3 Reasons I Love Rear Facing Business Class Seats

3 Reasons I Love Rear Facing Business Class Seats

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Am I the only one who prefers rear facing airplane seats to forward facing ones? Is that strange?

Why rear facing airplane seats are awesome

A vast majority of airplane seats face forward, though select airlines have rear facing seats in business class. Off the top of my head, All Nippon Airways, American, British Airways, EtihadQatar, and United, come to mind as the airlines with these types of seats on at least some of their planes.

While many airlines are slowly phasing these out, what I consider to be the two best business class products in the world both have staggered configurations, with roughly half the seats being rear facing. Specifically, I’m talking about Qatar Airways Qsuites and All Nippon Airways “The Room.”

All Nippon Airways has rear facing business class seats

While I totally understand why some people don’t like these kinds of seats (especially if they’re prone to motion sickness), in this post I wanted to share three reasons I select rear facing business class seats whenever possible. In no particular order…

You get the best view

I know it’s the ultimate first world problem, but one of the downsides to sitting in business class is that you’re often so far forward that you have to turn your head more than 90 degrees in order to see the wing. I consider aviation to be a miracle, and as an avgeek I love just gazing out the window, watching the wing flex, and seeing the huge jet engine at work.

One of the awesome benefits of a rear facing business class seat is that you’re often looking right at the wing and engine without even having to turn. Seriously, what a treat to have this as your direct view for a long haul flight!

Look at that Qatar Airways A350 wing view!

It’s better for sleeping

At cruise altitude, airplanes are typically angled up a couple of degrees, and the only time the nose will ever be fully level or pointing down is during the descent. As a result, if you recline your seat into the fully flat position in a forward facing seat, your head is actually slightly below your feet. Of course there are pillows, but rather frustratingly many airlines have very thin pillows that don’t do much for me.

Meanwhile when you have a rear facing seat, your head is naturally slightly higher than your feet. We’re talking about a minor difference here, but I find it noticeable when sleeping.

A rear facing seat can be (slightly) better for sleeping

It’s fun

I know everyone has a different definition of fun, but personally I find it sort of exhilarating to sit backwards during takeoff and landing. Even after having flown many millions of miles, I’d like to think that I still appreciate the miracle of flight.

However, over time the excitement and sensation of takeoff and landing does diminish a bit. In many ways, flying backwards is like flying for the first time all over again. It’s such a different sensation, and sometimes I find myself giggling just a little bit during takeoff and landing (not Emirates A380 shower levels of giggling, but still giggling…).

Sitting backwards can be kind of fun

Bottom line

I know some people try to avoid rear facing seats, though personally I love them. To me sitting backwards is more fun, better for sleeping, and gives you a better view. All else being equal, I’ll always choose a rear facing seat over a forward facing seat.

Anyone else love rear facing airline seats?

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  1. charles berger Guest

    You must have been desperate to come up with your reasons why you enjoy flying backwards.
    Do you ride in a car sitting backwards ?
    If I was given a backwards facing seat I wouldn’t fly with them.

  2. Deb Guest

    I experienced rear facing seats for the first time in June with Qatar and I have to say it was not an issue. A bit weird taking off and landing, as I had not experienced it before, but otherwise, no difference. Would do it again.

  3. Richard Guest

    I travel mostly with my wife. And on BA having one rear facing seat makes it all feel more social as we’re looking at each other. However I realise when travelling solo this can be awkward.

  4. Dennis Martino Guest

    I just came back from Thailand on Tuesday, on ANA. First the 17K seat was reversed tho I didn't know it when I booked it, but I was so impressed with "The Room" I didn't care. I will say I flew reverse years ago on Southwest, and it was strange feeling at the time.
    The take off was fun, in a different way of course, my view was just behind the wing, and it...

    I just came back from Thailand on Tuesday, on ANA. First the 17K seat was reversed tho I didn't know it when I booked it, but I was so impressed with "The Room" I didn't care. I will say I flew reverse years ago on Southwest, and it was strange feeling at the time.
    The take off was fun, in a different way of course, my view was just behind the wing, and it was a good view, and no I didn't have to turn my head.
    The sleeping part may or not be true, but I slept like a baby for 5 hours on a 10 hour flight.
    I have flown back and forth to Thailand since 2007 at least once a year, and sometimes twice or more. I have flown all the airlines; the best price gets the deal. But this was the first time with ANA, and I have to say I'm hooked. The best business class seat so far, and I'll be going back to Thailand in December, so I hope I can get a great flight, I might even pay a little more for the flight, because the seat in Business class on ANA is Amazing

  5. N1120A Guest

    I much prefer rear facing seats too. Survivability is a minor point - flying is so insanely safe that you'd really have to be unlucky or be in an incident that even involves a write off to start with - but it is a point. I totally agree the sleep quality is much better, the perspective is great and rear seats often have more privacy.

    I once had A jerk FA try and tell...

    I much prefer rear facing seats too. Survivability is a minor point - flying is so insanely safe that you'd really have to be unlucky or be in an incident that even involves a write off to start with - but it is a point. I totally agree the sleep quality is much better, the perspective is great and rear seats often have more privacy.

    I once had A jerk FA try and tell me he was upgrading me by asking me to move to a forward facing aisle instead of the rear facing window I had booked, so a couple that battlefield upgraded could sit together. He was an absolute jerk when I declined, to the point I had to get the purser involved. I ALWAYS fly window. I'd have moved to a forward window, but double whammy? Hell no!

  6. Carl Dirkers Guest

    Well am a pilot..Small pro.
    Planes and am used to sitting in front seat and looking forward.
    The only backwards seat plane I know of is the old Marine Corps prison and awol plane carrying " passengers " back to brig and base

  7. kenindfw Guest

    I did it once returning from the UK to ORD on BA 747 over 10 years ago. I really liked it also for a day flight. Saw the sun the entire time and loved the little half windows that would move up and down. Had a very nice conversation with the older woman sitting toward me during the last hour of the flight.

  8. Mark Guest

    They are deemed safer in the event of an impact emergency

  9. Chris Guest

    And you get to stare at the peasants in economy!

    1. Dennis Robert Martino Guest

      Cold, But Ture

  10. Jerry Guest

    My last trip from Tokyo on ANA, I had a rear facing seat I absolutely loved it.
    The availability of a rear-facing seat will now become part of my decision making in selecting my next business class option.
    I have flown facing forward so many times that has lost its appeal, but the novelty of facing rearward makes travel fun again... And besides the majority of seats are still forward facing. "Different seats for different folks"

  11. KB Guest

    If a plane crashes hitting land and water suddenly everything is thrown forward including all seats and occupants.
    Passengers will all die of course but a backward facing seat at least gives your body to remain intact
    Those Passengers bodies facing forward will all end jumbled together in the cockpit area.

  12. Tim C Guest

    I just did a rear facing business on American , London to Phoenix. My maiden rear business. I have to agree with you - it’s a very different experience. I wouldn’t recommend it to those afraid of flying or those afraid of heights, neither of which I am. At the point of take off you are shooting into the sky *backwards* ! It can be an unnerving experience to the above two categories of people....

    I just did a rear facing business on American , London to Phoenix. My maiden rear business. I have to agree with you - it’s a very different experience. I wouldn’t recommend it to those afraid of flying or those afraid of heights, neither of which I am. At the point of take off you are shooting into the sky *backwards* ! It can be an unnerving experience to the above two categories of people. As you are looking out the window and seeing the ground getting further and further away, subconsciously your mind is telling you you are being ‘hoisted up’ - only to be released at a later time when you will come crashing back to earth ! Then there are those enormous engines (GE 90 in the case of the 777). You are staring straight at those titanium blades spinning at 4500 rpm or more sucking in enormous quantities of air every second. If for some reason the window were to break followed by rapid depressurization and you were ejected through the window , you would go right into those blades ! And titanium is very strong mind you. Or if you weren’t being sucked into those blades but there was an uncontained failure with one or more blades detaching, the blades could pass through the cowling, through smashed window glass and slice your face in half. Those were some of the things I was thinking of - all because of the unique perspective allowed by rear facing business seats while sipping my third glass of champagne.

    1. Firechef13 Guest

      Thanks for the encouragement, but I'll take my chances flying from Seattle to Jakarta business class.

  13. Mark Guest

    I used to enjoy flying on them in the bubble on the 747 with BA all the way down to Cape Town for work. Another advantage potentially specific to BA is that the rear-facing seats had big storage bins at waist level next to the window, which meant I could keep my briefcase to hand for whatever I needed without having to step over another passenger to the aisle (there wasn't direct aisle access from every seat with those pre-Club Suite business seats).

  14. Beachfan Guest

    If they are wider, or more stable , I like them.

    Looking at the wing or engine, which never changes, is a big negative over seeing the landscape.

  15. iamhere Guest

    Seems you are running out of useful content if you're writing about this. This blog used to be much more informative.

    1. ImmortalSynn Guest

      ^ as if such a comment serves a purpose.

      The implicit irony, lol.

    2. Beachfan Guest

      Same could be said for the comments.

  16. Schar Gold

    I absolutely agree with you Ben, whenever I can, I ALWAYS would rather select a rear-facing seat. One of my reasons is because I feel like there's more privacy. I don't have to stare at the busy galley or people walking to the toilet. I feel like Im in my own little world.

    and yes, the takeoff / landing feeling is so fun!

  17. D3kingg Guest

    One of the most valuable lessons I learned from Ben is to select a window seat towards the rear of the business class cabin. It’s quiet in flight and you’re right by the accessible bathroom on long haul flights. Also you’re on top of the engine. When the plane pushes back and the engines start is very exciting.

  18. Carrie Member

    Have any OMAAT commentators flown the rear facing seats who would self describe as suffering from motion sickness? I would be interested to learn if the rear facing position makes a difference in an aircraft as it certainly makes a difference in a train for me.

    1. Donna Diamond

      I know that the rear facing train seat causes major issues for some passengers, one of whom is a client of mine who says that she cannot fly in a rear facing business class seat as well.

    2. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      I like rear-facing aircraft seats, generally for the reasons given here, though not at the back of the biz cabin.

      Though, I too can't deal with rear-facing train seats. I think it comes from trying to focus on exterior views, which appear to go by much faster since you're closer to the ground, but in the "wrong direction" from the motion you're experiencing.

      As such, I too will get motion sickness if I'm staring...

      I like rear-facing aircraft seats, generally for the reasons given here, though not at the back of the biz cabin.

      Though, I too can't deal with rear-facing train seats. I think it comes from trying to focus on exterior views, which appear to go by much faster since you're closer to the ground, but in the "wrong direction" from the motion you're experiencing.

      As such, I too will get motion sickness if I'm staring out the window of fast train from a backwards seat. Switch seat, and problem's solved.

      Doesn't happen at all on an aircraft through. At least, for me.

    3. Jerry Guest

      My last trip from Tokyo on ANA, I had a rear facing seat I absolutely loved it.
      The availability of a rear-facing seat will now become part of my decision making in selecting my next business class option.
      I have flown facing forward so many times that has lost its appeal, but the novelty of facing rearward makes travel fun again... And besides the majority of seats are still forward facing. "Different seats for different folks"

  19. Jason Guest

    I remember first coming across these on a United flight a while back. At first I was taken aback and I even noticed a couple other passengers request to be moved to a non-rear facing seat. But once I was in the seat and experienced it on a long-haul flight I realized it was totally fine and I’ve not had a problem with these seats since.

    I thought I read somewhere that rear facing...

    I remember first coming across these on a United flight a while back. At first I was taken aback and I even noticed a couple other passengers request to be moved to a non-rear facing seat. But once I was in the seat and experienced it on a long-haul flight I realized it was totally fine and I’ve not had a problem with these seats since.

    I thought I read somewhere that rear facing is safer and that’s why dedicated military passenger transport planes are rear facing? Not sure if that’s just an apocryphal story.

    1. exfa Guest

      crew seats are ear facing too for the same reason

    2. A Consumer Guest

      You are correct in thinking that safety is the reason that some, if not all, military personnel-transport planes have, or used to have rear-facing seats. In 1970, I flew from the UK to Hong Kong, via Bahrain and Singapore, in a Royal Air Force VC-10. All of the seats in the passenger compartment were rear-facing.

  20. Not Lucky Guest

    With you on the rear-facing seats Ben. When LH had their seat and bed on the upper deck of the 744, I would confuse the FA's by sleeping backwards.

    S_LEE - can you vouch for this across all seat manufacturers. I feel the difference in different seats - I suspect there's a range of angles adjusted for. Easy enough to measure the height off the floor at each end of the seat. Or use a spirit level (can even prove the flat earth theory with that, lol)

  21. Kelvin Guest

    Sorry. My experience was on a UA NRT-SIN connection and it was a strange experience. Staring at a random stranger across the aisle from you wasn't my cup of tea.

  22. NSL Guest

    I am beyond sensitive to laying down with my head below my body/feet. I have never had a problem sitting/laying forward in a plane. Every business class and first class seat I've ever been in compensated for the plane's angle of attack while cruising, Then I add a few more degrees on top of that.

    That said, just like on trains, I don't like flying backwards on planes. I normally never get motion sickness on...

    I am beyond sensitive to laying down with my head below my body/feet. I have never had a problem sitting/laying forward in a plane. Every business class and first class seat I've ever been in compensated for the plane's angle of attack while cruising, Then I add a few more degrees on top of that.

    That said, just like on trains, I don't like flying backwards on planes. I normally never get motion sickness on planes, trains, ships, cars, buses, etc., however, my experience on trains and buses when I've been in a seat facing backwards is it's not for me as I get some motion sickness. I get real queasy. I know longer sit backwards on either buses or trains and I'm not going to do it on planes.

  23. Terry Guest

    I like rear facing seats. And aren't they presumed safer during a crash? (Flight attendants generally face backward).

  24. Michael Guest

    We were business class flying from Newark to Los Angeles backwards. It was not sexy to be facing some overweight, hairy guy in shorts for a six hour flight.

    It did take away from the business class experience.

    1. HeathrowLHR Guest

      This comes off as if it were written by the type who books an airline for the "hot flight attendants," then can't for the life of him figure out why they don't want to hook up after the flight....

  25. derek Guest

    I love the older British Airways rear facing window seats on the 777. It's like a little room, maybe a small version of the Etihad Apartment in the A380? In addition, rear facing seats are a bit safer in a hard landing or minor crash.

    I was once aboard G-VIIK, a BA 777-200ER. I didn't want to be kicked off for creating a disturbance, so I didn't yell "THIS PLANE IS CURSED! A MAN DIED...

    I love the older British Airways rear facing window seats on the 777. It's like a little room, maybe a small version of the Etihad Apartment in the A380? In addition, rear facing seats are a bit safer in a hard landing or minor crash.

    I was once aboard G-VIIK, a BA 777-200ER. I didn't want to be kicked off for creating a disturbance, so I didn't yell "THIS PLANE IS CURSED! A MAN DIED ON THIS PLANE, BURNED ALIVE!". It's true. A man was burned to death when this plane was in Denver. He was refueling the plane when the hose dislodged and hit the tarmac. The impact created a small spark that ignited the fuel, burning him alive and also part of the wing. RIP.

  26. jak Member

    Whenever I got stuck in the American Airlines 772 with Zodiac (aka "Concept D") seats, I loved the reverse facing 7A and 7L. You aren't attached to anyone so you don't feel the rocking from your neighbor which the Zodiac seats are notorious for, and the bulkhead wraps around behind the seat and down the aisle side making the seat private.

    1. Donna Diamond

      I fly these 772s out of DFW routinely and always sit in 7A or 7L sometimes Zodiac and sometimes not. Definitely enjoy rear facing seats and have no issue with sleep or motion illness. I highly recommend it.

  27. Azamaraal Diamond

    BA introduced the paired rear/front facing seats on the 747 back in the day. Loved them as wife and I could face each other, wink and whatever.
    Recent trip on Qsuites honeymoon bed was great except that the door wouldn't stay closed. Crew used duct tape to fix that. Great experience.
    When flying EK on their 2-3-2 77's with angled lie flat I didn't mind because the head was higher than the foot. On lie flats I always tilt the bed a bit so that head higher.

  28. Gene Guest

    Just did rear facing business on Qatar for the very first time on their A350-900/1000 and needless to say I am sold on rear facing. 59 years of flying since 1963 and every seat was facing forward. Apprehensive initially, I quickly realized how much I liked it. Will reserve that first in the future where possible as opposed to the traditional forward facing!

  29. IAD Flyer Guest

    I've flown both BA and American backwards in business. I totally agree that for sleeping they're great! Landing is fun and great for photos. The Debbie downer for these seats is during takeoff. On a 787-800, headed to LHR, I felt like I was sliding out of my seat for the first 30-45min of the flight. The 787 business class seats seem much narrower on BA. On AA to and from HNL the sliding lasted...

    I've flown both BA and American backwards in business. I totally agree that for sleeping they're great! Landing is fun and great for photos. The Debbie downer for these seats is during takeoff. On a 787-800, headed to LHR, I felt like I was sliding out of my seat for the first 30-45min of the flight. The 787 business class seats seem much narrower on BA. On AA to and from HNL the sliding lasted longer but the seats are wider and easier to wedge in. All flights have been fun!

  30. Kathy Sterling Guest

    I think these seats are they worst idea anyone every came up with and I told British Air that!! I wouldn't sit in one if the airline paid me!

  31. S_LEE Member

    Well, as an aircraft seating designer, I confirm that rear facing seats are NOT particularly better for sleeping.
    All the lie-flat seats are designed to be flat when flying.
    The nose of aircraft is raised by a couple degrees when flying(which is called "angle of attck"), and so is the cabin floor.
    For this reason, lie-flat seats are designed to be approximately 3° angled relative to the floor.
    Forward facing seats...

    Well, as an aircraft seating designer, I confirm that rear facing seats are NOT particularly better for sleeping.
    All the lie-flat seats are designed to be flat when flying.
    The nose of aircraft is raised by a couple degrees when flying(which is called "angle of attck"), and so is the cabin floor.
    For this reason, lie-flat seats are designed to be approximately 3° angled relative to the floor.
    Forward facing seats have higher head than feet, and rear facing seats have hight feet than head, however, they are all horizontal when flying. They are just the same when it comes to sleeping comfort.

    If you feel it's different, then it's just psychological, not physical.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      I think this should be filed away in the same OMAAT drawer with the "More expensive champagne tastes better" file.

    2. Greg Guest

      Cool thanks for the insight

    3. S_LEE Member

      I forgot to add that rear facing seats may be safer than forward facing in case of a crash. Your body's far better restrained in a rear facing seat than in forward facing one, and the seat also absorbs some of the impact on your body.

    4. Alvin | YTHK Gold

      I think you might work for a good designer. I don't think every lie flat seat I've been in was angled relative to the floor...

    5. S_LEE Member

      I work for a seat manufacturer. As far as I know, the lie-flat seats from Safran(formerly Zodiac) and Collins(formerly B/E Aerospace) are angled relative to the floor. I have colleagues from those two companies.
      I don't know about Thompson, Stelia, Optimares, Aviointeriors or Jamco though..
      But Safran and Collins (plus the company I work for) take up over a half of the market, so suffice to say over a half of lie-flat seats are angled relative to the floor.

    6. Dusty Guest

      Maybe I wasn't on any of those. I don't nerd out over what airline has which seat, but from my experience:
      JAL 1st class
      ANA business class on 777 and 787 (before The Room)
      EVA business class
      Air France business class (777)
      KLM business class (747)
      In all cases it definitely felt like my feet were higher than my head. So I generally always put the seat flat to...

      Maybe I wasn't on any of those. I don't nerd out over what airline has which seat, but from my experience:
      JAL 1st class
      ANA business class on 777 and 787 (before The Room)
      EVA business class
      Air France business class (777)
      KLM business class (747)
      In all cases it definitely felt like my feet were higher than my head. So I generally always put the seat flat to the stops now, and then raise it up slightly until I feel comfortable.

      I also feel like that's not necessarily fool-proof to design the seat to angle based on the normal in-flight nose pitch, since that could vary depending on speed, altitute, and weather conditions.

    7. RJ Guest

      That's not what angle of attack is. You're referring to 'pitch'. Angle of attack in an airplane is the angle between the chord line of the wing and the relative airflow. You're referring to the angle between the longitudinal axis and the horizon, which is the pitch.

    8. S_LEE Member

      Thanks for clarifying! As a seating guy, 'pitch' always meant 'seat pitch' to me, so I was confused.. Yes, 'pitch' is the correct term.

  32. Khatl Diamond

    Totally agree. I prefer rear facing, particularly because of the sleeping issue you mention. In fact, if I am front facing, then I simply don't fully recline the seat because of the problem of having my head lower than the rest of my body

  33. CS Guest

    While certainly not biz class, I can remember back in the day when Southwest Airlines had "lounge seating" with a couple of the seats rear-facing. It was always fun to snag one of these rear-facing seats as a novelty - even though it was awfully cramped and no where to put your legs in the "lounge" area. Lol.

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S_LEE Member

Well, as an aircraft seating designer, I confirm that rear facing seats are NOT particularly better for sleeping. All the lie-flat seats are designed to be flat when flying. The nose of aircraft is raised by a couple degrees when flying(which is called "angle of attck"), and so is the cabin floor. For this reason, lie-flat seats are designed to be approximately 3° angled relative to the floor. Forward facing seats have higher head than feet, and rear facing seats have hight feet than head, however, they are all horizontal when flying. They are just the same when it comes to sleeping comfort. If you feel it's different, then it's just psychological, not physical.

4
ImmortalSynn Guest

^ as if such a comment serves a purpose. The implicit irony, lol.

2
Kathy Sterling Guest

I think these seats are they worst idea anyone every came up with and I told British Air that!! I wouldn't sit in one if the airline paid me!

2
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