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

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Passengers asleep on Virgin Atlantic's herringbone seats on a 747

Passengers asleep on Virgin Atlantic’s herringbone seats on a 747

The benefits of the herringbone arrangement are ample privacy and direct-aisle access for all, but some passengers complain that their seats are narrow and claustrophobic.  In addition, as I found on my first-ever flight in this configuration (on Air Canada), you lean to the side when taking off instead of being pushed back in your seat.   I did enjoy the amount of privacy afforded and had an excellent night’s sleep.

On a side note, Virgin successfully sued Contour, an aircraft seat manufacturer, for having infringed its patent for an airline seat which could be used as a bed.

Fully Lie-Flat Reverse Herringbone

The reverse herringbone layout is another way of utilizing a limited amount of space on a plane. Here window seats face outwards towards the window and center seats face inwards towards each other.

American's business-class cabin on the 777-300ER

American’s business-class cabin on the 777-300ER

You’ll find these on American’s new Boeing 777-300ERs and on Delta’s 747s.

Every seat has direct aisle access and a decent amount of privacy.  On American’s new 777-300ERs, because the airline chose to go with a 1-2-1 configuration on a very wide plane, each passenger has a vast amount of space.  Indeed, at the 2012 news conference announcing the new cabin interiors, an American Airlines executive boasted that the new business-class seating wouls have one of the largest living spaces available in Boeing 777 business-class cabins offered by U.S. airlines.  He wasn’t exaggerating.

Reverse herringbone lie-flat seats may very well be the contender for best business-class seat given the amount of privacy and space provided each passenger as well as the guarantee of direct-aisle access for everyone.

Fully Lie-Flat Suite

While many of the seats covered herein are suite-like in the amount of room provided, they are still far smaller and provide far less overall personal space than the lie-flat seats in first class cabins.

American's Flagship Suite in first class on 777-300ERs

American’s Flagship Suite in first class on 777-300ERs

One of the best current examples of a first-class lie-flat suite is on Emirates Airline on the Airbus A380.  Each suite has a privacy door, a personal mini-bar, and a large wall-mounted flatscreen television.

Just this week, two Gulf-based airlines, Emirates and Etihad, announced plans to launch fully enclosed private bedrooms on their aircraft.   Emirates said the bedroom would go far beyond the pod-like suites it now offers, and Etihad promised passengers a concept it called “The Residence,” an enclosed area with a double bed, an en-suite bathroom, a lounge area, and a butler trained at the London’s Savoy Hotel.

Most first-class suites, of course, are not enclosed and the Flagship Suite on American’s new 777-300ER is representative of the genre. The suite itself is 45” wide, the bed extends to 80”, and there is a separate writing desk and extra-large tray table.  The ottoman, which becomes part of the bed when extended, is large enough for a guest to dine in the suite.

(Photos: Accura Media Group)

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