How to Find Which Flights Have A Better / New Business Class

Two business class seats on the same airline can vary greatly in quality. One could be a giant suite, and the other could be a glorified economy.

Yet, the price in miles will almost always be exactly the same.

Our Etihad Business Class “studio” leaving Mumbai, India

A post shared by Drew and Carrie (@travelisfree) on

Plus, seats in the same class on different airlines can obviously vary greatly as well.

So how do you find the good ones? That’s what this post is about. If you’re going to spend the extra miles on business class or first, you might as well get something sweet… like the suite above. Again, it’s the same price, but huge variants.


For example, I’ve flown Thai’s old business class in the 747, and it was so “angled” I did more sliding out of the seat than sleeping. Similarly, we flew AA’s old business class, where I also didn’t sleep much due to the seat being too similar to sitting straight up. Why fly business class at that point?

Yet, both have great business class seats on other planes. In fact, some argue that AA’s newer business class is one of the nicest business class seats. It’s a suite. Who needs first class at that point?

Now, let’s talk about how to figure out which plane or flight has the better first class…


Compare Seating Chart to SeatGuru is going to show you the specs (and sometimes user submitted photos) of seats. It’s basically the TripAdvisor of planes.

This shows that American Airlines has “flat bed seats” and herringbone seats on their 787 planes.

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 12.11.45 PM


It also shows us that American still has a 777-200 (v1) that has the old “angle-flat seats”, and instead of having four seats across it has 7 (2-3-2). Red flag!

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 12.18.19 PM


I can’t imagine a situation where anyone would prefer the smaller, angled, older seats given that they would cost the same amount of miles with any program. (Although, understand that nicer plane seats might have worse award availability).

In this case, if you see that the plane type is a 787, you know you’re getting the new AA business class. Plane type is normally shown readily, with flight times and flight number.


Even the same plane type can have drastically different seats.

As I mentioned, AA still has a 772 with the old business class, but they also have some 772 planes with the new business class. How do you know which 772 is the flight you found, the new or the old?

In this case, it’s not enough to know the plane type, but you need to cross compare seating charts.


1) For the flight you found, you need to find the seating chart.

For example, on AA you can click “View Available Seats” while browsing award availability. Or, on, you can click “seats” to show award seats.


However, the big problem is that most partners won’t have the ability to choose seats or see the seating chart.

But the good news is that you’ve found which specific flight has award availability.


2) You can go specifically to that airline’s website and search for cash seats available, if need be.

The fact that you’re using miles is irrelevant… The point here is that there is award availability on a specific flight number, but we just want to know what kind of seats they have on the plane.

If you can see what seats are available on that specific date and flight number, then we can move on to the next step.


3) Compare the seating chart with

Usually it’s pretty obvious which seat you’ll have once you compare the seating charts.

An obvious clue is if one has 7 seats across, and another 4…

Or it could be that business class on one plane starts in row 10 instead of row 5.


I looked at DFW-NRT on British Airways and found business class on their 787. But SeatGuru says that 1 or the 3 JAL 787s has the old angled business seats… a booking mistake I’d hate to make.
So I went over to and searched for DFW to Tokyo, and then on the list of flights I found the flight I found on BA – JL “11” leaving at 11:15. Then selected business class and then “continue”.
The next screen had the option to “Select seat”.
I found that there were 9 rows, with two biz seats scattered to be in row 10. Exactly like the “suites” and fortunately NOT the “angled” seats.


You can learn a lot just from SeatGuru:

  • You never want anything “Angled”, like “Angled lie-flat” is an oxymoron and certainly aren’t flat as in parallel to the ground.
  • Nor do you want “recline”. You just want lie-flat.
  • Fewer seats across is better. There perhaps are obvious privacy implications if the seating chart is 1-2-1 vs a 2-3-2 in terms of number of seats across.
    • Personally, since we always fly as a couple we prefer two seats together instead of a single seat by the window, and therefore don’t mind many 2-2-2 seats.
  • You can see if it’s a herringbone pattern (where all the seats are diagonal one direction or the other). These are often just better seats in general.
  • If applicable, it will tell you if there are suites, which is the nicest (and rarest) business class option.

In general, you’ll find newer planes (like a 787 instead of a 747) will have newer seats.


Search OneMileAtATime

If you’re not familiar, Ben – of the blog OneMileAtATime – has probably flown and reviewed more flights and plane seats than anyone.

I’m just site searching OMAAT for [Airline] Business Class [Plane].


For example, I was trying to find what business class we should take back from India with AA miles: Qatar or Etihad.

Unbelievably, Ben had a post on Etihad vs Qatar Business Class where he ranks and orders the business class experience by each plane.

He ranked the Etihad a380 and 777 above the Qatar 777 (my other option), and I therefore went with Etihad.

(Post idea for Ben, a comprehensive ordered list of all business class products. So I could look at a list and see AA 787 biz is above Cathay biz… or whatever).

So if I have a few options for business class, say AA, JAL and Cathay… I’ll look at the award availability, find the seat, and try to find a OMAAT review for that seat.



In short, I look for lie flat seats. But to find what seat you’re on, you need to see what plane the flight you found is, and perhaps the seating chart, just to find out what type of business class (or first class) seats they use.

If I have multiple options, I’ll check out reviews on OMAAT and see if there is a major difference in the seat.


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  1. hey Drew. Thanks for the read. What happened to your business idea? Did you get any traction? Do you have a beta that you can offer your readers?

  2. I do the same thing–check configuration and look for lie-flat on SeatGuru. I must be doing it right, then! Good to know.

    Sometimes, if the miles you have a ton of are for a particular program, or there’s zilch saver availability in other programs for your destination, you get stuck a bit. We’re visiting family in Greece and Italy this summer. Delta had nothing under a zillion miles in biz to ATH. But we had pretty wide open for AA.

    Which, of course, means BA for both the trans Atlantic and the LHR-ATH leg. Eh. BA first is at least as good as Delta biz for half the miles, and Husband can get his first pair of airline jammies. But those BA “business class” seats to ATH will be brutal.

  3. It seems to me that the lie flat seats are not on the super saver flights.

  4. Can’t you just check google flights, and the business class listing will show whether it’s a lie-flat or not.

    • I also like Google Flights. That’s usually my first step in trip planning. But it doesn’t tell you the configuration, e.g., 1-2-1 vs 2-2-2 while both may in fact be lie-flat.

      I also use expertflyer (paid) which is like seatguru + airlines site in one.

      Gets tricky sometimes, tho’, like trying to find out if a KE flight features Kosmo Suite 2.0 (vs 1.0) on their 77w – need to visit for that.

  5. Have ~150k TopBonus (AirBerlin) points that need using up and I’d love to use them on the Etihad business class studio. Availability is difficult :-(

    Oddly enough I have been considering Mumbai. Finding somewhere to depart from in Europe with the least amount of tax & charges is proving tricky. Everywhere I’ve looked adds hefty feees. I hear booking out of AUH is a lot cheaper but that doesn’t solve the problem !
    Oooh, or does it….I could book a return AUH-BOM
    and a oneway from AUH-?europe? and then another oneway from somewhere in Europe to AUH, that way I’d benefit (perhapos) from the lower charges out of AUH for 3 of the 4 segments. Other charges or an uplift in points needed as opposed to a simple return from Europe to Mumbai might outweigh the benefits of course.

    Ggggrrr, sometimes I hate this game !

    Not really looking for a destination in particular as this will be an added unnecessary trip/holiday !! So its more about maximising the point value, minimising taxes and enjoying myself trying a nice cabin out ! Spending time at the destination is just a bit of a bonus really 😉

    Any ideas ?!
    Have to book (not fly) before Sept 1st ideally (due to devaluation of AB TopBonus partner redemptions). Plus my points expire sometime in September anyway !! Can be a flight for anytime before or after September though, just needs to be booked before.

    Rambling now, too many coffees and time staring at KVS Availability Tool :-(

  6. Interesting to read the comparison of Etihad vs Qatar (which you link to in the post) as am very familiar with QR’s J & F products as a Qatar Platinum. I really want to try Etihad’s suite for comparison myself – and just for something different.


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