I just flew in a rear-facing seat for the first time — Here’s what it was like

Oct 6, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

It’s not often that you get the opportunity to fly facing backwards. Few airlines offer rear-facing seats in their cabins, and even when they do, I’ve always been hesitant to try it out. Maybe its because I’m scared I’d get nauseous? Or maybe I just don’t like the unknown?

British Airways is the airline flying the largest number of rear-facing seats. In my past flights in Club World, I’ve always made sure to select (read: pay extra, even in business class) for a forward-facing seat. I didn’t want to get stuck on a longhaul flight in a seat I may not like.

So, when my travels brought me to Dallas for the American Airlines MD-80 retirement celebration, I decided to route onto one of AA’s more interesting domestic flights — a shorthaul flight operated by a widebody Boeing 787-8.

American’s 787-8s feature 20 business-class seats. The stakes were low on my two-hour flight from Chicago to Dallas, so I figured I’d assign myself a backwards facing seat. Looking back on the experience (pun intended), I definitely didn’t love it, but I also didn’t hate it. Would I do it again though?

In This Post

The views

I was in love the minute I sat down in Seat 4L. Glancing out the windows and having a direct view of the massive carbon fiber wings and General Electric GEnx-1B engines was nothing short of marvelous.

As an Av-Geek, I jump at any opportunity to get better airplane and airport views. So I was ecstatic when the rear-facing seat afforded me the opportunity to capture great airplane pictures throughout the flight.

Aside from the incredible views, I also loved the thrill of the takeoff roll from my rear-facing seat. As we gained speed on runway 28R, I witnessed the signature 787 wing flex without needing to twist my neck.

I was so excited about this sensation that I quickly promised to choose a rear-facing seat next time I could. However, the excitement I felt towards my rear-facing seat quickly dissipated as our flight climbed to cruising altitude.

The climb-out

Once we crossed through 10,000 feet, I opened my laptop to wrap up some time-sensitive work. As I tried to work, I couldn’t get comfortable.

With the aircraft nose pitched up, every time I tried typing, my computer kept falling backwards. At this point, I definitely started getting nauseous and had to put away my computer until we leveled out at cruising altitude.

Admittedly, the ascent only took 15 minutes, but I definitely felt uncomfortable for the first portion of the flight. Others may be less sensitive, but if I end up flying in a rear-facing seat again, I’ll be sure to enjoy the views until we reach cruising altitude.

Lack of privacy

Many airlines choose to install rear-facing seats for the ability to squeeze more seats into the business-class cabin. This quest to maximize space often comes at the expense of privacy.

Unsurprisingly, my biggest issue with the rear-facing seat was the total lack of privacy. On the AA 787-8, the rear-facing window seats face the aisle, while the center seats in the same row face each other. While this configuration was designed to maximize privacy, I still ended up having multiple staring contests with the woman seated in the center seat 4H. (I won, don’t worry.)

To solve for the lack of privacy created by the alternating seat configuration, airlines have installed privacy partitions (hello: British Airways) or doors (hello: Qatar). Sadly, AA chose to install neither, so you’re stuck staring into the eyes of your neighbor across the aisle.

Overall thoughts

Flying in a rear-facing seat was another item on my Av-Geek bucket list that I’ve gotten to cross off. I loved the views from the seat, but definitely wasn’t expecting to feel nauseous on the climb out. While the outside views were great, the views inside weren’t, as my seat faced directly into my neighbor’s eyes.

So, would I do it again? It depends. I probably wouldn’t fly backwards again on American. But on another airline where the rear-facing seat actually has some amount of privacy, then I definitely would. The Av-Geek in me can’t get enough of the #views.

All photos by the author.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.