What's the best way search for airplane lie-flat seats ?

One of the biggest factors especially for long haul flights is what type of seat you're travelling in with "lie-flat" being by far preferable over recliner and angle-flat somewhere in between.

I find it extremely tedious to do these type of searches since many airlines these days fly both configurations on the same aircraft types on the same routes on the same day. Here what I have tried so far without much success

  1. Airlines: most airlines do both. There are few "recliner-only" airlines left (like Icelandair), but even COPA is now flying some lie-flat.
  2. Aircraft type: doesn't seem to help either. Even many narrow bodies do have lie-flat versions and plenty of wide bodies have recliners. Many airlines mix on the same aircraft type.
  3. Route: Doesn't help either. For example United daily flights from BOS->SFO are half recliner and half lie flat.
  4. International Business: All over the place. Example United to South America is completely hit or miss. Iceland Air and Azores on transatlantic is recliner only.
  5. International long haul Business on a classy airline: Doesn't work either. I just booked Tokyo to Jakarta on ANA and found to my great disappointment that these are "cradle seats". Not remotely close to lie flat. Turns out ANA flies 4 versions of the 787-8: recliner, cradle, 2xlie-flat.

So the best I've come up with is do "normal" search and than check each of the more interesting options with seatguru.com and/or Google Flights. Seatguru can be dicey and typically gets the aircraft type correct, but not the specific version. If that doesn't pan out, I actually have to book the flight to the point where I get to seat selection (if offered) and try to identity the specific version from there. Google flight does typically gets it right, but not always and it doesn't also provide seat info.

All of this is extremely tedious and time consuming. Are there better ways of doing this, especially if you are looking at a range of possible destinations and dates?

Note: I understand that aircraft can be swapped and that seat type when booking is not guaranteed to be the same seat-type when flying. That's fine. This happens rarely enough that I'm happy to take this risk.

  • I'm in a couple of frequent flier groups, and it seems the consensus is that you have to do a search and then check on the plane using seatguru later. And again and again as the airlines often change the planes after booking! The number of times I read about people who have made lie-flat or suite or similar bookings only to have the airline change the plane later. Often there is little recourse because the class product stays the same, just the offering on the actual plane changes...
    – Midavalo
    Sep 28, 2022 at 16:48
  • Maybe I'm lucky but in my experiences that's quite rare. I think this may be overrepresented in the forums for a simple reason: if it happens to you, you will be raving mad (and rightfully so) so you are much more incentivized to write about it. I find seatguru less and less helpful because of the ever increasing version confusion.
    – Hilmar
    Sep 28, 2022 at 18:32
  • Doesn’t seatguru somehow match flights to versions by looking up the flights seat map? Of course there’s the possibility two versions have the same seat map despite different products but I believe that’s quite rare.
    – jcaron
    Sep 28, 2022 at 19:51
  • @jcaron not with any real accuracy...
    – user29788
    Sep 28, 2022 at 20:42
  • In my experience seatguru gets the version wrong pretty regularly. On my ANA flight, they had the aircraft type correct (B787-8 and not -9 or -10 which ANA also flies) but they had the subversion wrong (there are 4 different B787-8s)
    – Hilmar
    Sep 28, 2022 at 20:59


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