Flatliners: all the airlines are touting fully flat "sleeper" seats in first class. What's the deal?

AuthorContreras, Leslie
PositionAsk The Concierge

Seat dimensions vary between airlines, so that depends on which features matter to you. Continental's BusinessFirst section provides the widest seals at 56 centimeters. Varig boasts the longest beds, at 203 centimeters. The BusinessElite section on Delta flights offers the most reclining seats, at 52. The distance from seat to seat--a measure from the center of each seat--is best on American Airlines, at up to 226 centimeters. TAM says that its seats recline 180 degrees to a completely flat position, as do seats on American and on Varig.

But which numbers really matter? "Americans have gotten bigger, heavier, taller, wider," says Terry Stentz, clinical director at the Somnos Sleep Disorder Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, and an associate professor at the University of Nebraska. "Most of the airline seating I've used is not suited for the direction the height weight distribution has gone in this country." More important than a seal that reclines completely might be the size of the seats. (In fact, lying completely flat can exacerbate obstructions in your airway, increasing snoring and sleep apnea.) Stentz says that even the widest of the seats being advertised may still be too narrow for much of the general population, particularly men. His advice to the airlines? "The most advanced thing the airline people could do is get involved in sleep science and ergonomics, and be learners," Stentz says.

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