Every airline that flies long-haul regards its business class seats as its premium offering. Some of these airlines have first class, but this is increasingly rare, and business class is where the real money is made, not least because there are many more business class seats on the aircraft.
There are several different styles of business class seating, but once airlines had decided that passengers were demanding seats which reclined into fully-flat beds, the majority of manufacturers went to one of the major seat manufacturers and adapted their off-the-shelf products rather than designing a seat from scratch.
What that means is you will find versions of the same seat on many airlines. Some make major changes, some make minor ones, and of course the exact specifications change not only from one airline to another, but also from one aircraft type to another. In addition, some airlines will have one type of seat on one aircraft type, and a completely different type on another.
Nevertheless, here’s our guide to long-haul business class, and we’ll keep updating it as new developments occur.
Originally designed by B/E Aerospace (later acquired by Rockwell Collins), the Apex seat has a staggered formation allowing it to be both fully-flat and give direct aisle access. This differs from the Thompson Vantage XL design because as you recline your feet do not disappear ‘under’ the table in front of you. It is thus a less dense configuration.
It’s used by Korean, Oman Air, and you can read a review of it (in the form of the SkySuite) on Japan Airlines here.
Originally made by Zodiac Aerospace, now acquired by Safran Seats, the Cirrus has become one of the best known (and liked) business class seats.
There are different variations of it since it debuted with US Airways (remember them?) back in 2009, and Finnair, for instance, is an example of what at the time was called Cirrus 3 by the airline (but which the company referred to as Aries).
All the versions offer fully-flat beds and direct aisle access, and are in a 1-2-1 configuration, though some offer more room than others as airlines choose to increase the density of the seating with small adjustments.
In addition, some have backward facing seats (see the American Airlines review below) while others have what is called Reverse Herringbone – which is when the window seats actually face the windows.
Find it on:
- Air France B777-300ER – The airline took a long time to make the decision to go fully-flat in business class, and still hasn’t completed the retrofit. Where you do find the new seat, it is the Cirrus one. Our most recent review was in 2017
- American Airlines – American has versions of the Cirrus seat on its B777-200, B777-300ER and even its A321 services (though these are termed First rather than business). It has announced that it will be the Super Diamond on forthcoming retrofits and deliveries, however. We discussed some of the different configurations of the Cirrus seat across American’s fleet here
- Cathay Pacific – Cathay has the Cirrus on its B777-300ER aircraft and its A350 fleet, though these have been plagued with reliability problems from launch. Note that there is a different regional business class. This review also has links through to the A350 flights
- Delta – While Delta’s A350s and, increasingly, its 777s, feature the Delta One suite, we recently reviewed the Cirrus seat on its A330-200
- Finnair – Finnair has the seat on its A350-900 fleet. You can read about the introduction if it here, and a review here
- KLM – KLM has versions of the Cirrus seat on all its long haul fleet. We reported on the arrival of its new B787-9s back in 2015
- Japan Airlines – JAL has the seat on its 777-200ERs and 787-9s is technically a Zodiac Aries, but provides all-but the same passenger experience
- Vietnam Airlines – Note that Vietnam has two different designs for its new long haul aircraft – for the B787 it has gone for the Cirrus, and you can read a review here
Stelia Solstys seat
This seat, originally called Sogerman Solstys by EADS, also offers fully-flat bed and direct aisle access, but with quirks. It has a staggered design, so like the Thompson Vantage XL, your feet when you are reclined are under the full enclosed table of the seat in front of you.
Find it on:
- Emirates – Emirates has a number of different seats on its aircraft, but on its A380s it has a version of this seat. Read our thoughts from the launch here.
- Etihad – Etihad is upgrading its business class seats, but to read about its version of the seat, which included both forward and backward facing configuration, see this review
- Iberia – Iberia received its new A350s in 2018, which feature the Stelia Solstys in business class
- Vietnam Airlines – Vietnam has fitted some of its A350s with the Cirrus, while initially it went for the Stelia Solstys
Stelia also makes a seat called the Solstys III. You can find it on Singapore Airlines’ 787-10 Dreamliner, which we previewed here.
Owned by Rockwell Aerospace, the Super Diamond (unlike the Diamond seat) offers direct aisle access in a herringbone configuration and has proved successful with airlines worldwide.
Unlike the Cirrus seat, it has a fixed inflight entertainment screen in the body of the seat in front, which allows passengers to watch inflight entertainment from gate to gate, provided the carrier allows it. For the most lovely examples of what can be achieved, see the Westjet design below.
Find it on:
- Hainan – You can read about it in this piece – Hainan Airlines unveils new A330-300
- Hong Kong Airlines – If you want to see a great example of the Rockwell Collins Super Diamond seat, this is a good one First look: Hong Kong Airlines debuts new A350 business class seat
- Qatar Airways – A majority of Qatar’s seats on its A350 and 787 aircraft are the SUper Diamond seat, though not its new QSuite (which we reviewed here) and which is also Rockwell Collins
- Westjet – But strangely (considering it is supposed to be a Canadian low-cost carrier), Westjet’s first-ever business class offering, designed for its B787 with help from excellent design tream PriestmanGoode is probably the best example of this seat. Any airline that wants to try and surpass this will find it takes some beating.
The other Zodiac Aerospace seat (now owned by Safran – see above) is the Optima seat, which offers direct aisle access. It’s a clever design whcih so far has been seen in a United versions called Polaris. The roll out of the Polaris seat has been much delayed, so much so that we started publishing pieces with headlines such as United Polaris: progress report.
This wasn’t United’s fault – Zodiac was having major issues manufacturing all seats for all airlines, so much so, that eventually it was taken over by Safran.
Anyway, you will eventually encounter the seat, and to read a recent review of it, see
And to read about the thinking behind the new seat, and other new seats such as the QSuite, see this piece.
Thompson Vantage XL seat
The Thompson Vantage seat (to give it its full name) is in a staggered formation allowing both direct aisle access but also fully-flat beds.
It achieves this by having the footrest under the full-enclosed table of the seat in front. This means that each passenger is either close to the aisle or separated from the aisle by a side table.
It also means that the cabin has quite a few quirks in its layout, not least the 1-2-1 and then 1-2-2 configuration of each row.
You can see an example of how this works in a video we did on the Malaysia Airlines A350:
Find it on:
- Aer Lingus – Aer Lingus has the seat on both its long haul wide body fleet and also its narrow body fleet such as the B757 – and we reviewed that here Note that Aer Lingus will be having new business class seating on its long haul narrow body aircraft arriving in 2019
- Delta – Delta debuted the the world’s first all-suite business class on its A350 in 2017 and has since been retrofitting its B777s.
- JetBlue – The American low-cost airline uses the seat for its premium service Mint. When it was introduced in 2014 it was the first business class product to offer full privacy with a sliding door, though wasn’t rolled out throughout business
- LATAM – the group is fitting the seat to over 200 existing aircraft, as well as new B787 and A350s. The seat has been styled by London-based design studio PriestmanGoode, and features a fully-flat bed, 18-inch IFE screen, marble-effect granite cocktail table, privacy screen and “ample storage for personal items”.
- Malaysia Airlines – This is a good example of the Thompson Vantage XL seat, though in a slightly unusual configuration (see above).
- Philippine Airlines – Retrofitted the seat on its A330s (not all of them – 8 out of 15) and also on its new A350-900 aircraft
- Qantas – The Australian airline’s newest seat product, which can be found on board its B787-9 Dreamliners
- SAS – SAS to debut new long-haul cabin next month
- Swiss – to read a flight review heading down to Hong Kong, see Swiss B777-300ER business class
Well, yes, there are a lot of other one-off seats, from the outstanding such as the Rockwell Collins-manufactured Qsuite through to…. well, let’s not end on a negative note.
But just as commercial aircraft manufacturing is dominated by just a few players (two, actually), so seat manufacturing has come to be consolidated. It doesn’t mean that in the future all business class seats will be the same, but it does mean they will increasingly look familiar.