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 to 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, 2 x lie-flat.

So the best I've come up with is do "normal" search and then check each of the more interesting options with seatguru.com and/or Google Flights. Seatguru can be dicey and typically gets the aircraft type correctly, 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.

  • 1
    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
    Commented Sep 28, 2022 at 16:48
  • 1
    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
    Commented 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
    Commented Sep 28, 2022 at 19:51
  • @jcaron not with any real accuracy...
    – user29788
    Commented 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
    Commented Sep 28, 2022 at 20:59

2 Answers 2


Hawaiian Airlines at least makes this very easy because they tell you which flights have the lie-flat seats once you select dates. They are only in first class on direct flights, but not all airplanes have them, only certain ones.

United makes it more difficult. I had to check once I selected the flight and then a return flight, and only during seat selection could I see if it was a lie-flat seat for business or first class. Those are the main airlines I have been dealing with. Best of luck in your journeys.


When planning trips, I use oldmatrix or matrix to identify fares, routes, and airlines. In general, the more restrictive you make the search, the better the results, so limiting the airlines to a specific set (using the advanced controls fields) makes it better at finding good choices, and helps you limit results to those that offer good seats. I also make extensive use of the paid version of ExpertFlyer to see flight schedules, equipment, and seat maps. Unlike SeatGuru, ExpertFlyer pulls live data from the GDS so it's accurate as of the moment you do the query. If ExpertFlyer shows an airline or aircraft I'm not personally familiar with, I'll do web searches to find photos and reviews of that specific product. (While ExpertFlyer's seat maps do show colors from SeatGuru, I generally ignore that, as I find SeatGuru woefully inaccurate.)

  • In a side note the matrix website does not seem to have access to the cheapest fares from low cost airlines. Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 12:08
  • 2
    @DucheDeMonde, Matrix, like ExpertFlyer, pulls live data from the Global Distribution System (GDS). While all major airlines do participate in the GDS, some low cost carriers do not (because GDSs charge fees to airlines). When looking for lie-flat seats, this seems like a feature, not a defect, since LCCs aren't likely to offer such.
    – jetset
    Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 13:06

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