The best business class seats for couples traveling together

Several readers have requested a post on the best business class seats for couples traveling together, so I figured I’d provide a quick rundown.

First let’s cover the five basic types of business class seats in service by most airlines in order of general comfort (in my opinion):

1. Herringbone “suites”

Herringbone suites are a prime example of how far business class seats have come. I flew Cathay Pacific’s new business class for the first time a couple of months ago, and was blown away. Their business class seat is as good as many airlines’ first class suites. These seats manage to be both extremely private and not feel claustrophobic, which is amazing for business class.

Airlines offering these seats on select routes include: Cathay Pacific, Delta, EVA, US Airways

2. Staggered seats

Along with herringbone suites, staggered seats are the latest generation of business class seats out there. Basically the seats are staggered in each row to maximize both space and privacy. The good thing about these seats is that in many cases everyone has direct aisle access, yet you have the flexibility to either sit alone or with someone else.

Airlines offering these seats on select routes include: ANA, Austrian, Brussels, China Southern, Delta, Swiss, Thai

3. Herringbone

Back in the day herringbone seats were the cutting edge business class product, I believe first introduced by Virgin Atlantic. They’re still quite decent though a bit claustrophobic compared to other products out there.

Airlines offering these seats on select routes include: Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Delta, Virgin Atlantic

4. Fully flat seats

There are all kinds of fully flat seats out there, from the standard “sleeper seats” offered by airlines like British Airways and United, to Singapore’s flat bed seat, which is the widest in the industry.

Airlines offering these seats on select routes include: British Airways, LOT, Singapore Airlines, United

5. Angled/recliner seats

Presently the oldest generation of business class seats are angled flat and recliner seats. Most leading airlines are in the process of phasing them out if they haven’t already, so I generally do what I can to avoid them.

Airlines offering these seats on select routes include: Air France, American, LOT, Lufthansa

Admittedly within each of the above categories there are products of varying quality. For example, while Singapore’s new business class seat is technically just a fully flat seat, it is the widest seat in the industry, and can just about compete with Cathay Pacific’s business class product.

With that in mind let’s talk about which products are best for couples traveling together. The thing to keep in mind is that my rankings place a heavy weight on traveling with someone you actually want to sit next to and talk to for the entire flight. In other words if you’ve been married for 50 years I suspect you wouldn’t mind trading off a bit of time together for a more comfortable seat.

So here’s how I’d rate business class products for couples:

  1. Staggered seats
  2. Fully flat seats
  3. Herringbone “suites”
  4. Angled/recliner seats
  5. Herringbone seats

Staggered seats are great for couples traveling together because they give you a lot of flexibility with how you’d like to sit together. For example, here’s Swiss’ business class cabin on the Airbus 340:

You can sit together either by the window or in the center section, which is nice flexibility to have.

I consider the standard fully flat seats to be the second best product for couples, since the seats are right next to one another and you can easily carry on a conversation without having to get out of your seats.

Next are herringbone “suites.” They’re the all around best business class product, though their major weakness for couples traveling together is that they’re almost too private. You can’t have a conversation with the person seated next to you without leaning forward a bit, though that’s a small price to pay for the comfort of the seats.

Next are angled/recliner seats, which are the all around least comfortable, but still decent for those traveling together.

And as much as I love herringbone seats, they’re really not ideal if you’re traveling with someone. Everyone is in their own little “pod,” so there’s no way you can sit with someone and have a conversation.

Anyone agree/disagree?

Filed Under: Advice, Travel
  1. I wanted to mention Qantas in the fully flat seats section. They have a weird 2x3x2 configuration so if you have a party of 3, you can all sit together. On my last flight I saw 2 parents with a baby and they had the middle 3 seats. They were able to set a blanket on the floor and make it a little play area for the baby.

    Their skybed mark 2 seats are OK. It’s very long when in the flat position.

  2. CX’s seat (mini-suite) is great just not so much for couples traveling together. It’s hard to even see each other much less to converse in a meaningful way. That’s true even for the two middle seats.

    I think United (lie-flat) conf 2 seats are much better – easy conversation – great (though somewhat small) seat.

  3. Ben, I’d split out the “staggered” section into “staggered individual” and “staggered with pairs”.

    The former are the Delta/Swiss/Austrian/Finnair/Brussels type, which run 2-2-1, 1-2-1.

    The latter are the EADS Sogerma Solstys style, as seen on Emirates’ and China Southern’s A380, plus Etihad longhaul, plus I think the new Iberia plans, which are 1-2-1 but staggered.

    Obviously, for the all-important cuddling and chatting factor, the latter are particularly good.

    This could also be the only time I publicly praise Lufthansa’s new V-pair biz seats: you too can play footsie all the way to Frankfurt.

  4. Swiss’ seat is indeed very good although couples need to keep in mind that the window seat pairs have one less “table” than the pairs in the middle.

  5. On my last JFK-HKG flight on CX, I woke up in the middle of the flight & there were 2 people sleeping in one of the middle seats across from me (I has a window seat). I’m surprised 2 people fit inthere.

  6. Ben,

    Your missing the ball here my man. Without a doubt the best business class seats for couples is Alitalia Honeymoon seats. They are part of the Magnifica class. There are a total of 3 (six actual seats) Honeymoon seats on there new Airbus A330 product. There are located in the middle aslie on a 1-2-1 staggered configuration.
    Flew it last November with my girl and was blown away by the romance factor.

  7. My hubby and I sat next to each other in the rear facing seats of the center section on BA last year. He is very technologically challenged, so I really needed to be right there next to him to operate the personal entertainment system. It was great for being close to each other, but a real hazzle when you had to get out – had to crawl over the stranger in the forward facing seat. (BA’s seat configuration is pretty wierd). Plus, the FLight attendants tended to forget we we there since ( as they told me themselves) usually those seats are not occupied unless the flight is full ( which ours was not). Anyway, we would probably sit there again, despite the hazzles of crawling over the other guy – we do make sacrifices for the one we love!!

  8. Asiana quadra smartium are very nice for couples in my experience. Fully flat with aisle access for everyone and the two center seats angle toward each other slightly. Nice and cozy. CX new business is a superior hard product, but as you mentioned you almost have to peek around to see each other.

  9. Very timely topic for me. I am trying to decide between a couple of options and this is just the kind of comparison I was looking for

  10. Great post and quite informative!
    Would you also know about the Etihad business seats on a A330-200. We 2 are travelling with our 6-month old next week. Got the 2 middle seats together on it.

  11. Should clarify my post above (#7) to add that we were on a 777 with the 2-4-2 configuration.
    Have been hoarding my BA points and next trip we are going First. The 2 center seats look just right for us!

  12. For me, the best seats for couples (ignoring all other considerations) are standard fully flat seats followed by angled recliners. Of course, angled types have other negatives as well.

  13. Cool post! That only thing I’d would point out is that most people call them “reverse herringbone” instead of saying: herringbone “suites”

    I like this terminology better because the term herringbone layout was made popular with the Virgin/Air NZ seats so the term “reverse herringbone” makes sense since it is the same basic concept but “reversed” so people face AWAY from the aisle….

  14. Great post, and really useful information. Looking forward to trying out Austrian’s new SWISS-like business class product this summer!

  15. the AA biz class seats look so pathetic next to all the other airlines seats. some of these airlines will already have moved on to their next generation flat bed seats, while AA will still be catching up revamping their current fleet w their new biz class product, supposed to debut next week on their new 777-300.

  16. I think the term you’re looking for for #1 is “Reverse Herringbone.” At least, that’s what the industry calls it.

  17. Lucky which DL aircraft have herringbone suites? I’ve flown on the 777-200LR Business Elite product and it really isn’t very private but is a herringbone design. Saw you also listed DL as herringbone which seems appropriate since they aren’t suites like CX or US offers.

  18. i have a flight next month on the Delta 777LR from NRT to LAX…looks terrible for couples and i am traveling with my wife..has anybody flown this or have advice on seats to pick? Flyertalk mostly says 6 B & C, but it so hard to judge..the A330 angled lie flat almost look better!

  19. Do you know which configuration is/will be on the new Austrian flights to Europe this summer? My family of 5 (3 kids ages 9,7 and 4) is booked roundtrip and I would love to hear the best seats to select for our little group.

  20. Ben, I am flying Ord to Muc with my wife in LH business. Would it make sense to switch to United for the better seats? How about United first if I can’t get LH first in the last 2 weeks before the trip? Thanks. Great info and great blog.

  21. The United 2 Class configuration (former Continental) 777 business class are very nice seats for couples. The 2-2-2 configuration, lie flat seat size, storage, & entertainment system work well for couples. In my opinion, the actual seat is just a little below the old United 1st Class. Unfortunately, their are not many of these planes with this configuration flying right now.

  22. The new Lufthansa business class is great and ideal for couples – fully flat and the seats are slightly angled toward each other. They rolled them out on the 747-800 but are now installing them on other aircraft (check the seat map or call LH before you book). If those seats are available then I think it is a better experience than United and the food service is definitely better.

  23. @Skoropi, here is my unsolicited advice. Difference between LH C and UA C has been disucssed a great deal on FT, if you want to look, but in a nutshell, if you value hard product (fully flat seat) go with UA. If you value soft product (service, food, liquor) go with LH. Their seat is very uncomfortable but overall we prefer LH C to UA C though many have disagreed with me and will continute to do so. Again, it’s all about personal preference.

    Under no circumstance should you spend additional miles to fly UA F. Biggest waste of money (yes, miles are money, at least in my book) ever. We did it once and I swore never again. LH F is awesome!

    ORD to MUC may have LH’s new fully flat seat but you’ll have to check with LH about that.

    Good luck.

  24. Qatar Airways will soon be offering (or already has the reverse herringbone/herringbone suites.

    @ Adam

    Aren’t the Alitalia Magnifica seats the same layout as Emirates/Etihad/Thai’s staggered layout?

  25. @ Kumar — Yep, those are more or less staggered, so I’d say the center seats are your best bet.

    @ Josh G — Just the 747s.

    @ mike — I believe that’s a herringbone configuration, in which case I’d just pick any two seats next to one another (so have both seats be on the “A” side). This is the closest thing to sitting next to one another in a herringbone configuration.

    @ Cecilia — Those would be staggered seats. What kind of an aircraft is it?

  26. @ Skoropi — Service will be better on Lufthansa, though I do think United is better if you get fully flat seats and Lufthansa’s would be angled. I’d aim for Lufthansa first class within two weeks of departure in your shoes.

    @ Rom — Yes, fully flat at a slight angle to the side of the aircraft, though they’re great for couples traveling together.

  27. If the flight is a short (say less then 8 hour think LHR-JFK) day time flight I prefer the angled seat like on American Airlines. It is much better for having conversations and you don’t have to reach over to have a conversation.

    If I am doing an overnight flight then a flat bed like British Airways is better as I am more interested in getting a good sleep.

    I find the herringbone that I tried on Cathay and Air Canada to be the worst for travelling together.

  28. @Josh G — Delta uses the herringbone layout on the 777 and the reverse herringbone (what Lucky calls “suites”) on the 747. The A330 fleet will also be retrofitted with the reverse herringbone style within the next year.

    @That John — Delta’s staggered flat bed seats (all 767-400 and many 767-300) are configured 1-2-1 in every row, meaning each seat has direct aisle access—a major advantage over other carriers’ staggered configurations.

  29. @ Mark

    Thai, Emirates, Etihad, and ANA all have 1-2- staggered configuration. ANA on some planes even alternates between 1-2-1 and 1-1-1…

  30. @Lucky –

    Should be the new fully flat business product you wrote about a few weeks ago. NYC-VIE in July.

  31. Fav would be Emirates A380 business. You need to sit in the center aisle joined seats. Once they throw down the ‘mattress’ it’s like being at home. But there’s an automatic divider if you want some time away from your loved one.

  32. I think that Cathay’s business class is fine, especially with the slide forward 11 in function. That is great.

  33. I’d love to see a similar post for families. I am planning to book reward business seats for Europe for a family of 5. Kids will be 7, 4 and 1.

  34. Just booked Alitalia LAX-Istanbul via Rome, magnifica class. Selected the 2nd row D-H – does anyone know if these are honeymoon seats? On seat guru they loom to be separated amd I may want to change. It is a 1-2-1 configuration . Anyone know if we are better off in the first row ? Thanks

  35. @ Meg — 2D & 2H aren’t “honeymoon” seats, but frankly even if traveling with someone I’d probably choose those seats over the honeymoon seats, as they’re REALLY close together. I find it much more comfortable to have a bit of space but to still be able to talk.

  36. @ Rose, when are you traveling with the 3 children to Europe in business class? I just want to make sure I avoid that flight like the plague.

  37. Me and my wife recently flew ORD-TXL on Airberlin’s business class. We sat in the middle section with the two seats next to each other, and “walls” on both sides. It was very private and ideal when you fly with someone who you really want to spend time with. This was by far the most private configuration (we flew before on AerLingus, Finnair, BA, Austrian and Aeroflot business classes).
    Also, thank you for the great job you are doing with your website.

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