Lie-Flat Business-Class Seats Go Mainstream: A Guide and Review

By Jonathan Spira on 5 August 2013
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More Flights Than Ever Provide Flat-Out Better Sleep

American Airlines business-class cabin

American Airlines business-class cabin

A little over a year ago, I wrote about my search for lie-flat business-class seats.  More recently, after several dozen flights on Air France, American Airlines, ANA, Delta, Lufthansa, Qatar, and Swiss, I realized that my quest had more or less come to an end.

It wasn’t that long ago that seats that turned into beds were the province of international first-class cabins.  Indeed, the arms race started in 1995 and 1996 when Air France and British Airways introduced seats that converted to fully-flat beds in their respective first-class cabins.  The beds were truly horizontal and parallel to the floor, and were hence referred to as “lie-flat” beds.

Today, not only have lie-flat seats made it into the business-class cabins of many aircraft, but they are also the lightning rod for fierce competition in the premium U.S. transcon market, which is comprised of New York-based flights to and from San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Lie-flat seats on board an ANA Dreamliner

Lie-flat seats on board an ANA Dreamliner

In the roughly 200,000 miles I’ve flown in the past 24 months, I’ve noticed a dramatic increase in the availability of lie-flat seats.  Indeed, I’ve almost come to take them for granted on long-haul flights.

A look at my flying over the past two years is revealing and supports what I believe to be a trend in lie-flat seats across multiple carriers.

In the first year, I was seated in a true lie-flat seat only 29% of the time.  Old-fashioned recliners accounted for 21% of the trips while a combination of near lie-flat (less than full recline) and non-horizontal lie-flats accounted for the rest.

In the most recent 12 months, the figures changed somewhat.  I found myself in a true lie-flat seat 64% of the time, recliners were at 18%, and the combined category of almost lie-flat/non-horizontal lie-flat rang in at 18% as well.

Lufthansa's business-class seat, in bed position

Lufthansa’s business-class seat, in bed position

Fast forward to the most recent six months and the figure for true lie-flat seats rose to 83% while recliners fell to 17% (only on transcon flights) and I encountered no almost lie-flat/non-horizontal lie-flat seats at all.  In other words, every international flight I was on during this period had a true lie-flat seat and that unto itself is somewhat remarkable.

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Memorable flights with true lie-flat beds over the past year include the launch flight from Seattle to Tokyo for ANA’s 787 Dreamliner, American’s launch flight of its new Boeing 777-300ER on the Dallas-São Paulo route, and a newly-refurbished Delta 767-300ER from JFK to LAX that was not only on one of its first flights following the retrofit but was also one of the first flights outfitted with the new Westin Heavenly In Flight Bedding.

Here’s a quick and first-hand look at what I’ve encountered in the course of my travels regarding true lie-flat seats.

Click here to continue to Page 2Air France, American, ANA, Delta, Lufthansa, Qatar, and Swiss

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