Five recently released fully flat seats
Since they were first introduced a decade ago, an ever increasing number of airlines have been offering passengers the chance to stretch out horizontally on a seat which reclines into a fully flat bed. Meanwhile many of the world’s major airlines are rolling out their third and fourth generation models of this type of seating. Here we offer a rundown of some of the more recently released seats, together with their pros and cons.
Virgin Upper Class
Background: Virgin’s new Upper Class “Suite”, launched in March 2012, has seats placed at a diagonal in the cabin in an unusual 1-2-1 configuration. It will be fitted on new aircraft such as the A330, of which Virgin has a total order for 10, and the B787s expected to be delivered around the end of 2014.
Review: The new seat is good overall, but not a radical departure from what has gone before. To turn the seat into a bed you have to stand up and flip it over. This is inconvenient if you want to recline straight to sleep, but means the bed has different cushions more suited to sleeping, and allows the flight attendants to prepare the bed properly. While the seat’s point-to-point length is large, the usable length is somewhat less than this, so somebody over 1.80 metres may find their head and feet touching the guards of the ottoman. The seat’s positioning also means people in the aisle may possibly knock into your feet once you are lying down.
Width: 23 inches (58.4cm)
Bed length: 82 inches (208.3cm) for centre seats, 87 inches (221cm) for window seats.
Cathay Pacific Business Class
Background: In May 2011, Cathay launched a revamp of their business class seat which generated some adverse reactions (see here). The new seat retained the herringbone layout, but replaced the sharp lines with curvier panelling. The new design removed the wall along the seat-bed, which people had complained made the seat feel very enclosed. They added an innovative lever which makes the seat very sociable by letting you bring the seat forwards out of its enclosure to speak to people around you.
Review: The seat converts easily into a flat bed, even when done in the dark. It is well designed for side sleepers with an extension flap on one side, and a space between on the opposite side, each providing additional width for the knees. The seat has also been made to ensure that somebody of 1.98 metres would be comfortable lying stretched out. The seat has a retractable aisle armrest, which serves as protection should you be sleeping facing the aisle, preventing your head from sticking out and being knocked. The actual usable length of the bed is about 7 inches (17cm) less than the point-to-point length (listed below).
Width: 21 inches (53cm)
Bed length: 82 inches (208cm)
Korean Air Prestige Sleeper
Background: Since their launch in 2009, Korean Air has been gradually fitting its Prestige Sleeper seats on some existing aircraft (not including older B747s soon to be withdrawn), and has them on its new A380.
Review: While the seat does fold down fully flat, it remains angled just off horizontal. In general, the width of the seat helps make it comfortable in any of the electronically adjusted positions, especially when fully reclined to a bed. The pillow provided could be bigger. The privacy screen pulled out from the area above the armrest is useful.
Width: 21.6 inches (54.9cm)
Bed length: 79 inches (201cm)
Pitch: 74 inches (188cm)
Background: Launched March 2012 on Lufthansa’s new Boeing 747-8 aircraft, the seats are being installed in phases on long-haul aircraft serving Asia, a process to be completed by the start of 2013. The seats are assembled in pairs and turned towards each other in a V-shape.
Review: The V-shape gives additional shoulder and personal space when seated or reclined, but means when sitting up you are facing inwards a little towards the person next to you. There is just a thin divider between the two passengers’ foot rests, and the inward facing position means there’s a slight chance you might might kick, or get kicked by, the person next to you (though this is unlikely). When reclined into a bed, the retractable armrest and small space on the opposite side help to add width to the seat.
Width: 20.5 inches (52cm)
Bed length: 78 inches (198cm)
Malaysian A380 Business Class
Background: In June this year, Malaysian Airlines took delivery of their first A380 super jumbo which is fitted with 66 fully flat business class seats.
Review: While the seat does recline to be fully flat, this doesn’t include the leg rest which hangs down at an angle. This is okay when you lie on your back but can be uncomfortable when sleeping on your side. Pressing the legrest button improves things but does not entirely rectify the problem. The table is also difficult to adjust and not the most stable of those tried.
Width: 22 inches (55.8cm)
Bed length: 72 inches (183cm) reclining to form a bed of the same length.
Pitch: 74 inches