Airline ads can be so seductive. They feed off nostalgia for aviation’s glamour years and somehow convince us that fun and fancy in the air have returned. However, that golden image of a comfy flatbed, a private suite, a lively bar, beautiful passengers, and pampering from smiling flight attendants hardly matches reality, even when booking a first class seat. Thankfully, a bit of homework and an excellent online resource, Seat Guru (, can help predict your next in-flight experience and temper—or raise—your expectations. 

Economy’s Multi-Class Act

Consumers beware! Airlines are adding more classes, such as “economy comfort,” “economy plus,” and “premium economy.” These are often basic economy seats with a few extra inches of width (distance between arm rests) or pitch (distance indicating legroom). Do not confuse them with business class seats. Seat Guru’s Economy Comparison Charts highlight the minor differences between the new and old incarnations of cattle class, and indicate amenities such as a laptop power plug or a personal TV on some flights.

Down to Business

In general, there are four types of business or first class seats: suites (private enclaves with flatbed seats), flatbed seats (completely horizontal), lie-flat seats (positioned with 180 degrees of incline), and recliner seats. Seat Guru’s Business and First Class Comparison Charts offer vast comparisons between airlines and aircrafts in terms of seat type, pitch, width, and accompanying amenities. Consider, at the very least, a lie-flat seat for long-haul flights.

Airlines and Aircraft

Seat Guru maintains a full catalogue of airline seating charts for various aircrafts, with detailed plane layouts. It’s possible to search by airline, aircraft, or flight number to get full details of a plane for specific travelling dates. Seat Guru also highlights which seats to avoid due to minimal overhead space or proximity to the galley. Don’t assume because an airline has upgraded some of their business class seats that it holds true for all their planes. Land of Confusion

There’s plenty of confusion when it comes to terminology in the front cabins. Most airlines offer a business class separate from first class, while some combine them. To make things more complicated, post-merger United Airlines offers “Business First,” “First,” and “Business”—all of which are completely different seats, ranging from 38” to 78” in pitch. By offering detailed seat information, Seat Guru helps flag these differences, so six-foot-tall (and taller) travelers get comfortable seats.

Image Credits: Illustration by Marc Rosenthal.