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

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Air France's lie-flat seats in first on the A380

Air France’s lie-flat seats in first on the A380

Out of the five carriers that serve JFK-LAX, three airlines, American, Delta, and United, offer fully lie-flat seats on most and soon all of these transcon flights, and one, JetBlue, will begin to offer a lie-flat seat designated Mint in June.  Only one airline with a heavy presence on this route, Virgin America, will continue to operate planes with recliners.

Here’s a guide to the types and nuances of fully lie-flat seats.


Fully lie-flat seats, i.e. those perfectly horizontal to the aircraft’s deck, come in a variety of types. As the reader will soon discover, each has its own unique attributes and some passengers may prefer one type over another.

Forward Facing Fully Lie-Flat Seat

One has to start somewhere, so this is the base model, so to speak.  This model, the fully lie-flat forward-facing seat, when fully reclined, is completely horizontal, resulting in a bed that is fully flat.   All seats face forward and are typically in a 2-2 or 2-2-2 configuration, which means that at least one-third to one-half of passengers do not have direct aisle access.

Examples of these seats include American’s new business-class seats on the Airbus A321T and Qatar Airways’ seats on the Boeing 777-300.

Business-class lie-flat seats on a Qatar 777-300ER

Business-class lie-flat seats on a Qatar 777-300ER

Lufthansa’s new business-class seats fit into this class as well although each seat is slightly angled to its neighbor in a “V” pattern.  Given the shape of the letter “V” and the lack of a substantive divider, some passengers have reported inadvertently having played footsies with their seatmates.  Window seats do not have direct aisle access, and it is hard to climb over the aisle seat when it is extended as a bed.  The seat itself is very comfortable in all positions including as a bed.

Forwards/Backwards Fully Lie- Flat Seat

One type of the forwards/backwards fully lie-flat seat is a variation on the forward facing fully lie-flat seat, where entire rows alternate with one another.  United Airlines’ 777 in business class is a good example of this genre.  Another variant is where aisle seats face forward and the other seats (center and window) face backwards.  British Airways uses this configuration on its 747-400s and 777s.

Passengers in middle and window seats typically do not have direct aisle access in this configuration, which can be an issue at night when everyone’s seat is extended into bed mode.

Click here to continue to Page 6Staggered and Herringbone Lie-Flats and Virgin’s Patent Lawsuit

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