Why You Should Know Aircraft Types and Airline Routes

Why You Should Know Aircraft Types and Airline Routes

Not All Premium Cabins Are Created Equal


You’ve probably heard me mention before that “not all business classes are created equal” when discussing different airlines, but this statement is true even within a single airline. Airlines use a variety of aircraft types in their fleets and each of these aircraft types can offer different seats and/or seat configurations. The Japanese Airlines: ANA and Japan Airlines are excellent examples of this. Just look at all of the different business class seats JAL offers!

JAL Business Class Variations
ANA Business Class Variations

As you can see, there’s so much variation in what kind of business class seat you can get. You could get ANA’s spectacular “The Room” product which comes with a sliding door and has a 38″ wide seat! Or you could get their pretty unexciting “Business Staggered” seat. When going for premium seats, the bare minimum should be to get a “lie-flat” seat which is the kind of seat that can recline fully into a bed.

For most domestic routes of American-based airlines and some regional routes of Asian airlines, the business or first class cabins won’t offer these lie-flat seats and may offer something like the “Business Cradle” seat shown above. So before you book your next business/first class award ticket, let’s make sure you know exactly what seat you’re going to be getting.

Different Aircraft Types Use Different Seats


The first step in determining what kind of seat you may come across is determining which aircraft even features the desired seat. For long-haul international flights, there are 4 main aircraft types used: the Airbus A350, Airbus A380, Boeing 777, and Boeing 787-9. Most airlines will often have a combination of these aircraft types in their fleet but will normally only choose one aircraft type to feature their best product. For example, ANA’s “The Room” business class and “The Suite” first class are only found on the Boeing 777, Singapore Airlines Suites are only found on the A380, Cathay Pacific only offers First Class on the 777 etc.

ANA Seat Types For Each Aircraft Type

This is key information because if our goal is to fly Singapore Airlines Suites and we see that a certain route is flying the 777, we immediately know that the aircraft will be fitted with the normal first class and not Suites.

777 Does Not Offer Suites
A380 Does Offer Suites

Some airlines even allow you to see which type of seat you’ll be getting on the booking page. An easy way to verify something like Qatar QSuites or ANA The Room is to do a dummy booking and see what kind of seat is being offered.

Verify Seat Type on Booking Page

Different Routes Use Different Aircraft


Now that we know what aircraft we are looking for, it’s important to understand which routes the desired aircraft type even services. If we are based out of Seattle and our goal is to fly Japan Airlines First Class, we may spend hours searching and wondering why there is no First Class offered. Using the step from above, we now see that this route is served by the Boeing 767 which does NOT offer First Class.

No JAL First Class Offered

Most airlines will generally reserve their best products for high-traffic, popular routes between major US airports like LAX (Los Angeles), SFO (San Francisco), JFK (New York), ORD (Chicago), IAD (Washington D.C.), etc., and their home airport. All airlines have a “hub” or home airport where they will be based out of. For example, Cathay Pacific’s hub is Hong Kong (HKG) and Emirates’ hub is Dubai (DXB).

A good way of finding out which routes feature which aircraft is to go to flightconnections.com and set the airline filter to the desired airline. From there, you will see all the routes served by that airline. You can then zoom in on the desired destination and pick the major cities that the airline flies to from its hub. Once you have a list of routes, you can go back to the airline’s page and do a dummy booking to see the aircraft type or the specific seat if the airline shows that information.

JAL US Routes shown from flightconnections

Conclusion


It’s important to remember that the premium seats offered by an airline differ by aircraft and route. Knowing the type of seat found on an aircraft and which route is serviced by that aircraft will help you know exactly what to look for as well as know exactly what kind of seat you will be getting.

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