Wendy Perrin offers her suggestions about how airlines could make sleeping on planes less awful.
Recently Westin Hotels & Resorts, which sparked the trend of brand-name beds in hotels worldwide, announced that its signature Heavenly bedding would take flight on Delta, if only in the airline’s BusinessElite cabin. Sounds great in theory—who wouldn’t want a plush comforter on an overnight international flight?—but does anyone really think that a certain type of duvet and pillow can turn something that must be endured into something that can be enjoyed? Let’s face it: Sleeping on planes sucks.
Bedding isn’t enough. Westin used to co-brand with United, and it didn’t help vault United’s product. United oversized co-branded blankets and pillows in premium cabins on their New York JFK – Los Angeles and San Francisco flights, and also redid portions of their lounges in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York JFK.
Hey, United used to own Westin Hotels!
Wendy offers that beyond Westin’s co-branded bedding, airlines need to not claim angled wedgie seats are lie flat, meals need to not be disturbances, cabin temperatures need to be appropriate, and she has a variety of other suggestions as well (including cold beer).
I’m going to offer a similar point to Wendy’s suggestions about making sleeping in business class less awful. Here are my suggestions for how to survive flying business class.
Yes, it’s a terrible narrative. Business class is rarified space, most people don’t ever fly business, and I really don’t want to fly business class long haul — I fly mostly business across the Atlantic (I live on the East Coast, flights are short) but for transpacific flying or flights between the US and Middle East or India I really want to fly in first class.
First class generally means not just a more spacious seat and greater privacy, it offers a less stressful experience overall so that I’m rested on arrival. And I have plenty of miles and points, when there’s availability I can fly that way – and through most frequent flyer programs that offer first class redemtpions, it’s not that many more miles than flying business.
So from my perspective, business is a step down, and I prepare for a long business class flight differently.
The most important thing is the seat. In fact, the way I think about it business class is almost entirely about the seat. Sure, EVA Airways out of Taiwan offers Dom Perignon in business. Singapore and Thai offer pre-order meals from an extensive menu on some routes. Virgin Atlantic has some very good business class lounges. Business class can be pretty good. But it’s usually not a rarified experience. The key differentiator is the seat.
And not all business seats are created equal. The best business class seats are the Sicma Aero Cirrus reverse herringbone seats offered by US Airways, American’s new 777-300ERs, Cathay Pacific long haul, EVA Airways on the 777-300ER (so this excludes Seattle – Taipei which is flown on a 747), and Delta’s 747 transpacific service.
American Airlines 777-300ER Business Class Seat
On the 777, the configuration for these seats is 4 across. In contrast, legacy United’s 777 lie flat business class is a whopping 8 across! These seats are true lie flat, they have plenty of personal space and privacy.
A step down is the basic lie flat seat. Two steps down the angled flat. And there are still business class flights out there which are ‘recliner-style’.
So I choose the best business class seat that I can. And then I take it upon myself to try to be more comfortable.
- Bedding does matter. A blanket and small pillow isn’t enough.. but I can manage that myself most of the time. I usually find myself trying to snag a second blanket so I can use one as a mattress pad and the other as a sheet.
- I bring my own pajamas in business class to change into. My favorite to travel with is my pair of American Airlines first class pajamas, largely because it’s relatively plain and not too fancy, comfortable, and washes well (no shrinkage).
- On short East Coast – Europe overnights eating in advance and skipping breakfast can maximize sleep time. Like Wendy, I hate long meal service on short flights and I hate when you’re woken for breakfast either because you weren’t asked a preference or the flight attendant ignored it. Waking passengers a full hour out to collect headphones is another serious faux pas. As are excessive inflight announcements, I find that Cathay pilots are the best about not saying a word on an overnight flight unless it is Absolutely. Necessary.
I bring my own inflight entertainment, though for a long flight I do want seat power and it shouldn’t require an adapter. A little bit of storage space is night. And access to a bit of food that isn’t just limited to potato crisps. Self-service is fine, I used to love that British Airways used to call their midflight snack service ‘raid the larder’.
Mostly though, if I have a good seat, and access to two blankets and pillows, then I just want to sleep.
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