Have I Been Wrong About Business Class Seats All Along?

Filed Under: Advice

I’m surprised to be saying this, but I think my philosophy on business class seats may be changing.

The evolution of business class seats

We’ve seen quite some evolution with business class seats over time. Years ago the standard business class seat was just a recliner seat.

Ukraine 767 business class

Then angled flat seats were introduced, which were exciting at the time.

Condor 767 business class

Then we saw the introduction of fully flat business class seats.

Kenya Airways 787 business class

And nowadays the gold standard for business class is that seats should be both fully flat and feature direct aisle access.

American 777 business class

I’ve shared what I consider to be the world’s best business class seats, though I’m starting to question myself.

Reader comments recently got me thinking…

I recently wrote about my experience flying Kenya Airways’ 787 from New York to Nairobi. Kenya Airways has standard forward facing fully flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, which you’ll find on many airlines. At the time I wrote the following:

This is a standard fully flat business class seat you’ll find on many airlines, so it’s acceptable but also outdated, with many airlines nowadays having direct aisle access from every seat.

Kenya Airways 787 business class

Several readers left comments about how much they actually like these seats. To give a few examples, Justin said:

I actually really like these increasingly rare traditional lie-flat seats. I love that you don’t have to tuck your feet into a narrow cubby like with reverse herringbone or most staggered configurations. Yeah, you don’t have direct aisle access which sucks if you’re a solo traveller but many of us travel with our partners so that’s not an issue.

QR said:

I agree 100% with @Justin above. Especially as a tall person who also happens to be a side sleeper, I hate (almost) all footwells. This seat seems super roomy for the feet, and ideal if I were traveling to Kenya with someone. And if I was traveling alone, I’d just opt for a seat in the center aisle.

Evan said:

I completely agree with multiple previous posters … all bloggers seem to care about for hard product is direct aisle access, but I prefer these kind of seats to reverse herringbones that have narrow cubbyholes if the seat/mattress comfortable is equal.

I travel business with my wife so it doesnt make a big deal to step over her feet (or vice versa). Maybe its from me being 6’3” but my wife seems to feel the same way.

The more I think about it, the more I think they’re right.

A key thing I’m undervaluing

I love direct aisle access, but in order to make this possible, airlines almost always create tiny footwells in which you have to place your feet when sleeping. This way they can stagger seats, and make it so that the footwell for one seat goes to the side of the seat in front of it.

To me this sometimes almost feels like climbing into a coffin (not that I have any experience with that, but…). I’m then unable to move my feet around, and just generally struggle to get comfortable. I also like to bend my knees a little bit when I sleep, and that’s often not possible with these types of seats.

Probably the worst for these purposes is the “throne seat” you’ll see on some airlines, where the footwell is tiny.

Air Belgium A340 business class

Air Belgium A340 business class

But even other popular seats greatly restrict how you can position your feet. For example, take Austrian’s 767 business class.

Austrian 767 business class

Austrian 767 business class

Even reverse herringbone seats greatly limit your ability to move your knees.

Vietnam Airlines 787 business class

Vietnam Airlines 787 business class

This is probably the reason that Apex Suites are my favorite “generic” business class seat, since they feature direct aisle access and also don’t in any way constrain your legs or feet.

Oman Air A330 business class

Oman Air A330 business class

As much as I hate sleeping next to a stranger, I do find that I typically sleep extremely well when I don’t have to deal with a footwell.

Where does that leave me?

So yeah, I really do prefer seats where your feet aren’t constrained. But I also really don’t like seatmates. This is for a few reasons:

  • I’m usually reviewing flights, and it’s really awkward to take tons of pictures of food, etc., when you’re seated next to someone
  • Typically I’m not on the same schedule as everyone else on the plane, so I feel like I’m disrupting someone if I want to stay awake while they want to sleep
  • There’s just something about sleeping next to a stranger that I find awkward

So here’s what I’m thinking:

  • The more I think about it, the more I think I might just prefer these forward facing 2-2-2 seats when traveling with Ford, even compared to business class products I’ve previously considered better; for example, we had great flights in Turkish’s 777 business class
  • If traveling alone, I don’t think standard forward facing seats are worth avoiding as much as I’ve done in the past; no, sitting next to someone isn’t ideal, but having so much room for your feet is great

Turkish 777 business class

I’m curious where you guys stand — is not having to squeeze your feet into a footwell an undervalued seat feature, or is it not worth giving up privacy for that?

  1. I travel often in Business Class with my family but still prefere to have “solo seat”. Becuase I can for example read or work on laptop when others sleep without feeling bad for them. I also take tones of pictures and sometimes I get strange looks from other peopel. My favorite configuration is 1-2-1 and I always try to pick window seats (A or H)

  2. Hooray I’ve been making this point for a while! The emphasis placed on the holy grail of DIRECT AISLE ACCESS is and has always been misplaced: forward facing J like on Turkish or non-reconfigured QR 77Ws give you a lot of room and a very comfortable sleep

  3. I haven’t yet flown business internationally, but in the last six months I flew business domestically in United’s Dreamliner in a bulkhead row (with my wife), which had a huge amount of foot space, and JetBlue Mint in a throne seat (alone), which has a tiny footwell. I vastly preferred the Dreamliner seat due to the foot space and slept way better. I’d trade aisle access and privacy for comfort anyway tbh.

  4. Apex Suites are amazing, by far my favorite generic business class product. I then like Vantage XL seats that are used on SAS, Qantas, and Delta which have a wider roomier footwell than reverse herringbone. Then forward facing fully flat seats in a 2-2-2 configuration is most of the time better than reverse herringbone, but then you have to deal with a seatmate.

  5. I never quite got the issue of direct aisle access in fully flat business class. In Y or PE it sucks because you need to get up / ask others to get up for you. But with the Kenya/Turkish seat, stepping over your seat mates legs is hardly a problem worth mentioning. If I take a red eye flight, I’d rather take the full flat bed in TK than the reverse herringbone on CX. As for privacy…. we are 300 People in a Metal can. Is it really an issue whether they can see me sleep?

  6. This is why I actually like BA Club World seat. Especially the window seats. A large bed with no space constraints and very private with divider up. I don’t understand all the hate to be honest. Granted the middle seats and to some extent the aisle seats aren’t ideal for solo but great for families of 4 especially.

  7. My wife and I always prefer 2-2-2 when we can talk to each other as opposed to feeling like we’re travelling solo when in reverse herringbones.

  8. We’re kind of to blame here. Bloggers and travel writers constantly harp on things like direct-aisle access for all, creating an arms race among airlines to update their product to meet our demands. There’s only so much room on planes, and something has to give…if we want all these features, they’re going to have to take away room from the seat to make it happen.

  9. Flying mostly HKG-US in business, I most prefer ANA staggered seats, then UA real Polaris seats. I actually prefer staggered over herringbone, for the real windows seat and the excellent privacy. I don’t mind being “confined”; I actually like it. That’s partly why I’d avoid AC herringbone seats.

    That said, I’d try very hard to avoid UA 2-2-2 or 2-4-2 seats, even if it means making a stop (probably NRT).

  10. But then again, not all seats without all aisle access have great knee-room either. I feel like the Rockwell Collins Parallel Diamond business class seats found on most of United’s long haul aircraft or on American’s 757s have footwells even smaller than reverse herringbone or staggered seats. Since the foot cubbies are tiny, sleeping is uncomfortable for taller people and you also don’t have much knee room. Overall, it’s not like all seats without all aisle access have great knee room either.

  11. Let’s draw the line here: 2-2-2 lie flat is acceptable, 2-3-2 like EK and TK is just disgraceful! And angle flat for medium hauls or below only.

  12. Agree and another good write up.

    Travelling solo and its RH all the way, there is no way im sitting next to someone.

    Travelling with a partner and its 100% honeymoon seating or 2x. Partner cant be a work colleague though or anyone like that, then it reverts to solo travel style.

  13. So how would you rank Qatar’s Qsuite, Etihad, and Emirates business class? Compared to other airlines is it’s footwell small or large?

  14. Thank you. This is what I’ve always been saying — about Qatar vs BA, etc. The foot hole is so claustrophobic. I’d rather have a Club World seat than one where I have to have my feet in the hole, like an MRI.

    And when you say BA First, with its open area, isn’t as good as QR — that’s absurd to me.

  15. Umm, sure as the fairly small proportion of leisure business class travelers, this might be the conclusion.

    But for business traveler at the big corporate customers, these high value airline customers hugely prefer privacy and direct aisle access, which is why airlines have invested in them. The only factor that ranks more highly is convenience/nonstop, which is why BA can get away without these things.

    We maybe travel once or twice a year with partners or family in business class vs 20-40 times a year alone, and the fare we pay traveling for business is easily double or triple the price. So for most of us flying business class on prime routes, reverse herringbone is still the winner.

  16. For me it is simple. I care not about food, drinks and IFE. I fly BC for the seat only. And I value the seats in which I sleep best. From experience, that is for me KL, TK, QR, ET and GA.

  17. I strongly value direct aisle access.
    As someone flying for work, I usually travel solo, and I hate if I have to sit next to a stranger.
    I think people who say they don’t care about direct aisle access because they travel with family/friends are mostly leisure travelers.
    I’m going to argue that most frequent flyers who fly for work, usually solo or with coworkers/bosses, prefer having solo seats with direct aisle access.
    Design for business class seats should primarily focus on business travelers’ needs/wants and not leisure travelers.

  18. Exactly the reason i find Solstys seats (Iberia, Alitalia etc.) the best business class seats out there, with the exception of Qsuites. They offer both direct aisle access and a reasonably big footwell. The bed is also wide and comfy enough. I consistently get amazing sleep in these seats, much better than in reverse herringbone.

  19. My preference to the seat type will definitely depend on whether I am flying solo or with company. If I am alone then I seek direct aisle access which I value more than wider foot wells.
    That said, on a recent flight on MH’s A350, I tried both the throne seat as well as the true window seat on the A side on two separate legs! Hands down, the true window seat felt much more spacious and less restrictive at the feet than the very sought after throne seat did! I would definitely be choosing the former on future trips!

  20. I’ve always commented on your business class seat reviews how much better 2-2-2 is. If you need an aisle seat, no problem. 66 % of the seats are aisles with direct access. The middles no one jumps over anyone. The sides are for couples. Something for everyone. The freedom of movement while I’m seated is more important than direct aisle access. I step over someone on Turkish easily without even scraping them. TK/QR seats feel like first class to me , especially when I’m seated in the middle. I hate DL/OS/AA 767. Their seats suck and are technically 8 across. Very narrow. Very uncomfortable. The other big issue with Reverse Herringbone is the location of the monitor. It’s usually WAY too close. I love lounging on TK /UA with their beautiful HD monitors far away like I’m on my couch. One more is in-between lie fat and upright. 2-2-2 usually has unlimited configurations. Herringbones need to squeeze you into the seat in front of you a certain way so you can’t customize your position as much. The new DL suites suck. You sit way to close to that bright heat emitting display.

    My favorite new business class seat is Emirates 777-200LR that runs from FLL-DXB. That is pure luxury and space. They did a perfect job.

  21. To me, any J seat is better than Y, with maybe the exception of a J seat in AA’s 737MAX.

    I’ve flown JetBlue’s Mint Suite several times and agree that foot space is tight (I’m 6’3” tall with size 12 shoes. Of course, MRIs don’t bother me either so personally I love the privacy.

    Last year, our family of 4 flew on Delta One in the A330 with all reverse herringbone window seats. No one complained at all though communication between us was limited. Again, better than cattle class!

  22. I know the DL /OS /AA 767 Herringbones. I just realize read my post and realized how it sounds. Reverse Herringbone is better than those 767-A330 seats

  23. Ehh its just totally subjective. Im 6’4 with size 12 feet and I still prefer direct aisle access. It might be because I tend to fly the same airlines over and over again and know what I’m getting into, but for me and the flights I take, I will seek out the flight with the staggered direct aisles access seats and a small footwell over the forward facing 2-2-2 seats. It also boils down to service as I hate the way service is handled (the timing really) on the airline with 2-2-2. I can never get a good night’s rest with them.

    I also travel alone a lot and hate stepping over another traveler.

    So I dont think its a one size fits all. You can have your opinion, and others will disagree. Doesn’t mean anyone is more correct than the others.

  24. Totally agree. I’ve long argued that my favorite business class seat is the old Air China A330 seats similar to the pic you provided with the Turkish Airlines

  25. First time I flew Delta One I was really disappointed about the footwells which I’ve never got used to and increasingly dislike. My other dislike on biz classes are those where the seats / dividing spaces are low and I can (shock) see other people! Business class where I’m not constrained in movement and where I feel like it’s only me and the crew are my favorite

  26. Very good article. Must agree about the foot constraint thing, and I’ve heard many great things about Turkish Airlines sera and soft product. However, another consideration (and one that I think is even more important) is how well padded the seat is. Unfortunately, the best padded seats seem to be recliner seats and these are not suitable for long haul flights, and most often are not found on long haul flights. In addition, many reviewers do not comment on the padding of the seat (unlike yourself) which is frustrating. But maybe that’s something you can focus on in the future. 😀

  27. I agree about the footrest. I find it hard to sleep when my legs are cramped and hard to turn around on seat in full flat mode. The biggest issue on staggered or herringbone seats. If you want a direct access, then middle two seats are good on the 2-2-2 business. Also, you are not next to someone because usually there is a divider and the distance is a lot more than the window seats. This is partly why I miss QR’s old business on 777 because it had so much more room for each seat. It had much better sleep on those aircraft than the current q-suite or herringbone on A350.

  28. I’m 6’3″, wear a size 44 jacket (translate as wide shoulders) and size 13 shoes. The only 1-2-1 configurations I enjoyed from a height, width and foot room perspective were EK’s A380 and SQ’s A350-900 (love the fold-down seat back). Some of the other staggered 1-2-1 designs like SN’s A330-200, -300 and LX’s A330-300 are next best while all the herringbone designs (including DL’s One Delta and UA’s Polaris) are a tight squeeze for me.

    That said, if I’m in a window seat, 2-2-2 isn’t a big deal for as my leg’s are long enough to step over an aisle seat mate without waking them. 2-3-2 is a bummer, but still not a bad as 2-3 you see on some medium haul narrow body routes (I’m talking about you SA on your NBO-JNB flight).

    To echo one of the other commenters, all of these designs are better than Economy. I also need to fit within a budget and I travel from DEN, an airport with limited international options. So while I have preferences, for 9 out of 10 trips, my choice is dictated by price or schedule and not by which aircraft configuration I prefer.

  29. Agree with @JL. I fly solo and would seriously reconsider paying the premium for J to have some stranger crawling over me and/or worse snoring next to me all flight. It’s way too much coziness. And six across instead of four? Fifty percent more people in J? How does that math work out? Just because you perceive your feet have more space with that design, what about the rest of your body? And storage?

  30. I actually rather enjoyed the angled seats on an old Thai 777-200 that was swapped in for a 787-8. Granted, I was sick with food poisoning, but the seat was well padded and there was no foot well garbage. My feet had unlimited room! The angle was annoying (as was the snoring man across the aisle), but I slept better than in a delta one suite a week earlier.

  31. So, why not go back to the “classic” 2-2-2 business class configuration with a few contemporary and updated tweaks that reflects the evolution of the intra-cabin/class segmentation approach that features the industry’s a la carte pricing models in other classes that in biz class guarantees direct aisle access for the middle pair regardless of seat, and then do as is done in the back of the plane where the “better”, and more prized seats require payment of an addirional fee or a higher fare category in order for one to purchase guaranteed aisle access seats that do not require having another passenger ask one to get up, or for them to step over another person as the other aisle seats for the “aisle/window pair” will, cost more be it via the fare code that will automatically restrict advance seat selection to seats other than the coveted middle pair, or of course, payment of an additional ancillary fee for the guaranteed aisle access/no disruption by other passengers getting up to use the loo/go to the bar/snack bar for those more desirable seats?

    Just as elsewhere in other classes, certain higher fare categories could offer blanket advanc seat selection, while lower, more more restrictive fares only allows for seats other than the middle pair with all aisle access and other privacy enhancements/perks/options.

    Or of course, there might also be the wildcard option of you’ll get what we give you and you’ll like it for an even lower, more restrictive fare category – say “Biz Class Lite” where a person is guaranteed a lie flat biz class seat, but won’t find out their seat assingment until airport check in!

    The issue of privacy can be easily solved with a divider (and/or even a “door” for the middle pair on either side to make those seats that much more worthwhile to justify an additional fee [or higher fare category]) anyway for those who value privacy in additon to a lie flat seat to sleep.

    And then maybe the need for those small, and largely undesirable, coffin-like footwells becomes less necessary as the additional fares/fees paid by those who value privacy and undisturbed, direct aisle access can offset the other economic trade-offs required for airlines to pack in as many “all aisle access” seats as possible in the pointy end of the plane that has caused the scourge of those confining footwells to proliferate as much as they have.

    After all, why should those who fly with companions, friends, colleagues and family members who don’t necessarily face the prospect of asking the favor or a stranger seated beside them to get up so they can use the loo, or to step over a stranger while they’re sleeping – or for whom absolute privacy and islolation from others when they fly isn’t nearly as much of an issue as it is for some, have to both pay the price in terms of comfort with those teensy weensy footwells that prevent most from sleeping in their favorite positions?

    Or of course, have to subsidize the personal needs and preferences of a handful of high maintenance divas who, and paraphrasing what another poster above notes, expects a private jet like ambiance of private McMansions … er suites … all while hurtling through the sky aboard an airplane with hundreds of others?

    Maybe it’s time to introduce the same type of “dynamic pricing” and ancillary fee based availability for guaranteed all aisle and undisturbed by one’s neighbor, privacy business class seats versus those that lack those more exclusive inflight experience options and perks that others don’t value as much or don’t even want/need at all?

    After all, why should those who neither want nor need these privacy and convenience enhancements/perks/options pay for/subsidize those who do?

    Just sayin’ 😉

  32. Actually there is one other factor you haven’t mentioned. I choose window seats because I like the view. In order to see anything, you need a seat that doesn’t block the window and isn’t oriented at an angle that makes you crane your neck around 120 degrees to look. Most of the reverse herringbone seats are pretty bad for this. Virgin’s seats with your back toward the window are the worst. The best seats for window views are the ones that aren’t angled and are right up against the windows. The 2-2-2 lie-flats in Kenya Airways 788, LOT 788, China Eastern A332, etc are great for this. The Delta One legacy 1-2-1 (non herringbone) seats on their 767 fleet were great as well, especially the alternate rows that we’re closest to the window. I haven’t flown United’s new Polaris suites, but the window seats look very good for this as well, and you don’t have to trade off aisle access

  33. Direct aisle access is huge. Long haul flights = lav breaks. I don’t want the discourtesy of waking someone if I can avoid it.

  34. I dont know. It matters that you sit upfront and can catch sleep. If that´s the one or the other type of layout, seriously, who cares as long as you´re not sitting in economy. But then again talking about footwells: I`ve seen premium economy seats that seem to have a more comfy foot situation than certain business class seats…

  35. I think the next revelation bloggers need to have is that redeeming Chase points directly for non-chain hotels is actually a good redemption. The experience of staying at a local boutique hotel over a chain can be incredible.

    No, you aren’t receiving 4.5cpp or whatever that you would get if you were to redeem at the Park Hyatt X. BUT the value of experiences can’t be quantified and luxury boutique hotels can offer some pretty amazing experiences over the generic luxury of the chain hotels.

  36. We’ve only flown international J on 3 products, and we felt the QR 2-2-2 777s were under-rated, even given my wife’s high value for direct aisle access. She liked it better than the reverse herringbone. That said, we’re looking forward to QR suites sometime soon as maybe the best of both privacy and space.

  37. Window seats don’t matter on long haul. Everyone usually closes the shade. I would never be the A- hole ruining Eveyone else’s sleep so I can see the same thing for 10 hours

  38. Had the same realization after flying TK 777. Seats feel wider and kneeroom is virtually unlimited. As a solo flyer, the aisles seats in the middle are fine, even in the 2-3-2 config, since, in my experience, the middle seat is normally occupied by a half of a couple, or something akin. I ask you, Lucky, where that leaves QSuites? Do you still think they are better than a window Apex Suite in the upper deck of a 748? Love the blog, keep up the good work!

  39. Traveling with my wife, I don’t require aisle access (she can have the window) so I don’t mind the 2-2-2 and do like the extra knee space afforded by forward facing seats like Apex and the KLM et. al. seats. If we have reverse herringbone though, we typically book two window seats.

    AA manages to give a good footwell on the 789 window seats.

  40. AC’s old herringbone configuration is great for this. Direct aisle access without constraining your feet, and having privacy for your head.

  41. HU has the same seats on their 787-8 on 2-2-2 and I sat next to someone from Changsha to LAX and it actually was fine. The woman sitting next to me has no trouble getting out when she needed to use the bathroom and I didn’t feel any problems and were separated by a large middle area and even Little divider to can put up (though not really accomplished much). So this idea that a seatmate is the end of the world just isn’t so. Especially on these seats. But I would agree they are very comfortable and don’t restrict your feet (especially with HU bedding).

  42. Welcome to the dark side, Lucky!

    I wondered if marital bliss would change your mind.

    I too like the forward facing designs better because I travel mostly as a couple and i sleep far better in the forward facing designs

    If I traveled solo in a 2-2-2 and was worried about it, I’d just take a center aisle seat. You get direct aisle acces, with nobody climbing over you

    As others have said, nothing is perfect for everyone.

    I’m happy because your future reviews can be a bit more nuanced and helpful for couples

  43. Reasons why JAL ranks top on my list. Large boxed foot compartment (very important to me). Money seats are the window ones, and all come w direct aisle access.

  44. I’m 6’0″ with long legs, and I find the footwells a very mixed bag. A few extra inches of space can make a HUGE difference.

    For example, on the (slightly older) AA 777-300/Cathay-style 1-2-1 seats, I’ve always been fine. But on the very similar, slightly newer and sleeker AA 1-2-1 seats (e.g. on the 787, I believe, and some 777-200’s), I found sleeping in them very uncomfortable…the footwell felt cramped, and the tray table was also an issue: it never completely retracts, so it limits leg space and I can’t bend my knees while sleeping.

    On the whole, I think I’d rather have a bit more space to wriggle around in and get comfortable, even if I’m sitting/sleeping next to a stranger. The gold standard, of course, would definitely be privacy AND space.

  45. I travel everywhere and have been on most carriers over the last 15 years. In my experience most business class travelers are exactly that and not traveling with someone. Myself, I prefer flying into somewhere early AM, clean up and hit my meetings ASAP. I hate being disturbed as I just want to sleep. Having a partner makes that more difficult (snoring, talking, squirming, lights on, etc.) 1×2×1 I’m in a window. 2×2×2 I’m in the middle. And no I am not switching seats so you can talk to someone.

  46. I just flew Korean Air business class in a 777-300 with the 2-2-2 configuration. The outside seat were staggered to deliver aisle access, and you had plenty of foot room. Seems like the ideal solution. All seats had motorized privacy risers which helped provide privacy. A nice flight.

  47. Everyone’s got a preference so pick the plane and seat that is in line with that and you’ll be fine. I personally don’t mind my feet around at all so don’t mind the foot wells and I’m 5’11” but I have friends that do move more so they like more room at their feet. Privacy and aisle access with a view out the window are my ideal and I almost always find those flights so I’m good but I would never want to deprive others of options they prefer.

  48. 4D on Lufthansa’s 747-400s. A seat by itself in the front of the lower deck with aisle access both sides and a high partition on the right side. Oodles of leg room.

  49. I’m not disturbed by neighbours. Good quality sleep is the only factor that matters to me when choosing a premium product. I always sleep best on the forward facing 2-2-2 configuration with the ottoman. I also take the inside seat since I’m tall enough to jump over my neighbour. I’m not a fan of the herringbone configuration due to the confined nature. Aside from the bed, nothing else really matters to me because I rarely dine onboard and I don’t drink alcohol during flying. The best service is one where I’m not disturbed.

  50. Reverse herringbone are the worst of all seats for me. I’ve always been baffled as to why people enjoy them. They feel cramped and awkward to me and simply not comfortable. Herringbone seats were never created with passenger comfort in mind, they were created to sardine people into tight spaces.

    I prefer vertically any configuration over herringbone or reverse herringbone.

  51. Yes, you have been wrong about this for a very very long time!!. You still write the best travel blogs online, so I ignore things that do not resonate ;-).

    Perhaps it’s time for you to travel in Y internationally, better yet on an round the world trip to re-adjust your “world”….little resets in our reality never hurt, and it would make for an awesome review. Take Ford, then at least it will make it more bearable.

    Princess Diana use to fly in Y to show her sons how the masses traveled.

  52. At last.

    The single most important issue is not having a tiny cubby hole for my feet. If I want direct aisle access, 80% of seats have it but there’s no remedy for an impossibly cramped footwell.

  53. That’s why some people didn’t want Qantas to switch their A380’s from 2-2-2 fully flat to the vantage XL

  54. I’ve flown many different biz class seats for work over the past decade+ along with Lufthansa, Thai, and Singapore F a couple times. I was completely underwhelmed when I finally flew AA and Cathay herringbone after hearing all the blogger hype. I found the seats rather hard and not all that comfortable on 15+ hour flights. In contrast, one of the best sleeping seats that I ever had was the old Virgin Australia 2-2-2 business class on the 777 (circa 2014). The mattress and bedding was so comfortable – no gaps felt – that I slept like 10 hrs in my VA pajamas.

  55. I’m 6’5 and usually a side sleeper. I just completed a 787-9 on Aeromexico and the seat is great except the footwells. On the way down to EZE i dstayed up and didn’t care. But on the return redeye, I needed to sleep since I had a 13 hour layover to explore MEX. The foot well was better than others but still very uncomfortable and tried to sleep with my legs out of the wells. Wasn’t great. I eventually just had the seat in a recliner position. So if and when they can solve this issue (like the 747-4 combi KLM bulkheads) then I think we will have it the sweet spot. Otherwise ample foot areas are key for me!

  56. As a solo traveler I prefer a solo window seat. Because I like to have a window when we’re on the ground. I am also short so the footwells don’t bother me. If it’s an old 2-2-2 config I choose the center section so no one climbs over me and because I typically get up several times in a flight. I much prefer the privacy of my own little pod

  57. Reasons being:

    1) you only fly business or first so you’ve gotten way too used to it and have more reasons to criticise, us mortals who fly coach and business are thankful and happy with most business class seats, whichever one it be

    2) you often fly alone, which most of us don’t, hence why you find direct aisle access so valuable

    Im glad you’re finally seeing the light!

  58. Yes those centre throne seats have very tight foot areas… But I nearly always travel alone and always choose window seats so the dire t aisle access of the 2-2-2 arrangements in the centre seats doesn’t come into it… So for me the lack of having to do the seat acrobatics over the stranger next to me when I want to go to the toilet or stretch my legs makes direct aisle access very appealing… I am also a light sleeper and might ask up several times a night or toss and turn.. I can often decide to watch a movie or call the the FAs and ask for some snacks or a meal which means more light, noise and talking so if I have a seat partner I don’t know that’s more issues to bother them… I might also like to open the window a crack to look out periodically so again more potential disruption for them and making me feel a bit guilty… On the flights I have sat 2-2-2 I can usually get on pretty well with the person next to me/have a chat so not a huge problem/disaster but I much prefer to be able to do my own thing in my somewhat private/own seat if it does mean it’s a bit narrow…

  59. This is why I can’t believe the herringbone seat (Virgin upper class, Air New Zealand etc) goes so underappreciated, it offers the best of both worlds, direct aisle access and unrestricted foot space, yet people don’t like it because it faces away from the window. so, what would the best (realistic) business class product be?

  60. I just returned from a delightful trip on Air Italy from Milan to JFK. The seats were SO roomy. I had a window seat, so not direct aisle access, but that was more than made up for by the spaciousness of my “area.” I expected a good ride based on Ben’s review, and Air Italy did not disappoint.

  61. FINALLY!
    I always thought that reverse herringbone seats were really tight.
    Since I’m used to fly longhaul in Y, I don’t really mind the “lack of privacy” or having direct aisle access from every seat.
    To have a good sleep, forward facing 2-2-2, Solstys seats and Apex Suites are the best.

  62. I am disappointed with the many variations/improvements in Business Class seating from a different perspective – the constant ‘upgrades’ to business is leading to a decline in the amount of First Class being offered. More and more airlines are dropping First Class in favour of more compact but updated Business Classes. As more of the new long-range aircraft are brought into use, the less number of flights offering First are operating…….so disappointing.

  63. Perhaps this calls for a Wiki like post on footwells…a huge issue for me…side sleeper with 13 shoes. I just flew SQ A350 and showed up three hours early for the flight just to ask for a bulkhead seat. Same with Delta 767’s…bulkhead seat are the best. Hard to sleep when your feet/legs are cramped.

  64. Good lord this was so obvious I kind of just stopped reading all the breathless stuff about the reverse herringbone seats. Those tiny footwells are the worst. Give me a roomy straight-ahead facing seat any time.

    I’m actually sad that Qatar (for instance) is removing its 2-2-2 configurations.

  65. I could see why someone might want the 2-2 with a partner for their honeymoon or if you were traveling with someone who is nervous flying, but I still prefer the reverse herringbone. Some have more room than others. Air France’s reverse herringbone seat on their 777 was excellent – I had plenty of room and I’m 6’5″ with 15 shoe size.

  66. After hearing all the hate on BA Club World, I was pleasantly surprised to try it this summer on the window upper deck on the A380. Private, plenty of space, and no cubby for the feet. Had a better sleep than the AC Dreamliner flight on the outbound.

  67. Having flown quite a few types of C seats over time the best in terms of sleeping for me are the Apex Suites. I also slept well in Reverse Herringbone seats like the one EVA Air uses.

    As Oman Air also uses some leased planes from Kenya Airways with the mentioned 2-2-2 old fashioned seats I was very disappointed at first when they swapped the Apex 789/787 to the Kenya 788. As I fly mostly as a solo traveler and prefer window seats, sitting next to a stranger and having to climb over someone felt like a bummer. Surprisingly I slept very well on those seats because they are quite long and the foot rest is large. The following times I faced these seats I somehow learned to like them. And for flying with your better half I would even call them quite nice.

    In my opinion the worst seats are found at LH. The towards angled seats with the small foot rest where one is almost forced to play footsie with your seatmate are on my no-fly list.

  68. OK this is going to sound crazy but the most comfortable seat I recall sleeping on is Malaysia Airlines’ A380 2-2-2. It’s big and clunky looking, very open and not very cost but it sure was comfortable in bed mode (even with slight downward angle from knees down).

    While I love the look and feel of Vantage XL on QANTAS, any seat with a footwell does make sleeping more difficult – I just hate my feel rubbing against the hard plastic.

    I also find a lot of 1-2-1 seats too narrow around the shoulders again making sleep far less likely – this is sadly the case with MH’s new Vantage business class seat.

  69. I’m probably in the minority on this one, but truth be told, I’d sleep in a pod on the airplane if it meant a lie flat seat for a decent price. Skip the food and service, I can bring better food on the airplane if I want then they’ll ever serve save for the best 1st class.

  70. Privacy is perceived security is most important to me getting sleep. I find that I have difficulty sleeping when in a 2-2-2 or 2-2 configuration and there is a person in the window seat. In the back of my mind I’m always worried about if that person might get up or touch anything in my storage overnight. These may be personal concerns but I prefer all-aisle access even at 6′ 2″.

  71. I agree with many others here – I only fly biz with my wife, so the 2-2-2 is perfect for us – Turkish being a great example. The “unlimited” footwell plus handy storage locker under the footwell were great when traveling with a partner.

  72. 1-2-1 is my favorite business config – I like being by the window and having aisle access. I wear size 8 shoes so the footwell is not an issue for me. The herringbone config (like on Air New Zealand) is a good compromise, in that it offers aisle access and no footwell.

  73. I get the feeling that there is a consensus among bloggers that reverse herringbone > staggered > standard 2-2-2 lie flat. But, as the comments show, it really is a matter of taste and there’s no objective right or wrong. Last year I flew EVA (reverse herringbone) on an outbound and Asiana (staggered) on a return Trans-Pacific flight. Because of all the hullabaloo about reverse herringbone being the gold-standard for long-haul business class, I felt perplexed when I ended up preferring the staggered.

  74. I think the Apex suites on JAL and Korean are the best right now. aisle access full width footwells. And the middle 2 are honeymoon style, although you still feel a little isolated with the high divider, even with the privacy screen down.

    And while I didn’t have a problem with the previous Singapore weird small footwells, I can see why tall people didn’t like them. The superwide seat and service were nice.

    That being said, I liked the reverse herringbone on Cathay and EVA. maybe it was the good food and wine that helped me not notice the limited foot space.

  75. I agree with Tony. I like single seats on long-haul flights because I don’t want to bother the other person in the row and don’t want to be disturbed, But, I would rather be disturbed than to disturb. Also, in general, I travel alone and don’t like people. But I dislike disturbing people more than I don’t like people.

    I suppose, however, one of the two middle seats could provide direct aisle access and at least some partition between two strangers.



  76. @Lucky —> As a solo business traveler, I would prefer a more private seat — that’s generally a reverse herringbone seat next to the window with direct aisle access…just as you have preferred all along. This is especially true in domestic J (which is really billed as F), in which I rarely need to sleep.

    But guess what: I rarely travel nowadays for business, unless I’m accompanying my wife on one of *her* business trips, and her trips are always domestic, as she is either attending, or speaking at, a legal conference. Same thing: it’s never a red-eye; there’s no real need to sleep; and all I really need to do is be comfortable and watch a movie while she’s going through her presentation.

    Overwhelmingly these days, when I’m flying in J/F it is *with* my wife. Twice, and up to four times, a year, it’s for her business. Any and every other time, it’s on vacation — whether it’s a weekend getaway or 2-3 weeks in Europe. And since we are traveling *together*, sitting next to her, being able to have a conversation with her, even holding her hand — these are all things we treasure, and things which cannot be done today in more “highly prized” layouts in J/F. This is where sitting side-by-side is far more preferable than a configuration where there is an immovable partition between us, or some other way in which we basically cannot see each other at all while flying SFO-JFK, or JFK-MAD, etc.

    2-2 layouts in domestic F are great! Jet Blue’s MINT is outstanding but the opportunities for taking advantage of MINT is limited when departing out of SFO, but we try to take advantage of it where and when we can. Usually we fly 2-2 on (ex-)VX metal…yes, AS is reconfiguring their F cabins, and they’ve already “butchered and stripped” the RED IFE system, but even so, F on an “AS” (ex-VX) A320 is still preferable than on an AS 737…

  77. I have to agree with Josh, that the chance to look out the window is a deal breaker for me. My wife and I only fly once or twice a year, always in Y, so search for flights with seat pairs next to the window (essentially we look for A330 or upstairs on A380) and recently gave up an exit row pair when we realised there was no window. The one time we were upgraded to J on old Qatar 2-2-2 config A330 we really appreciated the ample space and the chance to sit together and share the experience. I’d go for these over reverse herringbone for that reason, but love reading all your reviews, Lucky, no matter what seat!

  78. Also another part of the fun of flying is watching everything going on around you, something I imagine would be difficult with suites with doors!

  79. Its all about the footwell space! I have been riding that soapbox for years now and people think i’m crazy but it makes a HUGE difference if you just want a nice 9 hour sleep.

  80. @GR Downtown

    As far as I know beside Oman Air JAL and Korean Air also have Apex Suites on some of their planes. Korean Air even uses the Apex Suites as F seats on their 787 ( both F and C seats are the same there).

  81. I’m not understanding this obsession with the foot space. 5’10” and size 10 shoes. I’ve never had a problem with this on any configuration. I’m imagining people with very large feet flailing their legs around all night.

  82. @Brian – Same size shoes as yours but I prefer sleeping on my side. The foot-wells are typically not wide enough for the feet sideways.

  83. My wife and I once canceled revenue J Emirates tickets for turkish business class because we actually prefer it. In Emirates first it’s hard to have a conversation and since we are those horrid people who take a small army of children with us in first class, it’s actually really hard to do anything.

  84. Great article, you again hit the spot. I never understood the points against the old layout of QR 777 Business class. With its 2-2-2 configuration, it is really spacious and you simply can stretch out your legs without folding them away. Fellow-passengers are at a fair distance and when traveling alone, you can opt for one of the seats in the centre, there you get direct aisle access.

  85. For me i would prefer the Apex Suite which used by Oman Air, Gulf Air, Korean Air and JAL. Also like Royal Brunei/Kenya Airways/Turkish Airlines business class seats. The feet feel comfortable when sleeping. You are not wrong Lucky, it’s just personal preferences.

    That’s all.

  86. There´s one aspect worth meintioning in my opinion and that is culture. This privacy, personal space thing is very, very, I mean, very American. My culture (I´m from Brazil) does not value that to any meaningful degree. So it makes perfect sense for Latam to choose forward 2-2-2 flat seats.

    As for climbing over my seat-mate, come on! A textbook example of 1st world problem. I´m not short, neither particularly tall (1m80cm, about 5´11″) and I can easily spread my legs wide enough to go over my neighbour without waking them up, I just hold on firmly to the seat shells and it works like a charm. And, as others have pointed out, 4 out of 6 seats get direct aisle access.

    With that being said, I do agree with Lucky that reverse herringbone is the best configuration, with one caveat: it works on wider cabins. On AAs 777s the seats are great, but when I flew AA 787 to LAX my seat did feel a bit snug so to speak.

    Next for me are:
    -Forward facing lie-flats
    -Staggered configurations
    -Standard herringbone (I hate facing away from the window and looking inside the plane if on a window seat, it kinda negates the point of getting a window seat in the first place).

    At the bottom of the list of course are seats that are not 180 flat to the floor, and I´d go as far as to say I prefer deep recliners to angle lie-flats.

    Just my two cents.

  87. If you want direct isle access and good foot space Korean air newest business class seats (prestige suites) are good, JAL sky suites are good, ANA has staggered seating but with good foot space it looks like. Delta one suites look like its good as well for foot space.

  88. First class, OK if you have the money I guess you spend it how you want to.

    Second (or whatever name the company want to call the back of the aircraft where one is loaded into) class you are stuck with a 18.5″ seat width, 31″ legroom, with the back of someone’s reclined seat in your face for most of the nine hours plus.

    Then business class. This is where the business travellers get a free seat with benefits, courtesy of their company and indirectly paid for by all the other passengers.

    So I guess business class have the least to complain about.

  89. Flew on Air China a330 biz class seat few weeks ago and loved it best sleep ever. Coming back from Pek to Lhr on the A350 and although very private was so uncomfortable. I’m a side sleeper and couldn’t bend my knees as they kept knocking on the side moulding bit. Prefer the older style.

  90. Turkish Airlines’ 777 2-3-2 business cabin is the best for a good night’s sleep. It’s their unique selling proposition imho. I choose them above all others just for the seat. I’m about 1m90 and can sleep comfortably in all positions in these seats. Really, a full 6-8h non-stop sleep. It’s absolute bliss and allows me to go straight into work on arrival. I never got that with any other airline, who all switched to business coffins (in no small part due to the undeservedly bad press of 2-2-2 and 2-3-2 cabins).

  91. Recently flew in the middle pod of 3 Club pods in the centre of the plane, on a 13hr flight with BA. Was dreadful and as you said, it really did feel as if I was in a coffin for the entire flight.
    Was flying solo with others facing me on both sides (REALLY strange!) but worse was to come when I decided to stroll to the bathrooms.

    As we’d been in the air for a while, the passengers on either side of my coffin (sorry, pod) had put their beds down and were sleeping. Great except this meant I couldn’t get out on either side without climbing (and I mean climbing!) over a 2 foot high, pretty wide bed which then had large feet and blankets on them. I’m short and elderly and it was incredibly difficult to do that without falling over. Really dreadful experience and I would never fly in their Club again. Club should be spacious, comfortable and accessible – why charge so much otherwise!

  92. Markj is soooo right about SQ’s biz seats! The bulkheads are fantastic. The other seats are torture chambers. The seat is wide, facing forward, and ending with a TINY foot well on the side. This forces you to lie at a strange angle which would be best for a very sleepy contortionist. On top of it, if you encounter sustained turbulence while in the bed position, you cannot sit up. Turning the bed back to a seat would require undoing the seat belt, standing up, and pulling the awkward contraption back up. Outright dangerous in severe bumpiness. Kind of surprising the FAA ever approved the design.

  93. I know this chain is a bit old, but trying to find any insight/advice into the Air France 772/773 biz class and whether the bulkhead is the way to go? I like many above have issues with small footwells and would love any and all insight. thanks!!

  94. I just had a few horrible (i.e. sleepless) flights the last few weeks and came in search of peoples thoughts on footwells. I am glad to see others feel the same way. I’m 6 feet tall and my favorite seats have also been on Turkish Airlines for the exact same reasons. I just flew a trans-oceanic segments on Eva, Thai, and Austrian only to finally realize how much I hate the footwells. I add to it that these “coffins” are horrible for ventilation when cabins tends to run on the warm side already. I thought I was a simpleton liking Turkish the best, but now I understand better why I do so. Hopefully their new business product doesn’t take over too soon so I can get a few routes in with them. Kenyan and Oman look good though too.

  95. I still take direct aisle access as a priority. Also, the diamond seat is a 2-2-2 layout that also has tiny footwells. Not only that, but CX business class offers direct aisle access for everyone, and has a very good footwell

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