10 Business Class Seat Types You Need to Know Before Booking Your Next Flight

10 Business Class Seat Types You Need to Know Before Booking Your Next Flight

While I mostly fly in economy class, I was lucky enough to have been able to take a few business class flights over the last couple of years as well. Not only was I able to try the service offered by several different airlines, but I was also able to experience a variety of different business class seat types.

In this article, I decided to briefly introduce all of those (and then some) – in other words all commonly used – business class seat types. I split them into two groups – the four that I consider to be the best and then the rest.

With each, I talk about the pros and cons of the seat type, as well as some of the airlines and aircraft types that you can find the seats on.

Hopefully, this will help you make a decision in case you will have the chance to choose between two different seat types when looking for flights in the future. Just keep in mind that these are the “general” types of seats – and that the details differ (sometimes a lot) from airline to airline.

 

The 4 Best Business Class Seat Types

First, let’s start by looking at the four types of business class seats that I like the most.

They are roughly in the order of my preferences. Just keep in mind that I put suites in the first place based on Qatar Airways’ QSuites. I might still prefer an Apex suite over Delta’s or JetBlue’s suites as those are essentially Vantage staggered seats with doors.

 

1. Business Class Suite

Business Class Suite

By far the seat that I liked the most out of all the business class seats that I flew in so far was Qatar Airways’ QSuite. Not only did the seat offer all the benefits of a staggered seat (I will talk about those further down), but it offered more privacy than almost all other business class seat types do.

Since Qatar Airways’ introduction of QSuite, some other airlines including Delta Air Lines started offering business class suites with doors as well.

All of the currently available business class suites are – as far as I know – based on the staggered seat in one way or another. However, recently British Airways announced that it would start equipping its aircraft with suites as well – and those seem to be based on the reverse herringbone seat.

Qatar Airways QSuites

Pros

  • Same as the pros of staggered seats (see further down)
  • Increased privacy thanks to the door

Cons

  • Same as the cons of staggered seats

Airlines, Types, Routes

Below are some of the airlines, aircraft types, and routes that you might encounter the business class suite on:

  • ”Throne” seats in JetBlue Mint class
  • Qatar Airways’ QSuites on the airline’s select A350s and 777s (read a review)
  • Delta One suites on the airline’s A350s and select 777s
  • British Airways will start offering suites on its A350s and some 777s later this year

 

2. Apex Suite

Apex Suite Business Class Seat

The Apex suite is another excellent type of business class seat with each seat offering direct aisle access.

Unfortunately, there are not many airlines using it because of its fairly large footprint. Just as an example, while Japan Airlines can fit 28 of its reverse herringbone seats between the first two pairs of doors on a 787-9, with Apex suites, it can only fit 24 seats in the same space.

The one thing to keep in mind with the Apex suites, though, is that while the window seats are excellent, the other seats are mediocre. The reason for that is that they have all the drawbacks this type of seat has, yet lack its biggest advantage – privacy.

Japan Airlines Apex Suites

Pros

  • Window-seat privacy equivalent to that of a business class suite
  • Turns into a full-length bed without the need to put your feet in a tiny cubby

Cons

  • Might feel like a “coffin” as it is quite narrow
  • Limited storage options
  • Non-window-seats lack privacy

Airlines, Types, Routes

Below are some of the airlines, aircraft types, and routes that you might encounter the Apex suite on:

  • Some of Japan Airlines’ 787s and 777-300ERs (read a review)
  • Some of Oman Air’s 787s and A330s
  • Korean Air’s 747-8s and 787s

 

3. Reverse Herringbone Seat

Reverse Herringbone Business Class Seat

After the staggered seats I talk about below, reverse herringbone seats are the most popular of the modern long-haul business class seats.

The reason they are called reverse herringbone is because while they are in the same herringbone layout as the regular herringbone seats, rather than facing towards the aisle, they face from the aisle towards the window (or the center of the aircraft for the middle pair).

Without a doubt, the biggest advantage of these seats is the fact that they all offer direct aisle access. And that all of the seats offer basically the same experience – something that staggered seats and Apex suites lack.

While all of the reverse herringbone seats offer roughly the same level of comfort, there are slight differences in the monitor and tray table placements between the different airlines’ seats which can result in different experience.

For example, while JAL has a fixed monitor which can get in your way when you try to sleep, Finnair has a screen that folds – resulting in much greater personal space.

Qatar Airways Reverse Herringbone Cabin on A350

Pros

  • All seats are “created the same”
  • All seats offer direct aisle access
  • Decent level of privacy

Cons

  • Relatively exposed to the aisle compared to staggered seats
  • No seats are “next to each other,” making it a bit difficult to chat if you are traveling with someone
  • Personal space can be a bit limited with some airlines (e.g. JAL)

Airlines, Types, Routes

Below are some of the airlines, aircraft types, and routes that you might encounter the reverse herringbone seat on:

  • Finnair’s A350s (read a review)
  • JAL’s 787s and 777s
  • Air Canada’s 787s and 777s
  • Qatar Airways’ 787s and some A350s (read a review)

 

4. Staggered Seat

Staggered Business Class Seat

Staggered seats are probably the most popular type of modern business class seats, and they basically come in two major models:

  • Stelia Solstys: These seats offer a fair amount of space and alternate between seats being closer to and further away from each other in the middle section
  • Thompson Aero Vantage: These seats fairly limited space and each seat forms a bed together with a foot cubby located between two seat backs in front

All seats on a plane equipped with the Solstys model offer direct aisle access while most of the seats on planes equipped with the Vantage seats offer direct aisle access.

The Solstys seats give passengers the greatest flexibility in terms of choosing a seat as there are solo window seats and aisle seats (by the window, but a bit distant from it), as well as pairs of seats that are both a comfortable distance apart from each other as well as pairs that are right next to each other.

On the other hand, Vantage seats are spaced equally, and so the choice is less varied. However, they come with “throne seats” – seats that have a counter on both sides and don’t have a neighbor.

JAL 767 Staggered Business Class Seats

Pros

  • Most seats offer a fair amount of privacy
  • With some exceptions, offer direct aisle access
  • Solstys seats offer several different types of seats suiting the needs of a wide variety of travelers

Cons

  • Not all Vantage seats offer direct aisle access
  • Vantage seats can be a bit tight and difficult to sleep in
  • Aisle seats of either model are fairly exposed and not as private as window seats

Airlines, Types, Routes

Below are some of the airlines, aircraft types, and routes that you might encounter the staggered seat on:

  • Thai Airways 777-300ERs (read a review)and Emirates A380s are some of the aircraft equipped with Solstys seats
  • Finnair A330s, Austrian Airlines 767s and 777s, and JAL 767s (read a review) are some of the aircraft equipped with Vantage seats

 

Other Business Class Seat Types Worth Knowing

Below are some other business class seat types that you can encounter on a wide variety of airlines. While they are not numbered like those in the first part of this article, they are still roughly in my personal order of preference.

 

Herringbone Seat

Herringbone Business Class Seat

Back when the herringbone seat was introduced by Virgin Atlantic, the seat was revolutionary. It offered all passengers direct aisle access on top of a fully flat bed.

In this configuration, the window seats face into the aisle with the seat back facing the window. And, the middle seats face towards the aisle as well. Because of the arrangement, while the seats offer a full-length sleeping surface, they are quite narrow. In that regard, they are similar to Apex suites.

Since the seats were first introduced, they lost popularity to reverse herringbone and staggered seats which lack some of herringbone seats’ disadvantages and allow for denser configurations.

Air Canada A330 Business Class Herringbone Seats

Pros

  • All seats offer direct aisle access
  • Full-length sleeping surface without a foot cubby
  • Decent amount of privacy

Cons

  • Might feel like a “coffin” as it is quite narrow
  • Limited storage options
  • Even window seats are not really window seats as the seat is facing the aisle

Airlines, Types, Routes

Below are some of the airlines, aircraft types, and routes that you might encounter the herringbone seat on:

  • Most Virgin Atlantic aircraft except for A330-200s
  • All Air New Zealand wide-body aircraft

 

Full-Length Full-Flat Seat

Full-Length Full-Flat Business Class Seat

Full-flat seats not offering direct aisle access were fairly common before airlines started offering staggered and reverse herringbone products. That said, there are still quite a few airlines that use them – even newly installed – as they are (likely) a cheaper and easier to maintain product.

Roughly speaking, there are two different types of full-flat seats that are not staggered and extend to a full-length bed that are common across many airlines:

  • Those with the seat forming only a part of the bed and a separate ottoman forming the rest
  • Those with the seat extending fully into a bed

Personally, I prefer the former, as I find the sleeping surface of those to be sturdier than that of the seats with the leg rest part of the seat “hanging in the air.”

In fact, if you don’t mind less privacy than you would get with staggered and reverse herringbone seats, the full-flat seats with ottoman might be the most comfortable business class beds out there.

Full-Length Full-Flat Business Class Seat on LOT

Pros

  • Full-length sleeping surface without a foot cubby to tuck your feet into
  • Great legroom

Cons

  • Lacks privacy
  • Not all seats offer direct aisle access
  • Depending on airline, might include middle seats

Airlines, Types, Routes

Below are some of the airlines, aircraft types, and routes that you might encounter the full-length full-flat seat on:

  • LOT 787s (read a review), Air India 787s, Xiamen Airlines 787s, and Turkish Airlines 777s (read a review) are among the aircraft equipped with full-flat seats with ottomans
  • Qatar Airways 777s (read a review) and Garuda Indonesia A330s (read a review) are among the aircraft equipped with the “fully extending” full-flat seats

 

Full-Flat Seat with a Foot Cubby

Full-Flat Seat with a Foot Cubby

What I consider to be the worst among full-flat seats are full-flat seats that are staggered in a way, but don’t offer direct aisle access. These are typically installed in a 2-2-2 layout, and they offer airlines higher density than both the full-length full-flat seats, as well as reverse herringbone and staggered seats.

As such, they have all the disadvantages of the older generation full-flat seats that I talk about above. Regardless of the seat you are seated in, you may have a neighbor. And, window seats in this configuration lack direct aisle access.

In addition to that, you have the disadvantage of most staggered and reverse herringbone seats – the small foot cubby where you have to place your feet when the seat is in bed mode.

KLM 777-200ER Business Class Cabin

Pros

  • Fully flat sleeping surface

Cons

  • Lack of privacy
  • Small foot cubby instead of a full-size ottoman or legrest
  • Not all seats offer direct aisle access

Airlines, Types, Routes

Below are some of the airlines, aircraft types, and routes that you might encounter the full-flat seat with a foot cubby on:

  • All Lufthansa wide-body aircraft
  • KLM’s 777s (read a review) and 747s

 

Angle-Flat Seat

Angle-Flat Business Class Seat

Up to this point, all of the seat type mentioned were “full-flat” in other words, they were seat types that – when reclined fully – form a completely flat and level sleeping surface.

As their name suggests, angle-flat seats still feature a (at least in theory) more or less flat sleeping surface. However, the surface is not level – instead, it is at an angle with the part of the seat where you head is being a fair bit higher than the part where your legs are.

These seats are predecessors of full-flat seats, and while they are arguably more comfortable to sleep on than recliner seats, they are nothing to write home about.

Thai Airways A330 Angle-Flat Business Class Seats

Pros

  • Good legroom in seat mode

Cons

  • Not too comfortable to sleep on as you might slide down
  • No direct aisle access for window seats
  • Regardless of the seat you choose, you might have a neighbor
  • In some configurations, might include middle seats

Airlines, Types, Routes

Below are some of the airlines, aircraft types, and routes that you might encounter the angle-flat seat on:

  • Thai Airways, Japan Airlines, ANA, etc. use these seats on some of their (mostly regional) aircraft
  • Some medium- and long-haul low-costs like AirAsia X

 

Recliner Seat

Business Class Recliner Seat

The recliner seat is what all business class seats were just a couple of decades ago, and what can nowadays be found in most short-haul (and sometimes medium-haul) business class cabins all around the world except for Europe.

This type of seat is about as basic as it can get with “real” business class seats . And, while the exact dimensions, etc. vary from airline to airline and even type to type, generally they offer considerably more legroom and width than economy class seats.

These seats are nowhere near as advanced as any of the previously described ones, but they are still perfectly fine for shorter daylight flights. For obvious reason, they are not ideal for sleeping, though.

Xiamen Airlines Business Class Cabin with Recliner Seats

Pros

  • More than comfortable enough to sit on
  • Enough width and legroom for comfortable laptop use

Cons

  • On some aircraft might feature middle seats
  • No direct aisle access for window seats
  • Regardless of the seat you choose, you might have a neighbor
  • Limited recline and so not ideal for flights that you want to sleep on

Airlines, Types, Routes

Below are some of the airlines, aircraft types, and routes that you might encounter the recliner seat on:

  • Business class on narrow-body aircraft of non-European airlines such as Cathay Dragon, Vietnam Airlines, JAL (read a review), and Qantas
  • Domestic business class on Japanese airlines (read a review)
  • Domestic first class on American airlines (read a review)
  • Some medium- and long-haul low-costs like Scoot

 

“Euro-Business” Seat

Euro-Business Class Seat

The last seat to be featured on this list is, in fact, not a real business class seat type. Instead, it is what you will find on the vast majority of intra-European (and even some longer) flights operated by European airlines’ narrow body aircraft.

What you will find on these aircraft is simply an economy class seat with the seat next to yours blocked.

Occasionally, the leg room will be slightly better than in the rear part of the plane, there will be a small drink table between the two occupied seats, or – as was the case on my Iberia flight from Vienna to Madrid – the seats will be economy class seats slightly better than those used in the back of the plane.

Regardless, it’s not exactly the type of seat you want to find yourself in unless necessary. And, it’s certainly not the type of seat you want to pay extra to fly in.

LOT Euro Business Class

Pros

  • Other than having a guaranteed empty seat next to you compared with economy class, none

Cons

  • Standard economy class seat
  • Difficult to use a laptop comfortably

Airlines, Types, Routes

Below are some of the airlines, aircraft types, and routes that you might encounter the “Euro-business” seat on:

  • Pretty much all European airlines use this style of seats on their narrow body aircraft including A320s, 737s, EMB-190s, and so on
  • While all Aeroflot and Turkish Airlines business class seats used to be recliners in the past, nowadays, some of their aircraft are getting equipped with “Euro-business” as well

 

Summary

In many cases, you will have a choice of at least two airlines. While sometimes the price difference or availability might be enough to sway you one way or the other, other times, you might want to consider the type of seat your airline of choice will offer.

As much as possible, I would attempt to choose flights with either business class suites, Apex suites (window seats), staggered seats, or reverse herringbone seats as those offer the maximum amount of privacy and are all fully flat.

Alternatively, if you don’t mind the lack of privacy, I like middle section aisle seats of full-flat seats with ottomans as well. As I find that they offer the most comfort in terms of the bed quality.

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