The 2014 Guide to Lie-Flat Seats in First and Business Class

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Recliner seats in first on an American 767-200

Recliner seats in first on an American 767-200

Not surprisingly, airlines have chosen vastly different paths in developing their fully lie-flat seats, largely due in part to cost and in part to the airline’s culture and vibe (yes, some airlines take this into consideration). In choosing a seat, the airline’s managers also have to take into consideration how to fit as many seats as possible into a given space to ensure maximum revenue for the cabin.

Given that a single business-class seat can cost as much as a new car, anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000 per unit, which translates into several million dollars per long-haul aircraft, it’s not surprising that much thought and care goes into the choice and design of seats.  Sometimes carriers buy an existing model, and other times, as was the case recently with American and its 777-200 planes, and earlier with Virgin, the carrier designs its own seat.

An airline also has to go through testing and certification with aviation regulators before the seats can fly.

American's new first-class seats on the A321T

American’s new first-class seats on the A321T

Among U.S. airlines, the move to add fully lie-flat seats to planes has been moving at a frantic pace and there’s genuine innovation going on in the industry.

American is in the process of fully replacing its Boeing 767-200 fleet, used for transcontinental flights linking New York with San Francisco and Los Angeles, with all-new and much smaller Airbus A321s.  The new planes have fully lie-flat seats in first and business and the ones in first are in a 1-1 configuration, giving passengers extreme privacy.  In addition, American recently unveiled its own newly designed business-class seats for its entire 777-200 fleet, which numbers 47 aircraft.

Last month, Delta announced that its entire international wide-body fleet had achieved the milestone of having all lie-flat seats with direct-aisle access, making it the first U.S. carrier to make that claim.

To help travelers understand the difference both in seating and terminology, we at Frequent Business Traveler put together a guide to the types of seats you are likely to encounter in the air.

Click here to continue to Page 3American’s New 777-200 Seats, No More Recliners, and Angle Lie-Flats

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