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The ultimate guide to airlines flying rear-facing seats

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 11/15/2020 Zach Griff
a close up of an office chair © Provided by The Points Guy
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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.

a close up of an office chair: AA rear-facing seat on the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy 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.

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.

a bunch of luggage sitting on top of a desk: BA Club World (Photo by Julian Kheel/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy 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.


Video: United Returns To JFK Airport (CBS New York)

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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:

a desk with a laptop computer sitting on top of a chair: Etihad Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (Photo by Javi Rodriguez/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy 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.

a bunch of items that are sitting on a table: Qatar Qsuite (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy 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.

a bedroom with a desk and chair in a room: United 777 with rear-facing seats (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy 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

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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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.

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