Whether your trip is for business or pleasure, no one likes to arrive groggy at their destination. The best airlines know this.
That’s why they’ve designed plush first class suites with mini apartments and separate beds, business class seats that convert to lie fully flat, and even a little bit of extra leg room for those way back in coach.
These luxury seats come with gourmet meals, personal televisions, and champagne – although you should be avoiding all that if you truly want restful sleep. Instead, take advantage of their other sleep-promoting offerings: noise-cancelling headphones, high-thread count bedding, slippers and pajama sets, luxury toiletry kits (think eye masks and moisturizing cream), and even turndown services, complete with a tiny treat for your pillow.
Air travel doesn’t have to be exhausting. Shell out thousands of dollars for a first or business class suite, and you can sleep like a baby.
Below we review the best airlines for sleeping in first class, business class, and coach. Take a look to plan your next flight.
A note about our rankings: To make our list, airlines had to offer accommodations for sleep in their first or business class cabins. Seats either fully reclined to a flat surface or separate beds were provided.
We then ranked airlines according to the number of sleep-focused amenities they offered, such as noise-cancelling headphones, sleepwear sets, turndown service, etc. Rankings were not influenced by the total list of amenities provided (such as cocktails, meals, and wifi), but were focused specifically on the ones that impacted sleep quality. Extra points were allocated based on bed length and whether airlines provided privacy doors as opposed to just partitions.
The Etihad Airways First Apartment earned the number one spot on our list, and for good reason. The first class suite looks like a room at a spa, and boasts one of the longest beds in first class at 82 inches long. The suite includes a do not disturb button, sliding doors, and even a small leather-upholstered seating area.
During turndown service, the flight attendant makes up your bed with high-quality bedding and a sweet note on your pillow. Toiletries are next-level, too, not just for you but also for your bedding. Along with the customary luxury skincare, the kit also includes pillow mist. Upon waking from your slumber, you can use the shared shower available for first-class customers.
There are only nine of these available, the suites being so large that only one can fit on either side of the aisle. If that’s not enough, you can upgrade to The Residence, a three-room suite with a private bathroom, shower, and bedroom. Connecting suites are available for traveling companions.
While most flights with sleeping seats are on international or transatlantic flights, JetBlue stands out for offering it on domestic flights traveling coast-to-coast or to the Caribbean. Passengers can choose from lie-flat seats (reaching a length of a luxurious 80 inches) or upgrade to a suite with a window and privacy door. The beds themselves can be adjusted to the sleeper’s desired firmness level and also include a built-in massage function.
Cathay Pacific’s First Class is a bit roomier than their business class, with only three seats per row instead of four. It’s easy to relax with the seat’s built-in massage function and a personal sleepwear set, which includes an eye mask and slippers. Turndown service includes a treat for your pillow.
The team at Emirates is all about creating an experience. The mood lighting in their first class suites isn’t just ambient; they’re actually mini LED stars lighting the carpeting and panels in your suite, creating a feeling of sleeping among the stars. And thanks to images piped in via livestream cameras, middle suites can finally enjoy windows, too.
Part of what makes air travel so uncomfortable is the dry air of the cabins. Emirates understands. Their first class passengers enjoy moisturizing toiletries from Bulgari, and slip into Hydra Active Microcapsule Technology moisturizing sleepwear, complete with eye mask and slippers you can take home with you. There’s also a community shower spa facility available.
The Japan Airlines First Class suite features turndown service, complete with soothing toiletries, personal sleepwear, and bedding which includes a reversible mattress pad. Passengers can simply flip the pad to sleep on their desired firmness level (soft or firm).
The Air France first class suite looks like a hotel room, and feels like one, too. In a cozy suite with floor-to-ceiling curtains, it’s easy to forget you’re flying. The suites are outfitted with hotel-style bedding, a small nightstand table with bedside lamp, and toiletry kit. The seats transform into a memory foam mattress for plush comfort while sleeping.
The Singapore Airlines first class features private suites. Each suite has its own door, leather armchair, and a separate bed. Since it’s designed to be a bed, rather than a chair converting to a bed, it makes for a flatter, more comfortable sleep surface. At only 76 inches, the bed is shorter than most. However, it can be combined with a neighboring suite to form a double bed for those traveling with a partner.
The Swiss Air first class seats fully recline to a lengthy 80 inches and offer adjustable firmness levels, so passengers can sleep on a surface that feels like they’re at home. Privacy partitions help one feel removed from other passengers, and the luxury bedding promotes comfy sleep.
At 80 inches, the seats in Etihad Airways convert to one of the longest “beds” in business class. Beyond the bed itself, Etihad Airways ensures ultimate comfort with mood lighting and a reversible blanket made of different fabrics to achieve a cooling side and a warming side. Whether you sleep hot or cold, you’ll be comfortable.
An onboard lounge strategically placed nearby the cabin invites passengers to chat there, versus in the aisle right outside passengers sleeping in their seats. Both forward and rear-facing seats have aisle access.
Qatar Airways made our top three for its highly-convertible arrangement. The seats are arranged four to a pod, with both forward and rear-facing seats having aisle access. During waking hours, the arrangement is perfect for families who want to chat or for passengers conducting a business meeting. When it’s time to sleep, the privacy partitions can be pulled up to separate any passenger from the other three. Passengers traveling side-by-side can convert their seats to a double bed.
The plush leather seats on Virgin Australia fully recline to a roomy 80-inches, and the memory foam mattress pads almost convince you you’re sleeping on an actual bed instead of a plane. The mood lighting, noise-cancelling headphones, and turndown service will get you in the mood to rest.
Delta ONE has a lot to offer business class passengers. The forward-facing seats ensure all passengers have access to a window. The seats also include privacy doors, as opposed to partitions, which is rare for business class. Passengers can fully shut out noise from and views of other nearby passengers. The bedding package is more comprehensive than most business class seats as well, including memory foam cushions in addition to standard bedding. The suites also include a TV and bedside table. Like JetBlue Mint, Delta ONE is even available on some domestic flights.
United boasts one of the largest business class cabins with fully-reclinable seats. Passengers receive a toiletry kit, a memory foam pillow, and a pajama set complete with slippers. Business class passengers can freshen up before landing with the on-board shower facilities.
The herringbone configuration in Air France business class provides privacy and a sense of being in your own world. The seats are angled with the feet pointing toward the aisle, away from the bright light of the windows. However, the partitions are smaller than what you see with comparable airlines. The seats fully recline, and the armrests fully lower, to provide an even wider sleep surface. Noise-cancelling headphones, mood lighting, and duvets complete the sleep experience.
Instead of the herringbone configuration, Japan Airlines positions the Sky Suite seats as forward facing with full aisle access. Each seat is nearly fully partitioned, with the exception of aisle access, providing the utmost privacy. The Airweave mattress and pillow are designed to sleep cool, ideal for hot sleepers. However, when fully flat, the seats are only 74 inches long, so this may not be a good fit for taller passengers.
Air New Zealand’s business class seats use a herringbone configuration. Instead of reclining, the seats are reversible – one side is a memory foam bed while the other is a leather seat. The “bed” side has extra padding, and toppers and duvets are available for extra comfort.
Instead of the standard herringbone configuration, British Airways business class features a yin-yang seating arrangement, where passengers are facing toward each other, with their feet by each other’s heads and a screen in between for privacy. It’s important to note that this arrangement enables British Airways to cram as many seats as possible into a small space, which can make things louder than ideal. Also, the “beds” are one of the shortest in business class, at only 72 inches.
Since so many business class sleeper seats feature the reverse herringbone configuration, it’d be wrong not to include Cathay Pacific on our list, the pioneers of this seating style. The seats recline fully, and the armrest extension can also lie flat to increase the surface area of the “bed.” Besides skincare items, the toiletry kit also includes a pair of socks.
You won’t find any private suites or fully-reclinable seats in coach, but some airlines are doing their best to make the flying experience as sleep-friendly as possible.
If you want to sleep well in coach, the biggest thing you’ll want to look out for is seat pitch. Seat pitch refers to the distance between seats in different rows, so it’s a good proxy for the legroom you can expect. Unfortunately, in recent years, many airlines have notoriously been reducing legroom to squeeze in more rows.
While seat pitch varies by plane, the airlines with the consistently largest seat pitch (31 inches or more) include:
For even more room, opt for an exit row or bulkhead seat. These are considerably larger.
Some of these airlines tout a few amenities worth mentioning on their own. JetBlue offers a variety of free snacks, and Singapore Airlines doles out free socks and eye masks.
Regardless of how premium your seat is, it can still be tricky to fall asleep on a plane. You’re up thousands of feet in the air, surrounded by strangers. Follow these tips to sleep well while flying.
The best way to avoid jet lag is to prepare for it ahead of time. In the days before your trip, slowly adjust your sleep, wake, and eating schedule to timezone of your destination. For each time zone you’re traveling across, adjust your schedule up or down by 1 hour each day. On the night before your trip, head to bed even earlier to ensure you travel fully-rested.
The lower humidity in airplane cabins is what dries us out when we fly. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, and taking it easy on the alcohol. Avoid heavy or sugary snacks, and munch on cheese, nuts, and dried fruit instead.
Obviously, the more private your seat, the better your sleep. But not all of us can afford first class or business class. If you’ll be traveling in coach, choose a seat with ample leg room so you can stretch your legs out as much as possible. Opt for a window rather than an aisle seat, too, so your fellow passengers don’t have to wake you up to use the bathroom.
If you are traveling overnight, try to fall asleep once you get on the plane. If you’re traveling during the day, limit your naps to 30 minutes or less so you don’t disrupt your sleep schedule too much. If you’re in a first class cabin, turn on the Do Not Disturb when you go to bed. Otherwise, keep your seatbelt buckled over your clothes and bedding so the flight attendant doesn’t disturb you.
Take advantage of any toiletries and sleepwear items the airplane provides for you, but bring your own just in case. You’ll want loose clothing you can layer, so it’s easy to adjust to get comfortable temperature-wise. Bring along travel essentials, too: earplugs, sleep mask, and a travel pillow. Download a white noise smartphone app to play on your headphones to drown out the hum of the engines or any chatty passengers.