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How to make an angled lie-flat sleeper seat more comfortable

By John Walton     Filed under: business class, seats, travel tips, lie-flat seats, fully-flat beds, angled lie-flat seats

How do you make one of those sloped, angled lie-flat seats more comfortable on a long overnight flight?

It's not always easy to find a decent position that lets you get enough sleep, even if it's officially a "flat" sat.

We at Australian Business Traveller call that the business class "lie-flat lie" -- and we try to give you as much information as we can to help you avoid them and find flights with fully flat beds instead.

But sometimes, on some routes, that's just not possible -- so we've put together some of our top tips on making yourself more comfortable during the flight.

Before you get on the plane

Let's start with what you can do when booking seats and at check-in.

Try to pick an empty row

Angled lie-flats are closer together than fully flat seats, so the elegant gazelle-like (or hippo-like) stride from window or middle seat to aisle is tricker.

They also often lack for storage space, which can be a pain.

At check-in, see how full the flight is and see if you can snag a row to yourself, with nobody sitting next to you. "Could you block this seat next to me? I need to get a lot of work done and I'd hate to disturb anyone with my laptop light" is a good gambit.

A spare seat gives you extra space to stash your things during the flight, an extra table surface for mealtimes (for your laptop or tablet, say) -- and, usefully, a second entertainment monitor to pull up the moving map so you can keep track of your journey.

If you want an aisle seat, pick the middle section

On many long-haul flights, you'll find a 2-2-2 or 2-3-2 seat layout in business class. If you're an aisle fan, pick one in the middle section of seats.

On a 2-2-2 plane, that means there's absolutely nobody climbing over you, since your neighbour uses the other aisle.

Meanwhile, if you're on a 2-3-2 jet, you'll find that the middle seats of three are the last to fill up -- nobody wants a middle seat! That means you're more likely to have a free seat next to you, and even if it's full, the middle seat passenger has only a fifty percent chance of disturbing you rather than the person on the other side.

Pack pyjamas or natural fibre trousers

The frustrating thing about angled lie-flat seats for most travellers is what travel wags term the "wedgie problem": you end up sliding down the angled surface while your underwear tries to remain where it is.

It's most exaggerated when you're wearing lined suit trousers, which are designed to be slippery -- bad idea in an angled lie-flat.

Pack a pair of PJ bottoms, a pair of linen shorts or even a pair of light natural fibre trousers, and change into them once the seatbelt "ping" goes after takeoff.

The flight attendants may well be able to hang your trousers with your jacket so that you can look less creased when you land.

Once you're on board

During boarding, spring into action and ask the cabin crew for a couple of extra things that you can use during the flight to make yourself more comfortable.

An extra blanket or duvet

See if you can grab an extra blanket or duvet to make the seat's surface a little softer.

There's part of the seat that will poke into just about every passenger, and a bit of extra cushioning can go a long way to avoiding being woken up in the middle of the night by a bit of metal or plastic.

Two extra pillows

If you have more pillows to play with, you can soften out the unergonomic parts of the seat and make it a bit more comfortable.

When sleeping on your back, have a pillow down where your feet are resting to take away some of the unnatural pressure from sleeping at an angle.

If you're a side-sleeper, these seats aren't designed for your comfort. Try popping a pillow between your knees to support your higher leg, and another underneath your ankles to soften the pressure on them.

Front-sleepers are likely to want pillows underneath their shins, especially on airlines where the shin/calf section of the bed drops away at an angle. Since knees don't bend that way, it's useful to raise and soften the level of the surface. (Consider also folding away that raise-up footrest, front-sleepers.)

How do you hack angled lie-flat sleeper seats when you travel? Got a favourite tip -- or an angled lie-flat that you avoid like the plague? Share your thoughts with your fellow AusBT readers in a comment below!

For the very latest from Australian Business Traveller, for live updates on breaking news, and for on-the-ground tips and tricks from our travels, follow us on Twitter! We're @AusBT.

Ready for more in-depth info on business class seats? 


About John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.


Have something to say? Post a comment now!

1 on 3/9/12 by adamH

Using blankets and pillows to build up the lower section is the best bet to try and decrease the angle.  I also use a 3/4 length camping mat to improve the comfort of the seat in sleep mode as well as taking out the creases.

2 on 4/9/12 by gazzman

A couple of Johnny Walkers, and a few wines with the meal and you dont care what angle the beds at.  :)

3 on 10/9/12 by patmcpfd

You will find if you fully extend most beds to the sleeping position, then lift the extended seat by the footrest, there is a fair range of 'lift' that you can get. I always use my carry on case, place it on its' side, lift the seat, and wedge the case under the seat. it eliminates about 70% of the 'slope'. Be subtle when you choose to do it, as air crew may not approve, but it works a treat!

4 on 10/9/12 by Longreach

Why play their silly game and use the "lie-flat"  term at all? Just call them horizontal or non-horizontal. 

5 on 27/10/12 by SQ_fan

Try to convince the flight attendant to take you to the crew rest area ;)

6 on 21/3/13 by ecg

I am disappointed how a well respected website such as this encourages people to lie by trotting out the line

"Could you block this seat next to me? I need to get a lot of work done and I'd hate to disturb anyone with my laptop light":

This is not the first time I have seen that line used on this website. If you want the seat next to you blocked maybe you should pay for it!

If you're gonna tell prokies might as well say "I have a a deadly contagious disease and anyone who comes within 3 metres of me will catch it."

1 on 21/3/13 by hutch

Having a bad day? It's Thursday... chillax.

2 on 21/3/13 by David

ECG, if the cabin isn't full and there are quite a few seats left unsold then surely there's no harm in asking if the seat next to yours can be left unassigned. If the cabin is full then your request won't be met, but if the cabin isn't full then why shouldn't one of those empty seats be the one next to yours?

7 on 21/3/13 by djb

I just avoid them completely would prefer to travel economy than on these seats

1 on 21/3/13 by matthewsnospam

Ha you say that but I flew three of my four legs to perth this month on these seats and the last one back to sydney was in qantas economy. The "lie flat" virgin seat starts looking pretty good when a 150 keg miner reclines his seat (and your dinner) into your knees.

1 on 22/3/13 by gazzman

I know these miners have a reputation for putting the beer away on break but 150 kegs  -I'd like to see that :)

8 on 28/3/14 by Scottyrud

I'm not sure about other airlines lay flat business, but when you are flying SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) the beds are not quite 180 degrees flat, rather 170 degrees. There is a hidden lever behind a plastic panel on the asile side :) This will make the seat extend fully into a 180 degree "Fully lay flat" design.


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