Narrowbody aircraft, such as Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s, are normally used for short-haul routes between regional centers or high volume domestic routes. However, with the new A321XLR and other aircraft, designs are improving the range so dramatically some airlines are looking to operate the aircraft long-haul and even on overnight flights.
But how would an airline be competitive against widebody long-haul aircraft if they don’t feature lie-flat beds in their premium cabins? Unless they installed their own lie-flat seats onboard…
Why are airlines suddenly adding lie-flat seats to narrowbodies?
The trend of lie-flat seats onboard narrowbodies actually got a jump start, not from long-haul international routes, but fierce competition in transcontinental US services.
JetBlue added lie-flat seats to its narrowbody aircraft between city pairs like London and New York, offering the same experience that its rivals had onboard their widebody aircraft.
Following this, other airlines like American Airlines, United Airlines and Delta Air Lines began to roll out special lie-flat seats onboard their Boeing 757 narrowbody fleets, with an intention to deploy them on transatlantic routes.
Which airlines have lie-flat beds on narrowbody short-haul aircraft?
In North America, so far, JetBlue, Delta Air Lines, United and American Airlines all operate lie-flat seats in some capacity onboard select narrowbody aircraft. JetBlue has lie-flat seats on its Airbus A321 fleet and will have on its soon to be delivered fleet of 26 Airbus A321LRs and XLRs (very likely to be used on international routes across to Europe).
American Airlines operates lie-flat seats onboard their A321 fleet, and Delta onboard their Boeing 757s. United Airlines wanted to roll out lie-flat seats for its Boeing 737 MAX fleet but unfortunately thanks to the grounding these plans have gone on hold. The airline does however also have lie-flat seats on 15 of its domestic Boeing 757s.
“Would San Francisco to Washington DC work? Probably. That’s partly about creating a fleet we can experiment with and see which markets work and which don’t.” – United CEO Scott Kirby to Flight Global in 2018
What about outside of the United States?
Outside of America, there are a few other airlines that have started adding lie-flat seats to aircraft.
Some of them are:
- Philippine Airlines (PAL), operates a lie-flat business class in a 2-2 configuration on its A321s.
- Panama’s Copa has lie-flat business class on its Boeing 737 MAX 9 fleet.
- Saudia has lie-flat seats on its Airbus A320 fleet and A321LR fleet.
- France’s La Compagnie, an exclusive all business class airline between New York and Paris, operates only lie-flat seats on its A321LR.
- TAP Air Portugal has it on its A321LR fleet.
- Kazakhstan’s Air Astana started to roll out its A321LR fleet with lie-flat beds in late 2019.
Future adopters include Bahrain’s Gulf Air in early 2020, SAS in 2020, newcomer Breeze Airways, FlyDubai on Boeing 737s and Singapore’s Silk Air with their Boeing 737s (being rebranded as Singapore Airways). As we see more Airbus A321LRs/XLRs and Boeing 737 MAXs delivered, we will see more narrowbody lie-flat seats. Watch this space.
What do you think of this news? Do you want to fly onboard a narrowbody with lie-flat seats? Let us know in the comments.