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The ultimate guide to airlines flying rear-facing seats

Nov. 15, 2020
5 min read
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There's a certain thrill to flying in a rear-facing seat.

In 2019, I flew an American Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner from Chicago to Dallas and actually enjoyed my experience flying backward.

However, there are a dwindling number of airlines offering this unique seating arrangement. What follows are the airlines currently featuring rear-facing seats on their wide-body aircraft, including cabin layouts.

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American Airlines

American Airlines offers rear-facing business-class seats on select Boeing 777-200s and Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners. Unfortunately, the fleet types are mixed — meaning that you won't know until just a few days before departure which configuration your plane will feature. Be sure to check the seat map in the days and hours before your flight to double-check.

These planes primarily fly long-haul routes, but in recent months, AA has scheduled wide-body flights on short domestic hops.

AA rear-facing seat on the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Aircraft and Cabin Configuration

  • Boeing 777-200 — 37 seats in the business-class cabin, roughly half of which face backward
  • Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner — 20 seats in the business-class cabin, roughly half of which face backward

Related: Best American Airlines seats ranked from best to worst

Britsh Airways

In the years leading up to the pandemic, every British Airways wide-body plane featured both forward- and rear-facing seats in Club World business class.

Recently, the carrier has taken delivery of new Airbus A350s and Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners and retrofitted some Boeing 777s with forward-facing, direct-aisle-access pods — a noticeable step up from the legacy Club World product.

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However, unless you're flying one of the select routes with a new BA plane, odds are you'll see rear-facing seats in business class.

BA Club World (Photo by Julian Kheel/The Points Guy)

Aircraft and Cabin Configuration

British Airways has rear-facing seats in the business-class cabins on the following planes:

British Airways’ Club World cabins tend to be laid out in a 2-4-2 or 2-3-2 configuration. In those two-seat sections on the sides, the seat next to the window faces backward. In the middle section of four seats, it is the middle two seats that face backward.

Related: How to fly BA's new Club Suite

Etihad

Etihad operates rear-facing seats in both its business and first-class cabins aboard the following aircraft:

Etihad Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (Photo by Javi Rodriguez/The Points Guy)

Aircraft and Cabin Configuration

  • Airbus A380 — This aircraft is Etihad's flagship, though there are rumors it may get retired due to the pandemic. It sports eight first-class "Apartments" arranged in a 1-1 configuration, with seats alternating between forward- and rear-facing. The rest of the upper deck is outfitted with business class pods in a 1-2-1 configuration, with half the seats facing forward, and the other half facing backward.
  • Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner — In first class, there are just eight suites spread across two rows in an alternating 1-2-1 configuration. Business class also alternates between forward- and rear-facing pods in a 1-2-1 configuration.
  • Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner — Etihad's longer -10 Dreamliner doesn't feature a first-class cabin, but biz is arranged in a similar 1-2-1 configuration as the -9 Dreamliner.

Qatar

Historically, rear-facing business-class seats meant that you'd be sitting next to your neighbor without direct access to the aisle.

However, when Qatar introduced Qsuite in 2017, the Doha-based carrier revolutionized flying backward. In fact, the carrier is now a two-time winner of the TPG Award for the best international business-class product.

Qsuite offers a bunch of different seating configurations that are ideal for every type of traveler — solo flyers, couples and families. The seats are arranged Tetris-style across the cabin and all Qatar wide-body jets outfitted with a Qsuite cabin offer rear-facing seats.

Qatar Qsuite (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Aircraft and Cabin Configuration

United

Back in the day, most of United's long-haul international fleet flew with rear-facing seats in business class.

Fortunately, those days are long gone. The carrier has its new Polaris business-class experience installed on nearly 70% of the fleet. (The rest of the long-haul fleet is equipped with forward-facing business-class pods in a 2-2-2 or 2-1-2 configuration.)

There are just 23 high-density Boeing 777-200s left with rear-facing seats, which primarily fly domestically or on short hops to Mexico and Latin America.

United 777 with rear-facing seats (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Aircraft and Cabin Configuration

  • Boeing 777-200 — The last remaining Boeing 777s with rear-facing business-class seats are arranged in a tight 2-4-2 configuration. Both the couple seats and the center foursome alternate between forward- and rear-facing. There are four rows on either side and three rows in the center.

Related: Ultimate guide to United Polaris

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