meal options available. New categories include a healthy option, comfort food and a meal inspired by the route itself. The carrier has also introduced serving plates, removing the need for trays, so the crew can serve and clear meals up to 30 minutes faster.

The introduction of WiFi on flights is also set to shape consumers' travel plans. Currently only eight airlines (Emirates, JetBlue, Norwegian, Turkish Airlines, Air China, Philippine Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Nok Air) offer free in-flight WiFi, but those options are set to grow. Visit blog.edreams.com for an excellent list of the different packages currently available on various flights, along with any costs involved.

Of course, comfort priorities differ between individuals, and one way to weigh up the options when booking a flight is to visit comparison sites such as www.seatguru.com, part of the TripAdvisor family. The site features a list of airlines with details of facilities, including the all-important seat width and leg pitch (the amount of space between rows, which is the best indicator of available leg room).

According to the 2014 Skytrax World Airline Awards, Saudi Arabian Airlines is the best all-rounder in economy class, with 34 inches of pitch and Articulated Movement seats, which adjust depending on posture and body movement. With so many facilities on offer, and even celebrities willing to give them a whirl, perhaps 'downgrading' is the new way to travel.

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