Comparing Transatlantic Business Class Seats

I figured it might be useful to provide a quick ranking of the various transatlantic business class seats. I’m ranking these exclusively in terms of hard product, and doing so very broadly. I’m simply ranking what I consider to be the best general types of seats, and then listing the airlines that offer those.

To start, there are six major types of business class seats out there nowadays:

  • Reverse herringbone
  • Staggered (Solstys style)
  • Staggered (Vantage style)
  • Herringbone
  • Fully flat
  • Angled flat/recliner

So below I’ve ranked them, along with which airlines/aircraft offer those particular seats on transatlantic flights:

1. Reverse herringbone seats


Reverse herringbone seats

Why I love reverse herringbone seats: These seats are just about comparable to some first class suites out there, and really make you wonder if there’s a need for first class anymore. They offer so much privacy and personal space that they’re easily the best business class hard product out there. There are also no bad seats — every seat has direct aisle access and is private, unlike some other configuration, where you may end up seated in a “honeymoon” seat with a stranger.

Airlines offering reverse herringbone seats on transatlantic flights include:

  • Air Canada — 787
  • American — 777-300ER
  • Delta — 747, A330
  • US Airways — A330

2. Staggered seats (Solstys style)

Forward business class cabin
Staggered seats — Solstys

Why I love staggered seats (Solstys style): There are two types of staggered configurations out there. The technical term for this type of seat is Sogerma Solstys-style seat, but that doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

This configuration offers so many different types of seating options — you have window seats that are right by the window with lots of privacy from the aisle, window seats that are closer to the aisle, private center seats, and even “honeymoon” seats in the center section, where you’re seated as close to your seatmate as you would be in economy (by design). For what it’s worth, I far prefer the “true” window seats in this configuration.

What makes these seats better than the other style of staggered business class seats is that the legroom isn’t restrictive. In the other configuration there’s very limited legroom, so it can be tough to sleep if you’re not petite.

Airlines offering these types of staggered seats on transatlantic flights include:

  • Airberlin — A330
  • Alitalia — A330
  • Etihad Airways — 777, A340
  • Emirates — A380
  • Iberia — A330

3. Herringbone seats

Virgin-Atlantic-Upper-Class-01
Herringbone seats

Why I like herringbone seats: Back in the day herringbone seats were the cutting edge business class product, I believe first introduced by Virgin Atlantic. Theyā€™re still quite decent though a bit claustrophobic compared to other products out there. I do like how private they are, though the downside is that if you’re traveling with someone there’s no way to really “sit” next to them.

Airlines offering herringbone seats on transatlantic flights include:

  • Air Canada — 767, 777, A330
  • Air New Zealand — 777
  • Delta — 777
  • Virgin Atlantic — 747, A330, A340

4. Staggered seats (Vantage style)


Staggered seats — Vantage

Why I love staggered seats (Vantage style): While the technical name for the other staggered configuration is Sogerma Solstys, this one is technically called Vantage. These seats do have a bit of privacy, though the downside is that the legroom is highly restrictive. That’s because of how the seats are designed — the foot “cubby” for each seat is located between the seats in front of them, so the space is quite limited.

Airlines offering these types of staggered seats on transatlantic flights include:

  • Austrian — 767, 777
  • Brussels — A330
  • Delta — 767
  • Finnair — some A330
  • Jet Airways — A330
  • Swiss — A330, A340

5. Fully flat seats


Fully flat seats

Why I like fully flat seats: I mean… well… they’re fully flat. Why wouldn’t I like that? šŸ˜‰ So this is the category for all the fully flat seats that don’t fall into one of the above categories.

Airlines offering fully flat seats on transatlantic flights include:

  • Aeroflot — 777
  • British Airways — 747, 777, 787, A318
  • EgyptAir — 777
  • Iberia — A340
  • LOT — 787
  • Lufthansa — 747-8, some A330, some A340, some A380
  • OpenSkies — 757
  • Qatar — 777
  • Singapore — 777, A380
  • South African — A340
  • Turkish — 777, A330-300
  • United — 757, 767, 777, 787

6. Angled/recliner seats

Lufthansa_Business_Class_Seattle_Frankfurt04
Angled seats

Why I don’t like angled seats: Because my idea of a good night of sleep doesn’t involve a dentist office.

Airlines offering staggered seats on transatlantic flights include:

  • Aer Lingus — 757, A330
  • Aeroflot — A330
  • Air France — 777, A330, A340, A380
  • Air Tahiti Nui — A340
  • American — 757, 767-300, 777-200
  • Emirates — 777
  • Ethiopian — 767, 777
  • Finnair — some A330, A340
  • KLM — 747, 777, A330
  • Lufthansa — 747-400, some A330, some A340, some A380
  • SAS — A330, A340
  • TAP — A330, A340
  • Turkish — A330-200
  • US Airways — 757, 767

Bottom line

Hopefully that’s a useful rundown. I realize that my interpretation of “transatlantic” is pretty liberal here based on some of the aircraft types listed (like is a flight to South Africa really transatlantic?), but I’d rather add too many airlines than not enough.

Also, as I stated at the beginning, not all of the above products in the same category are created equal. For example, all else being equal I’d hands down take Etihad business class over US Airways business class, even though on the surface US Airways has my preferred seat type.

So take this as a general guide, and not an airline-by-airline comparison. Hopefully it’s helpful nonetheless.

Comments

  1. For me the USAir seats aren’t wide enough at the shoulders for me to lie flat. Also, the foot cubby really isn’t big enough for my feet. Is there a seat type that tends to be wider at the shoulders and with a bigger foot area? I’d trade that for fully flat/privacy, etc.

  2. Actually, Lucky, Swiss is like a weird hybrid of the 2 staggered styles. The left and center seats are Vantage style, while the seats on the right are Solstys style. You end up with every 2 rows being a 1-2-1/2-2-1 configuration…not sure how it would be categorized.

  3. @ mp — Ultimately anything except the one version of the staggered product should have plenty of room for your feet.

  4. @ Todd — For what it’s worth US Airways offer one of the first reverse herringbone business class seats, so the subsequent versions do seem a bit more spacious.

  5. @ Franek — Thanks for the correction, didn’t realize they already got rid of them. Updated the post accordingly.

  6. @ MYS — They offer a fully flat product on the A380 and angled product on the A330/777. But they don’t fly transatlantic, which is why I didn’t include them.

  7. @wwk5d : i think the distinction is that Solstys is pretty much all-aisle access while Vantage is not guaranteed

    so in that sense, LX is Vantage

  8. how come you have Emirates as having angle seats ? I though they have the cutting edge of everything in the sky.

  9. In regards to your twitter question from yesterday, how about calling the Soltsys seats honeycomb seats? They look a bit like honeycombs.

  10. I thought the KLM 747s have been updated with fully flat seats. Not sure how they would be categorized but World Business seats are advertised as fully flat.

  11. You should check out the AF site for their new Business Class seats that roll out beginning in June. No more Angle-Flat!

  12. I’m flying UA929 LHR-ORD in United Global First 767-300 and UA918 IAD-LHR in United Business First 777-200. Do these both fall under category 5 of fully-flat seats?

  13. @ baxterboy12 — The first class seat kind of falls into a different category since it’s more of a “suite” type seat, but the business class seat would be a standard fully flat seat.

  14. Great post!
    I’ve booked two roundtrip business class awards on AY A333 for 2014 Xmas Europe vacation. Checked seat plan on AY website and found it’d be 32 J seats (the newer fully-flat configuration). Actually I’m still waiting for AA 77w to open a pair of seats on those dates (currently ZERO space). Any idea if AA will open up award space in second half of this year?

  15. You can also add Air Canada in Staggered seats (Vantage style). 777 high density is operating on YUL-LHR and YUL-CDG.

  16. @ Valerie — Whoops, just added them. The 777s have a fully flat product, while the A330s have an angled product.

  17. BA seat probably warrants its own subdivision given it is pretty unique.

    Have not flown reverse herringbone yet, but does not strike me as good for couples or parent/child. Solstys seems better option in those cases.

  18. I would argue that #5 could be broken down further —

    a. BA yin-yang style seats (which are really more similar to #2 than the other #5s)
    b. Pre-merger UA high-density lie-flat seats, which deserve to be much lower-ranked than other options in this category
    c. Pre-merger CO lie-flat seats, which are also used by a few other airlines including KL
    d. “Straightforward” lie-flat seats like TK and SA, which are often a good deal more comfortable than most staggered and herringbone configurations
    e. SQ’s seat, which is its own thing entirely … kind of a hybrid of straightforward (when you’re sitting up) and herringbone (when you’re lying down).

  19. @lucky – are all of IB’s transatlantic fleet fitted with fully flat seating in J now?

  20. For seat #4, I understand why Delta utilizes it on the 767 due to the restricted fuselage width. The fact that others use it on bigger birds is a bit surprising, as other configurations would be much more desirable to the customer. Oh well!

  21. @ EthaninSF — The entire longhaul fleet has fully flat business class seats, but not all of them have the staggered seats yet.

  22. As stated in the Would You Fly BA, TAP or Kuwait, the TAP A330 is fitted with fully flat seats. The Air Canada High Density 777-300ER flying from YUL-CDG have the Vantage style seats.

  23. @lucky – I think you forgot about Eva Airways and their reverse herringbone on the triple 7s.

  24. Air Tahiti Nui, an AA partner, has angled fat seats in their business class on their nonstop from CDG to LAX. I just booked one for next April returning from Paris. Though I had other options (on AA/US Air) with better seats, they all involved a connection, and for me the nonstop aspect trumps comfort,.

  25. Lucky- Aeroflot has two different seat setups for its 333, 9 of 17 have lie flat seats. For the 5 332, I think they’re all converted to the new seats now.

    SU is using the B/E Minipod similar to KE, except the colors are the orange/blue combo.

  26. I agree, with the exception that I would rank BA 62/64 A/K as the top transatlantic seat on their 747.

    The thing I love most about BA CW is the upright position has more of a recline than any other product, which makes it really comfortable during taxi, takeoff and landing.

  27. MS 777 and 330 do not offer full flat – they provide angled seats. But: MS 777 offers huge seat distances and you can jump over your seatmate on the aisle without probs…

  28. American are now rolling out the Vantage seat on their 767s across the atlantic, starting with JFK-ZRH.

  29. Again, another post that I will bookmark.

    It’s funny, the seat is actually more complex then one would think.

    For example, if I am travelling with my wife or kids, I certainly would take the angle flat over Herringbone seats. However if its a short night flight, and all I want to do, then maybe the Herringbone would be above.

    Also the age of the seat and if it is properly working or properly padded. I have been on some, that the seat did not move to its proper positions and the flat seat, was anything but flat. Doesn’t make for a good sleep.

    Finally, looking at your top seat, the Reverse herringbone seats. I think this is really only doable if travelling alone or using Delta miles as AA rarely releases trans Atlantic seats on the 77W, Air Canada doesn’t on the 787. That leaves the valuable Delta Sky Miles šŸ™‚

  30. Nice post.

    The DL 767 lie flats feel like you’re in a coffin!

    I was wondering where DL flies 747s across the pond. While most go to Asia, there’s one flight JFK-TLV.

  31. @ Lucky – this isn’t TATL-related but just noticed when searching for UA IAH-HNL award flights that the nonstop is switching from nice 767-400ER to lowly 777-200 very soon (June 5, if UA site can be trusted). Makes the nonstop flight so much less desirable, IMHO šŸ™

  32. I don’t mean to be picky, but ANZ doesn’t have herringbone seats. For a true herringbone, the top of one seat in the center has to be staggered from the one it’s next to. The ANZ seats (Contour UCS) have the top/aft of each pair of center seats at the same position.

    End airplane nerdom.

  33. Lucky,

    Thanks for this post. It’s very helpful to those of us who aren’t as familiar with the configurations.

  34. Lucky—Can you do a similar article for transpacific business class seats? It might be helpful for folks who travel to Asia from the west coast. Thanks so much!

  35. Hi Lucky,

    Thank you for clarifying the different types of seats out there. However, I do believe that LH’s new business class seats (with the brownish/orange colour scheme) would be considered a form of reverse herringbone. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    Noah

  36. @ Noah Sprenger — I guess it’s a function of semantics, but generally herringbone/reverse herringbone seats refer to configurations with all aisle access, in my experience.

  37. Hi, maybe I’m using the terms differently than you do, but the last 2 categories confuse me: Couldn’t any of the first 4 either be full flat or angled?
    I.e. LX has vantage, but they are also full flat IMO. Their first try on the A340 wasn’t, but they have moved away from that fortunately.

  38. @ Gabby — Correct, though when I say fully flat or angled I’m referring to forward facing seats that don’t fit into any of the other categories, if that makes sense.

  39. Etihad A380/787 business seats are actually more similar to a (narrower) reversed Club World-like yin-yang configuration, and they do fly transatlantic. They should be classified as fully flat.
    Just saying.

  40. Interesting article but curious to know what QANTAS offer Transatlantic. They do a New York to Heathrow leg. Otherwise all my ‘choice’ of airlines are covered.

    Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *