The State of Lie-Flat Business Class on American Carriers

by on April 23, 2014 · 17 comments

in American, Delta, United

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Seems like there’s a sense of change in the proverbial air over at Delta: in advance of the airline’s introduction on July 1, 2014 of new BusinessElite and Economy seats aboard its 757-200s for JFK-LAX routes, the airline announced today that they’ve just completed updates to the BusinessElite cabins on their A330-200/300s, Boeing 767-300ERs and 400ERs, 747-400s and 777-200ERs and LRs, and claims this makes them the only US carrier to offer full lie-flat seats with direct-aisle access in business class on all wide-body international flights.

That’s quite a qualified first, since United claimed a similar honor back in June when it announced the revamp of all its international long-haul aircraft with 180-degree flatbed seats. However, it’s still a good step in the right direction for Delta, and certainly something worth celebrating.

Here are the rest of the details and how the other US legacy carriers’ long-haul international fleets stack up at the moment:

Delta's lie-flat BusinessElite seats aboard its 777s

Delta’s lie-flat BusinessElite seats aboard its 777-200ER


Delta now uses three versions of its BusinessElite seat, each featuring a 15.4″ in-seat touchscreen monitor with on-demand entertainment:

  • 767′s: 21 inches wide with a 76.5-81.4-inch, lie-flat pitch and 21 inches wide, arranged in a staggered 1 x 2 x 1 configuration (pictured below)
  • 777-200ER and LRs: 20.5 inches wide with an 82-inch, lie-flat pitch, arranged in a herringbone 1 x 2 x 1 pattern
  • A330′s and 747-400′s: Reverse herringbone 1 x 2 x 1 configurationwith direct aisle access and 15.4” monitor for seatback entertainment and 82 inches of pitch, 20.5 inches wide on the 747, 80 inches by 21 inches on the A330.
Delta's 767 BusinessElite seats.

Delta’s 767 BusinessElite seats.

The BusinessElite seats that Delta will now employ on its 757s for transatlantic routes are 21 inches wide with an 80-inch, lie-flat pitch, arranged in a 2 x 2 configuration with all-aisle access, as well as 16″ in-seat touchscreen monitors with on-demand entertainment.

BusinessElite seats on Delta's A330's.

BusinessElite seats on Delta’s A330′s.

Updates to both BusinessElite and Economy seats on Delta’s long-haul flights include personal, on-demand entertainment systems at every seat, Westin Heavenly in-flight bedding in BusinessElite, and new amenity kits in both BusinessElite and international Economy.

Delta's new Sleep Kit, available in Economy on international flights

Delta’s new Sleep Kit, available in international Economy

The latter is a sleep kit that includes an eye mask and ear plugs. Interior updates to 225 of Delta’s domestic narrow-body aircraft, including the addition of  more baggage space and access to power, will continue through 2016. 


Delta’s completion of this upgrade to its BusinessElite seats in particular puts Delta ahead of American Airlines, which is already in the process of making improvements to its present international business-class service and slowly beginning to roll out updates to its 767-300s with an all-new international business class.

The new American 767-300 business class cabin.

The new American 767-300 business class cabin.

However, this new version of business class on the 767-300 has has 26-inch-wide lie-flat seats in a 1 x 2 x 1 staggered configuration with all-aisle access is only being rolled out starting this month on the JFK-Zurich route. The cabin will have a total of 28 seats in 7 rows and the new seats will be fully horizontal lie-flats without IFE screens. American has plans to retrofit about half of the 58 767-300′s in its fleet now through the end of 2015, and to retire the rest as it replaces them with current-generation aircraft like the A321.

Business class seats aboard American's 777-300ER

Business class seats aboard American’s 777-300ER

American’s flagship new business class is already available on some international routes on the 777-300ER. The 52 business class seats are arranged in a 1 x 2 x 1 herringbone pattern, and each seat is 26 inches wide with a lie-flat pitch of 75-76 inches and the same 17-inch personal screen, Wifi and power offerings as in the Flagship Suites. The planes’ present routes are JFK, LAX, MIA and DFW to London Heathrow (LHR), as well as from JFK and DFW to Sao Paolo (GRU); this summer, they’ll introduce a DFW to Hong Kong (HKG) route, and in November, MIA-GRU.

American 777 First Class

American’s 777-300 Flagship First Class Suite

American’s fleet of 777-300 ER’s also offer the airline’s new Flagship First Class Suites, as well as the upgraded business class product. The plane’s 8 Flagship Suites are configured in a two-row 1 x 2 1 herringbone pattern with direct-aisle access, and each seat is 29 inches wide, has 80 inches in pitch with a full lie-flat length of 6’8″, and features a 17-inch personal entertainment screen, international Wifi capability, universal AC power outlet and USB jack. Turn-down service includes a mattress, comforter and light blanket, and seats are are left open to the aisle, without any enclosures.

American's new

Post-retrofit, this is what American’s new international-business class seat will look like aboard its 777-200s

Later this year, American will begin retrofitting its international-service 777-200′s with two-class configurations of business class and economy seating. The adjustable front- and rear-facing  6’4.5″ lie-flat business-class seats will have all-aisle access, and the Main Cabin Extra seats will each have with six more inches of legroom than the regular economy seats. Both classes will feature personal entertainment systems and international WiFi.


In January this year, United finally completed an overhaul of their entire fleet of 757 p.s.(Premier Service) planes that only travel coast-to-coast between JFK and both LAX  and SFO. Each p.s. plane now offers a BusinessFirst class (a combination of Business and First classes) with 28 seats that are 180-degree flat-bed with 6’4” of space when fully extended, and have 15.4-inch entertainment monitors. First class was phased out on these aircraft.

United also long lagged in terms of premium international cabins, but it’s been trying to make up for lost time. As we stated above, over the summer, it announced it had installed all flab-bed seats on 183 international long-haul aircraft operating on all scheduled international long-haul flights from its eight North American hubs and between Seattle and Tokyo Narita. The newly retrofitted cabins include revamped GlobalFirst and BusinessFirst cabins  with over 7,000 flat-bed seats total fleetwide.

United's flagship GlobalFirst suite.

United’s flagship GlobalFirst suite.

GlobalFirst is the airline’s flagship first class suite. Seats are arranged in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration with the outer seats facing outward towards the windows and the seats in the middle row of two facing each other (on the 767, it’s 1 x 1 x 1). Each Suite includes a gray fabric lie-flat seat that reclines to 6 feet 6 inches (almost long enough for me) with a duvet and pillow for sleeping, and a BackCycler lumbar support system. Each seat has its own 15.4-inch video monitor, laptop power source, and USB charging ports (except for some 777s). GlobalFirst seats are 6’6” when fully reclined to 180 degrees and are 22-23 inches wide.

United will be replacing the current first and business class seats with its BusinessFirst lie-flat product.

United’s BusinessFirst lie-flat product.


BusinessFirst is the airline’s flagship business class product and is based on the premium offerings Continental used to have. United’s planes configure these seats in a variety of ways ranging from 2 x 1 x 2 on the 767-400s to 2 x 4 x 2 on the 747 (2 x 2 on the upper deck) and most 777-200s (though some old Continental planes have them in a 2 x 2 x 2), so check out your aircraft’s seat map. Passengers get amenity kits, duvets and pillows, and the seats recline to a full 180 degrees. Seats have 76 inches of pitch when fully reclined and are 20 inches wide. Each has a 15.4-inch video monitor with programming controlled by the passenger, as well as a laptop power source and a USB port.

Just note, there are a couple versions of various aircraft such as the 767-300s the airline flies to Europe where some have a GlobalFirst cabin and some do not, and where the BusinessFirst cabin has rows of either 5 or 6 seats across, so it pays to look at your particular aircraft’s seatmap to see how crowded you’ll be.

There are also 3 versions of the 777 according to United’s aircraft page where there are old first class seats and no GlobalFirst or BusinessFirst. That said, the airline is trying to retrofit these quickly and nearly all of the airline’s 777-200s are converted already.

United 787 seat map

United’s 787′s only have BusinessFirst, not GlobalFirst.

The airline’s Boeing 787’s all have BusinessFirst cabins but no GlobalFirst onboard.

US Airways

US Airways’s Envoy Suite was designed to compete with the latest business class offerings on major international airlines (even the likes of Cathay Pacific Business class, which has the same seats), and is available on the airline’s entire fleet of A330-200s and A330-300s, which operate on almost all flights between the US and various European destinations including London Heathrow and Gatwick, Paris, Madrid, Frankfurt, Munich, Manchester, Rome and Tel Aviv.

US Airways’ Envoy Suite is among the top premium products offered by US airlines.

Just beware, although the airline’s 767 list their business class cabin Envoy as well, the seats in it are angled lie-flats, and not totally horizontal like they are on the Airbuses.

A330-300′s have 28 seats in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration while A330-200s have just 20 of these seats. The seats along the fuselage are angled out, while the two seats in the middle row are angled slightly toward each other in a reverse herringbone configuration.

Envoy Suite seats recline between 76-80 inches depending on the seat’s location in the cabin. Each is also 20.5 inches wide (25 inches with the armrests down), and recline to a full 180 degrees. The touch-screen entertainment systems are older and smaller than the other legacies listed on here at just 12.1 inches wide, but seats also have 10-volt universal power outlets and USB ports to plug in your gadgets.

The 18 Envoy seats on the 767 are in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration and only recline to 170 degrees with a pitch of 62 inches. They are also 20.5 inches wide, and flight attendants pass out Samsung Galaxy Tabs with 10.1-inch screens for in-flight entertainment.

The airline’s 757′s are equipped with 12 old-school business class recliner seats in a 2 x 2 configuration with 60 inches of pitch, 19.5 inches wide and a recline of up to 160 degrees. IFE is provided on Samsung Galaxy tabs on these too.

So that’s the current state of affairs on the major US airlines and their international business and first class products. What have you flown lately, and what do you prefer?

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  • Joe S.

    I would really like to know what American plans to do with all these old 757′s I fly from MIA to all different parts of South America. I am sick and tired of [paying for] crappy Business seats on 6-7 hour flights south.

  • Mercruiser

    You wrote, “The latter is a sleep kit that includes an eye mask and ear plugs, an amenity kit in economy class is found on only two other carriers, Turkish Airlines and Virgin Atlantic.” Add Air Tahiti Nui to this list. They provide an amenity kit In economy on the LAX-PPT route.

  • Al

    Not sure which routes you take to South America from MIA that take you 6-7 hours. Quito is 4 hrs, for which standard business is fine. Lima is 4.5/5 hrs which is kid of a threshold number but they do have 763´s for that route, although I believe it is only one of the flights. Santiago is 7.5 hrs and it is covered by 763´s as well, and most Brazilian and Argentine routes are covered by the 777-200´s. So, I´m curious what you are complaining about….

  • hillrider

    This article would be easier to read if you stuck to “first” and “business”. The use of all these empty useless monickers make it difficult to follow: all I care is what kind of seat I get when I buy a business class ticket (which is the information you promise in the thread title), not what confusing name the airline calls it.

  • Ben Price

    C’mon, you know exactly what he’s complaining about. Regardless of the time cited (7 hours), AA’s hard product to SA is terrrrrible. Didn’t even know that was up to debate.

    Can’t remember the last time I searched for an AA flight to SA where lie-flat seats were on the table.

  • Izzy

    Add also tam airlines, they provide an amenity kit in economy when I flew from jfk to gru.

  • JJ

    And Qatar on overnight flights…

  • joeypore

    My favorite business class is still AA’s 777-300ER, and it’s great to see how most carriers are going with this option.

    Though the staggered J on AA’s retrofitted 767s will be a huge improvement over angled lie-flat on those routes. Really hope they retrofit the 767s used on the HNL & OGG flights.

    Haha, I like the hashtag Brian used a while back…


  • austin1805

    ThePointsGuy I have been a loyal reader for many years and I am extremely disappointed by your logic in this article. I understand that you are obsessed with American Airlines (why I cannot understand). However, currently they have the WORST business class. I mean on a 14 hour flight I expect a lie-flat business class flight. Good luck finding that on a majority of American’s routes as of today. United has a great business class product. While the seats are a bit narrow and it does suck having to step over someone, I have always been impressed with United’s business first. In addition, the fact that they have been rolled out fleet wide before any other American carrier is impressive. In addition, UA has business first lie-flat on long-haul domestic flights such as IAD-HNL or EWR-HNL. This is great for a 10+ hour flight. While, I agree that American Airlines will have a great product in the future, as of today it is total crap.

  • wal184

    I couldn’t disagree with you more. United 2x4x2 configuration is the most uncomfortable business class out there. They have narrowed the rows to allow for this configuration to the point that you can not roll your roller board carryon down the isle. This has created many uncomfortable situations. If you have an isle seat you will always be bumped when flight attendants pass by it also means, because of reverse seating, that you will spend a 14 hour flight 18 inches away from someone you are looking right at. The only comfortable international business class on United is the 787 or an old Continental 2x2x2 configuration.

  • Alex D

    Nothing beats US Air Envoy. Those are the best biz class seats in the West. FLy them constantly from CLT to FRA. Had to sometimes go United. Their seats and service suck and Lufthansa is worse.

  • admin

    great stuff

  • admin


  • JayV

    I agree with your assessment of United’s seriously awful 2-4-2 biz class. A slim, short and narrow person might find it OK, the rest of us have no privacy, no storage, no lateral room, and no comfort while trying to sleep.

  • Gabriel

    Lima is 5:15. Take the domestic 757 first class red-eye (instead of the International 757) and you will see how horrible it is.

  • augias

    this article does not take into account that all-aisle-access means fewer seats. That’s fewer award seats, fewer seats for upgrade, higher prices. Is that worth the aisle access? It’s not for me.
    United has not lagged behind the others, UA and CO were in fact among the first american carriers to feature lie-flat seats and United is the only one to feature lie-flat seats on every international long-distance flight. Since I think non-lieflat biz seats are totally worthless, with the other carriers there’s always the danger of being cheated because of some last-minute airplane swap.
    At the time UA and CO put in their lie-flat seats, all-aisle-access wasn’t even a thing yet, so you can hardly blame them.
    The former UA aircraft biz seats (arranged in the 2-4-2 layout) are actually the most comfortable on UA as the seats are very long. The lack of storage space is a concern but I like how many seats they managed to fit in. Also, backward facing seats are much more comfortable and easier to sleep in, not to mention more comfortable during landing. The former CO seats are just ok, a bit shorter and less comfortable but with less storage space. I was sad that this is the seat design that UA put in for the 787.

  • Bruce Wayne

    Delta is on top of their game.

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