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Travel can be stressful — especially when you’re flying with a significant other, or even just a buddy. But some airline seats out there make flying the friendly skies even friendlier for folks traveling in pairs. Today, TPG Special Contributor Eric Rosen rounds up the best business-class seats for couples.
When it comes to business-class seats, we often cover what’s new, notable and bookable with miles. As a frequent solo traveler, I usually opt for the business-class cabins that feature seats with the most privacy (reverse-herringbone side seats for me, please!). But if you happen to be traveling with your significant other, there are plenty of great seating options that allow you to experience the journey together. Here are the best, in terms of coziness and award availability.
1. American Airlines
American Airlines has dramatically improved its international business-class cabins in recent years. First, the airline launched a fantastic new reverse-herringbone seat on its flagship 777-300ERs, which TPG Points and Miles Editor Sarah Silbert reviewed on a recent flight to London. Later, AA announced a retrofit of its 767-300 aircraft, with seats that are in a staggered layout. Finally, though it has now stalled, the airline began installing its new 787s and retrofitting certain 777-200s with a new forward-backward reverse-herringbone seat, which I reviewed here.
The seats on the 777-300ERs and 777-200s are worth special attention, though. The ones in the middle section are angled toward one another, but still provide quite a lot of privacy — perfect for couples who want to chat intermittently throughout a flight but don’t want to be up in each other’s business (class) the whole time.
Both aircraft’s business-class cabins are laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration. The 777-300ERs’s seats are 26 inches wide and recline to 75-78 inches. Each has its own 17-inch in-flight entertainment screen. The seats on the 777-200s and 787s have 60 inches of pitch, are 21 inches wide and recline to 77 inches. Their in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems are 16 inches wide.
These are some of the newest business class seats in the skies, and in a very popular configuration for both business and leisure travelers since you can have lots of privacy on the sides of the plane or opt for the more social middle seats.
Though American tends to fly these on some of its longest-haul routes, including those from Dallas to Hong Kong and Los Angeles to Sydney, you can also find some of them on domestic routes with plenty of award availability such as this flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Miami (MIA) that currently employs a 777-300ER. Here’s a sample booking.
Etihad’s long-haul fleet has a staggered 1-2-1 layout in business class where the middle seats in certain rows — usually the odd-numbered rows and seats denoted E or F — are right next to each other and separated from the aisle by massive armrests on either side for ultimate privacy.
You’ll find these seat configurations on Etihad’s A330s, A340s, A380s, 777-200s, 777-300ERs and 787-9s. What’s interesting to note, though, is that the A380s and 787s have rear-facing seats as well, which adds another element of fun. Seats are 20 inches wide, have 73 inches of pitch when reclined and have 15-inch LCD screens.
The airline also tends to release a lot of award availability with multiple seats on many flights. Though you’ll probably want to use partner American Airlines’ miles to book your awards, you’ll need to search through Etihad’s own site for “Guest” award availability, like on this flight from Abu Dhabi (AUH) to New York (JFK), below.
3. Qatar Airways
Like the other two Middle Eastern carriers, Qatar Airways has been undergoing some massive expansions lately, including a fleet of new A380s, A350s and 787s, all with pretty spectacular business class cabins. However, it’s the 787 you’ll want to keep your eye on as row 6 is semi-private and separated from the rest of the business class cabin by a small bar and the main door area — there are just two middle seats angled toward one another, making it great for sweethearts. The one big drawback: It’s the last row of business class near the lavatories and curtains that separate you from the economy cabin.
Like the rest of the business class seats on this aircraft, which you can find reviews of here and here, the seats recline to 80 inches and are up to 30 inches wide with the armrest lowered, making them among the biggest in the skies.
Qatar’s aircraft is deployed on flights from Doha to Amsterdam (until March 27), Brussels, Cape Town, Copenhagen, Johannesburg, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Madrid, Munich, Rome, Stockholm, Tokyo Haneda and Zurich, among others. Even better, award availability is pretty great across the board, even for multiple seats on the same flight.
Here is a sample of availability on its flight from Doha (DOH) to Vienna (VIE). I used British Airways’ website to search for space on Qatar.
Here’s an example of a flight from Doha (DOH) to Rome (FCO) with several seats available.
Though we often discuss Emirates’ amazing first class suites, the airline also has a pretty nice business class cabin on its A380s, however cabins on most of its 777-300ERs are not as nice since they’re an older (angled!) product.
The Emirates A380’s business class cabin is laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration that is staggered, so the seats in the middle section are either separated by a very wide double armrest or right next to each other — for example, those in odd-numbered rows are right next to one another (seats E & F). They are just 18.5 inches wide but recline to up to 79 inches, while their touch screens are 17 inches wide.
Just out of curiosity, I looked for awards on the airline’s new service from Washington Dulles (IAD) to Dubai (DXB) that launched this week and there were some available for couples most days, including this one that you can book using miles from its partner, Alaska Airlines.
5. Cathay Pacific
Though US Airways pioneered the reverse-herringbone business class seat, it was Hong Kong’s flagship carrier that popularized it aboard its 777-300ERs. Cathay Pacific is in the process of updating its business class cabins now, but the seats remain quite nice and you can check out this recent review by TPG.
Like American’s new seats, these are laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration where the middle seats are angled toward one another. Each reclines to 81 inches, and is 21 inches wide, making them some of the most spacious in the skies. The IFE screens are 15 inches wide.
Though finding advance award availability can be tricky, I do find that a lot of award seats tend to open up about one to two weeks in advance on many of Cathay Pacific’s long-haul routes — your best bet is from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) since there are up to four daily flights.
Here’s a sample search in January with plenty of business class seats on two flights from LAX to Hong Kong (HKG).
Lufthansa’s new business class was a long time coming. It took the airline a few years to retrofit its whole fleet with the new seats but the job was finally completed last fall.
While these seats won’t win any innovation awards, they do look quite neat and orderly. The reason they make this list is because they’re split up into two-seat blocks with feet angled toward one another, and though there’s a wide armrest, there’s no privacy screen. You can have a bit of alone time, but these seats really do lend themselves to spending some QT with your cutie.
The seats recline to 78 inches and are about 20 inches wide. IFE screens are 15.4 inches wide and set into the seatbacks.
Again, these seats aren’t industry-changing, but they do look pretty comfortable (especially for couples) and there are a whole lot of them across Lufthansa’s fleet, so your chances of flying them using miles are good. Lufthansa is part of Star Alliance, so you can use United miles (or points transferred to United from Chase Ultimate Rewards), Aeroplan or ANA miles (including those transferred from Amex Membership Rewards) to fly.
One of the routes I consistently find great award availability on is from Washington Dulles (IAD) to Frankfurt and vice versa. Here’s an example, below.
You can also find wide award availability on some lesser-known routes like this flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Munich (MUC).
7. Singapore Airlines
Unlike many of the other entries on this list, Singapore Airlines’ business class seats aboard the A380 and 777-300ER (both the old and new versions) are neither herringbone nor staggered. Instead, they face full forward in set rows in a 1-2-1 configuration — the reason they’re on this list is because they are huge and readily bookable using miles.
These seats are between 28-30 inches wide, depending on your aircraft, and recline to 76 inches.
Because KrisFlyer is transfer partners with all four major transferable points programs – Membership Rewards, Ultimate Rewards, ThankYou Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest – you also have a lot of options for topping up your account.
Awards on the Los Angeles (LAX) to Tokyo (HND) and New York (JFK) to Frankfurt (FRA) routes on which the airline flies its flagship A380 can be almost non-existent, but they do tend to open up at the last minute. You can always waitlist an award and keep your fingers crossed for something to appear like this JFK to Frankfurt flight with two seats.
8. British Airways
Though British Airways’ business class sometimes gets a bad rap thanks to a tight squeeze that has seats eight-abreast on certain aircraft and a forward-rear-facing configuration that means you could be eye-to-eye with a stranger your whole flight, for couples, this might be just the level of intimacy you prefer.
Though the configuration can vary slightly by cabin depending on aircraft, such as whether you’re on a 787 versus an A380, or on the upper deck of a 747, in general you’ll find two seats on each side of the aircraft and a middle section of either three or four seats.
The cabin configuration is usually either 2-3-2, or 2-4-2 depending on your aircraft. No matter which one you’re on, if you’re traveling with your partner, you might want to snag one of those two-seat sections on the sides so you can face one another.
On the larger aircraft, including the A380 and 747, the very middle seats (E & F) are literally right next to each other with only a narrow armrest between them, so if you want to get really close over the course of your flight, opt for these. Here’s a review of BA’s A380 business class, and here’s one of its 747 cabin.
Like the other business class seats across BA’s fleet, these are totally lie-flat, 20 inches wide and have a recline length of 72 inches. IFE screens, meanwhile, are a bit behind the times at just 12.1 inches wide.
The good news is, since these seats are on practically the entire fleet, there’s a good deal of award availability depending on where you want to book. Not only that, the program is a transfer partner of Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest, so you have plenty of options for topping up your account.
Here are award seats for two from San Francisco (SFO) to London (LHR) on BA’s A380 in March.
Here’s a screenshot showing award availability for two passengers to London (LHR) aboard its 787 from San Jose (SJC), and options on A380s from either San Francisco (SFO) or Los Angeles (LAX) in July.
9. China Eastern
China Eastern unveiled its new 777-300ERs early in 2015, and they feature the same popular reverse-herringbone 1-2-1 configuration as American Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Seats recline to 75 inches and are 23.6 inches wide, so pretty spacious, and their IFE screens are 16 inches wide.
The reason China Eastern edges out its SkyTeam partner China Airlines’ snazzier cabins is that there seems to be a lot more award availability from China Eastern’s US ports of call, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, than on China Airlines. In fact, you can find multiple award seats on the airline’s flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to its hub in Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) on most days, including the following example.
Asiana’s A380s and certain 777-200ERs feature its latest business class seats, which are laid out in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration where the E & F seats in odd-numbered rows are right up next to each other (though there is a privacy screen if you don’t happen to be traveling with a loved one). These seats are a relatively spacious 21.3 inches wide and recline to 74.5 inches on the 777 — and up to 80 inches on the A380. IFE screens are 15.6 inches wide.
Though the cabins look fairly bland, Asiana service gets high marks with nice amenities including a little lounge area and lavatories with dressing rooms on the A380, and very good award availability from the West Coast to Asia.
For example, here is a flight from Los Angeles (LAX) to Seoul (ICN) with two award seats open in March (though there are actually awards available most days this spring!).
11. Thai Airways
Thai Airways features that familiar staggered front-facing business class seat style aboard its A380s. There are 60 of them on the aircraft, each 20 inches wide and 74 inches long when reclined. On the 777-300ER (remember, it must be the ER version denoted 77W, not just a regular old 777-300) there are 42 of these seats with up to 87 inches of pitch that are 20 inches wide. They all feature 15-inch touchscreens with VOD in-flight entertainment systems.
You can find these aircraft deployed on many of the airline’s long-haul routes, especially to Europe, and it’s not often hard to find multiple award seats, including on this example flight from London (LHR) to Bangkok (BKK).
Here’s an example of a search from Frankfurt (FRA) to Bangkok (BKK).
While many business class travelers might prize privacy above all else, if you do happen to be traveling with a significant other, or even just a friend, it’s nice to have seating options that will let you spend your time in the air together. The choices are getting better by the day, though.
Now you can opt for the spacious but angled-together feeling of those reverse-herringbone seats that are becoming ever more popular or the staggered sweetheart-style seats that some Asian and Middle Eastern carriers offer if you want to be extra close. The forward-rear seats on British Airways might be fun, or even just the squeezed-together (but still fairly roomy) seats in Lufthansa’s new layout. The only hard part is deciding which style of seat you prefer. The good news is, you can use miles to try all of them fairly easily, so you can test them out for yourself!
Have any other airline business class seats you like flying in pairs? Share your thoughts in the comments below! The Points Guy Assessment: The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.
The Points Guy Assessment:
The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great pick for the beginner and the frequent traveler. The CSP has superb travel benefits, double points on certain purchases, and a 50,000 point sign up bonus. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year so this puts it as one of the less expensive cards, while still allowing you to earn one of the most valuable point currencies.