3 Reasons I Love Rear Facing Business Class Seats

Filed Under: Travel

There are a few airlines that have rear facing business class seats. Off the top of my head, American, British Airways, Etihad,Ā Qatar, and United come to mind as the airlines with these types of seats on at least some of their planes.

A couple of days ago I flew Qatar Airways’ Qsuites from New York to Doha, and I was reminded of just how much I love rear facing business class seats. I know some people don’t like them since they get motion sickness (I’ve seen several people over the years request seat swaps out of these seats), but in this post I wanted to share the three reasons I love rear facing business class seats.

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 forwards 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 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 longhaul flight!

It’s better for sleeping

At cruise altitude the plane is 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 which 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.

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 about five million miles I’d like to think that I still appreciate the miracle of flight, though over time the excitement and sensation I feel with takeoff and landing has diminished a bit. That’s only natural when you fly all the time, while a first time (or occasional) flyer will typically get a rush from their first takeoff.

In many ways, flying backwards is like flying for the first time all over again. It’s such a different sensation, and I find myself giggling just a little bit during takeoff and landing.

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?

  1. Rear-facing seats on ground transport (including subways) trigger nausea in some folks, I wonder if the same effect holds in the air

  2. Reminds me of my childhood sitting in the rear facing seats in the trunk of a Ford Taurus station wagon from the mid-90s. It was a lot of fun! Good times…

  3. I first flew rear facing in August 1999, CPT-LHR on BA. It’s an odd sensation on the first take-off, but now I’m used to it and do prefer it.

    I’ve flown facing backwards on BA’s 747, 757, 777, and A380 now. Just the 767 and 787 left… Maybe this year, at least for the 767, before OpenSkies becomes LEVEL.

    I don’t mind it on trains at all, I grew up doing that on the London Underground anyway.

  4. “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. ”

    i love how sensationalist these bloggers are when trying to sell their beloved product. Typical jetliner has angle of attack of 4Ā° to maintain constant altitude.

    Assuming a typical 6-ft traveler, a forward facing seat would put their feet c = 2 * Radius(aka body length) * sin (angle / 2) = 0.42 ft, or ~5 inches ….. talk about a nothing-burger.

    Maybe you should mention that pillows would cancel out some of that perceived height difference for forward seats but actually exacerbate the downward slope for the rear-facing ones.

  5. Loved flying in the rear facing seats on the upper deck of Unitedā€™s dearly departed 747ā€™s. The combination was great.

  6. Well, I just booked my first Business class rear facing seat, can’t wait to try it, and definitely one of the reasons was that I’ll be able to see the wing and the engine. I’ve chosen seat 10K on a BA 787-900, let’s see what I’ll see! šŸ™‚

  7. Does anyone remember the family group of seats on Southwest Airlines? They had three rear-facing and three forward-facing seats in a group of six. Which was sort of fun for a group traveling together. I haven’t traveled with them since there were corded telephones on the back of the middle seats so I doubt they are still in existence.

  8. Haven’t flown backwards in a while, looking forward to it on AA’s 787 over to NRT in a few days. Not the most thrilling hard product, but made more fun by flying backwards.

  9. Sorry, but I hate rear-facing seats and when presented with the option I never choose them. All of Lucky’s reasons not withstanding, I don’t like the feeling during takeoff and frankly when looking out the window I want to see where I’m going and not where I already have been!

  10. When I flew the LH 747-400 first class with the separate bed a few times, every time the FA’s couldn’t get over the fact that I slept backwards on the bed for the exact reasons you describe. I never saw anyone else do it, but it seemed like a very obvious tactic to employ to me.

  11. I much prefer straight seats – backwards or forwards – to seats at an angle which are now becoming more commonplace.

    As to a better view, thatā€™s nonsense. Who wants to look at a wing when you can look at the Rocky Mountains, or Kilimanjaro or the extraordinary landscape of Greenland, to name but a few.

  12. I’m with Bruno, reminds me of that little jump seat in the trunk that us kids would fight over to sit in, in pops station wagon.

    @ Jon I recall back in the 80’s when I was a kid flying short domestic hops several times a month on US Airways (I think), the seats in the first row were rear facing, then there was a big conference table, and row two had forward facing seats.

  13. @henry LAX:

    There’s actually been a few studies done that show the optimal level of elevation while sleeping is 10 to 30 degrees incline at the head in gravity situations. A head-downhill position increases blood pressure in the cranium since blood flow from the heart to the brain is typically fighting gravity whereas in this case it’d be gravity-assisted. For short periods of time this isn’t a huge deal. If you’re on a plane sleeping for updwards of six hours or more, then there are physical ramifications to sleeping in that position. I don’t think anyone’s going to die or suffer terribly from a flight in a downhill position, but I’d argue that it’s not a “nothing burger” for a lot of people who may already sleep poorly on planes.

  14. @Henry LAX – “Of course there are pillows, but rather frustratingly many airlines have very thin pillows which donā€™t do much for me.”

    I think he did mention it..

  15. I really wouldn’t call flying or modern aviation a “miracle.”

    It’s a marvelous human invention to be sure, but it’s quite easily explained with science and modern technologies. Miracles defy rational or scientific explanation, but flying is pretty solidly grounded in the scientific world.

  16. @james, so nothing in science leaves you in awe? Blackholes, super novas? quantum physics? Canyons and mountains carved by centuries of erosion? Northern lights? Life?

  17. I agree with Lucky, I like rear-facing seats also, and often choose them if available regardless of day or night.

  18. @Jason – Rear facing (and sometimes forward facing) on the ground sometimes triggers nausea for me, however I have never experienced that flying backward. Just flew Club World facing backward LHR-LAX earlier in the week and didn’t feel motion sick at all. I think it’s because the world around you moves so slowly in comparison to on the ground.

  19. It may be just me, but I found the rear facing seat by a window on a BA flight to have poor air circulation, thus I was warm the whole flight.
    Also, when ever attendant servered, the window had to come down and the forward facing person was disturbed

  20. I agree Lucky- i absolutely love rear-facing seats. Last month I flew in rear United’s business class EWR-GRU and it was incredible. Another perk is that you don’t have to make awkward eye contact with the flight attendants roaming down the aisle, and the bright light from the galley will always be behind you. I love it.

  21. @Lucky

    Most modern lie-flat seats actually extend to between 176 & 178 degrees to compensate for the aircraft’s AoA during cruise.

  22. Don’t know about other armed forces, but the RAF used to have rearward facing seats in its trooping to theatre jets. Survivability in crashes they said, though anyone who has served will suspect the air force just didn’t want to mix with or even look at the army. (in more operational transport aircraft troopers you hang on to the nice orange plastic which can be fun on fast descents)

  23. @Fraser
    You are correct! In 1970, I flew from RAF Lyneham to Hong Kong, via Bahrain and Singapore, in a RAF VC10. All of the passenger seats were rear-facing. I thought, at that time, what a very sensible thing it was – safer in the event of a crash? And no, unlike other writers above, I didn’t feel sick!

  24. Agreed! Have flown rear facing once and it was such a thrill, especially landing compared to take off for me. Lucky – what’s your favorite airline to fly rear-facing biz, Qatar?

    Also – might be a silly question to put here but how does one add a photo to one’s comment profile? Haven’t figured out how to do so but imagine it’s fairly straightforward.

  25. The USAF also has its seat backwards on all planes flying passengers. Apparently it is much safer. Commercial airlines do not as they believe their paying passengers would be much opposed.

  26. My first and last rear facing seat assignment was on SWA out of MDW..
    The seats back then were somewhat slippery ā€˜leatherā€™ …I recall it was a ā€˜dinetteā€™
    Configuration just behind the forward toilets…on takeoff, the ā€œsound reducingā€ protocol quick acute angle climb, was complied with.. as I promptly SLID out of my seat, clambering in frustration to regain some reasonable sense of composure…to the great amusement of the forward facing passengers…and yes, I was belted in…

  27. Another vote for rear facing seats here, too. I suffer from travel induced dizziness, and I’ve found that rear facing seats, especially on trains, are a much better choice for me.

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