POLL: What About Airlines Using Backwards Seats?

Airlines are said to be considering using some seats that face backwards, alternating with forward-facing seats. The proposal aims to both fit in more fare-paying booties, and provide more leg room.

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Looking backward: Airlines considering alternating forward and rear-facing seats [Upgrade: Travel Better]


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  1. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    I predict an increase in the proportion of people who get airsick. Facing backwards when a vehicle is accelerating or decelerating feels very weird.

  2. There needs to be a “I’m not sure, I’d need to try it out first” option.

    The awkwardness of sitting askew to someone might keep idiots sitting next to me from starting a conversation. This will likely only last six months though.

    Also: screw front-back legroom! I need more side to side legroom!

  3. kerry says:

    God, I hate when I sit in a facing seat on public transportation, I always have a hard time avoiding eye contact with the person in front of me, especially if it’s fairly tight spacing. I can’t fathom a multiple hour flight like that.

  4. mikesfree says:

    It may be safer to face backwards, but its kinda hard to share space with your wife if you are facing different directions.

    Maybe its if you are by yourself, but still getting up to go to the bath room means that you pretty much have to disturb everyone around you.

  5. jamesdenver says:

    Southwest already has this on some of their fleet. My answer to this and many other similar situations: Bring a book.

  6. Chrome says:

    I agree with segfault on the airsickness issue, but here is another issue. What do you do when you’re in the middle and the aisle passengers fall asleep reclined all the way back? I can’t see this trend being successful


  7. MercuryPDX says:

    @segfault: Like me… I used to get queasy when I had to ride backwards on the commuter train.

    If I’m staring into a book or at a computer screen, it’s not the other person.

  8. moorie679 says:

    can someone explain to me how this fits more people in the plane while giving them more leg room? all you are doing is flipping a seat around….i don’t see how this saves space except for the couple inches that is wasted at the tail and the wall between first and coach.

  9. juri squared says:

    Yeah, I’d get horribly airsick if I had to fly backwards. Like MercuryPDX, I get sick riding backwards on the train.

  10. urban_ninjya says:

    I think it’ll put an interesting element into the battle for the armrest. Not only can you see the guy’s face, instead of bumping arms, you’re playing a game of ‘Handsies’. Definately not cool.

  11. B Tex says:


    someone most likely making 6 figures came up with this idea which may be a scientifically viable way to increase “headcout”, but the practicality of this lacks any common sense. If you were sitting in the backwards facing seat and the folks you were “splitting” were siblings or spouses, how akward would this be or how anoying.

  12. urban_ninjya says:

    It doesn’t increase any legroom at all. It basically saves side to side space in that they can allow the shoulder areas to stick out a bit and over lap each other. Which makes it an even fiercer battle for the coveted arm rest.

  13. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    Lol to all you who get airsick flying facing forward. Imagine flying on a military jet facing backwards the whole way from Frankfurt, Germany all the way to Dover, Deleware? Been there done that it sucks, I never liked facing backwards but at least on Southwest you get windows to look out of.

  14. nweaver says:

    Southwest used to do it. THey don’t anymore. For a reason.

    A lot of people don’t like backwards seats.

  15. nan says:

    Oh thank god. This will make all the hardcore mid-air make out sessions so much EASIER.

    But seriously, I’m only OK with this if the person facing me isn’t ugly. But they probably will be.

    What I want to know is how I will discreetly pick my boogers when the person is making eyes at me. I know I’m hot. But I need some me time when I’m traveling too.

  16. traezer says:

    What the hell?? Im at a loss for words. Though I guess those blinders on the side of the head rests might reduce eye contact a bit. I think that seating arrangement would pop my personal space bubble.

  17. Buran says:

    It is safer (that’s why many military aircraft do this) but I had to vote no because I’m not comfortable with the idea unless a limited number of facing seats are installed and you reserve them in pairs (e.g. are travelling with someone you know).

  18. Blackneto says:

    when we fly with our kids, we take up 6 seats.
    The wife and I purposely sit between 2 children so that we can hog their unsued space.
    This kind of seating arrangement might be bad for family travel.

  19. bbbici says:

    why not horizontal bunk beds? you could cram even more people in and everyone would be super comfy?

  20. TedSez says:

    Since the airlines clearly care much more about cramming as many people in as possible than about passengers’ comfort or well-being, why not just hang everyone on meat hooks?

  21. FishingCrue says:

    bbici may be on to something, how about Fifth Element / Japanese sleeping tubes? If it gave more legroom (doubtful) I’d be all for it — anyone over 5’9″ is almost guarenteed to be uncomfortable flying coach.

  22. roamer1 says:

    @jamesdenver and nweaver: My understanding is that the FAA banned backward seats on US-registered airliners for safety reasons. Given that, it’s hard to imagine domestic airlines doing anything like this…but I could see some European and Asian airlines doing it “just because”.

  23. I’m for Sleeping Tubes!

  24. not_seth_brundle says:

    The Times article includes this tidbit:

    “He admitted that tests had shown that some passengers might feel uncomfortable with being able to establish eye contact with neighbours. So the company has added a privacy screen at eye level that is pulled out from the seat in front.”

    Is anyone else having trouble picturing this “privacy screen”? Is it going to be like a cone of silence?

  25. royal72 says:

    ooh i can’t wait to sit backwards, with no extra leg room! what i’m really excited about is the kid yanking on my arm hairs and then hiding behind the edge of the chair… heehee, peek-a-boo i see you.

  26. Trick says:

    I was thinking this might be good for the better half and I, we can face each other and talk…

    But then again we fight a lot and eye contact would probably make things worse :)

    And eye contact with Boy George or some smelly meathead wouldn’t be all that cool either.

    Thank god I don’t have to fly all that much!

  27. FLConsumer says:

    Add my vote to the capsule hotel idea! There’s not much to do on an airplane to begin with: sleep, booze, watch a shitty movie, or try to increase one’s miles at the mile high club with the 20-something stewardess in the restroom. If the last option is unavailable (is it me or are the stewardesses not quite as hot as they used to be?), sleep would be my preferred way to kill the time, especially on international flights.

    Missing from the poll: D) Hell no, the airlines are cramming too many people in the tiny tin cans to begin with. Let’s get some customer service going first before we think of ways to fit more sardines in the can.

  28. FLConsumer says:

    Also, the only way I would fly backwards is if there was a shoulder harness (like the jump seats). Even a rough landing while sitting backwards with your torso unsupported could = pain.

  29. aiken says:

    Um, since the idea is about additional revenue for airlines, shouldn’t the pool have an “…if it lowers ticket prices by 20%” type option? I mean, who in their right mind is going to vote for “sure, I want to pay the same thing and have this new and awkward seating arrangement”?

  30. scoobydoo says:

    Nothing new with this. British Airways has had a configuration like this in Business Class for years. I actually always preferred their backwards seats in business class, for some reason the takeoff and landing was much more comfortable.

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  32. etinterrapax says:

    Personally, I’m against any idea that crams even more people into steerage. It’s already prohibitively expensive for me to fly unless it’s an absolute necessity, and you know they’re not going to lower fares. It doesn’t have to be increasingly miserable at roughly the same rate as it’s increasingly unaffordable.

  33. pestie says:

    I’ve flown facing backwards on Southwest and it doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m fine with it.

  34. MentalDisconnect says:

    I’m a tall guy, so there’s one good thing about this arrangement for me if there’s more leg room- no more squished knees as the passenger in front of me leans back. By the way, am I the only one who never leans my seat back because I pity whoever’s behind me, and I know exactly what it’s like to have your legroom go from limited to 0? Sleeping tubes would be very nice. I never get airsick, so I don’t think backwards seats would effect me in that respect. However… I bet if they carried out this idea they wouldn’t lower the fare, and increased leg room would be anywhere from minimal to a figment of your imagination. There will just be more people on the plane. And you know what more people on the plane means? That’s right! Longer lines and longer waits. Eventually there will be “standing room only” on these planes…

  35. Craig says:

    In all my years of flying I’ve sat next to someone I’d want to be facing once. The only advantage to this arrangement is if you’re seated next to someone who, shall we say, “overflows” their seat. Another disadvantage I don’t think anyone mentioned is that you can’t stretch out across more than one seat on those rare occasions when you have an empty seat next to you.

  36. ironchef says:

    you know the human body can stand 2x the amount of force when sitting backwards in a crash as opposed to sitting forwards?

    Sitting backwards is safer….

  37. superlayne says:

    Maybe they should just have us all doped on sleeping gas when we go on a flight, like in the Fith Element. Save on hijackings and things. Then you could just pile sleeping people ontop of each other on the plane with no worries…Just one large stack of passengers…

  38. zolielo says:

    Like many of you posters I too have gone backwards, it is not fun and I do not recommend it.

  39. DJK says:

    I voted for the first option. No way in hell I would ever fly a configuration like this.

  40. legotech says:

    So I can’t leave my bag under my feet because the area must be clear for safety reasons, but having to climb over an entire seat thats facing the other way is ok?



  41. moorie679 says:

    @urban_ninjya: yeah i guessed as much… thank you for clearing it up and may the gods of the armrest shine upon thee the next time you board a plane.

    Ps: Better get ready to have a couple kids every time you board a plane considering that eventually they will put people so close together some are bound to get pregnant.

  42. unclearconcept says:

    aside from the obvious creep factor as described in option a, where is this supposed extra leg room entering the picture? all you’re gonna get is the ability to intertwine with the people facing you instead of rubbing legs parallel style, and/or play footsie with someone who’s sexy eyebrows indicate they probably don’t want to.

  43. Hoss says:

    How does the window seat get coffee?

  44. ord2fra says:

    I don’t like them for the fact that emergency evacuations would be a mess. Consider that if those seats were reclined at all, in different directions, it would make a safe evac very tough. That, and imagine the window seat pax trying to get through the middle and aisle seats while reclined.

  45. eeebee says:

    If they put me in that middle seat, I guarantee I will barf.

  46. lfb001 says:

    In the late 60’s and early 70’s; Mohawk Airlines flew BAC 111 planes with rear facing seats.

  47. Hallik09 says:

    @superlayne: Definitely love the sleeping boxes :) I was thinking the same thing and hoping no one mentioned it yet. It’d be the best thing ever, no need to struggle on a 15 hour flight overseas. Economy, I mean ghetto class, sucks major ass. Hell they don’t even give you peanuts anymore. Domestic flights here are so damn cheap, and not in the inexpensive way. They make you pay 5 dollars for booze, which is usually shitty. Midwest has a shitty wine with a fish on the label and is 5 dollars. Dumb white people buy it, and I feel bad for them.

  48. Maulleigh says:

    I have no problem with this. Unless I’m staring at some ayhole for 16 hours. That’s awkward.

  49. Jarrod says:

    So what happens to the “fat” people who have to buy two seats?

  50. manevitch says:

    I don’t give a damn about leg room. What I’d like to see is a way to fit my 23″ shoulders into a 17″ seat without sitting sideways like the lead singer in a doo-wop band. If these seats accomplish that, I’d be willing to stare at the Elephant Man all the way to Australia.

  51. unwritten07 says:

    Just give me the privacy screen. It looks like it could keep snoring strangers from drooling on your shoulder while they sleep.

  52. lestat730 says:

    This would be horrible. There may be more leg room but then you have to battle someone else for it. What if you get 2 tall people facing each other? Personally I would be very uncomfortable with this set up. This option would get rid of the personal video screens (on some planes) for watching whatever movie you want instead of everyone having to watch the same crappy kids movie.

  53. squikysquiken says:

    Wow, I have to buy 3 seats for my wife and I to feel confortable in a plane. No way I’m flying like that (altough I like facing backward for some odd reason). And I don’t see how they increase legroom, from what I understand, all the seats in one row are facing the same direction and they alternate on every row. So you still get the same distance to the seat in front of you and still the same problem when people recline.

    I used to love flying, with smaller and smaller seats and less and less legroom I rather take the risk and time of driving when I can.

  54. squikysquiken says:

    I don’t think people are facing each other

  55. squikysquiken says:
  56. squikysquiken says:

    Hum, sorry about that, the interface got funky on me. I meant to say: I don’t think people are facing each other within a row. The people right in front of and behind you are still facing the same direction.

  57. thrillhouse says:

    “What About Airlines Using Backwards Seats?”

    They are already some of the most backwards companies, so why not?

  58. DearEditor says:

    There is a safety problem with rear-facing seats: in a rapid deceleration the passenger would be forced upright, facing any flying debris in the cabin. How much force would a one-pound PSP exert, travelling the length of the cabin at 150MPH?

  59. mathew says:

    I would pay extra for sleeping tubes. Perhaps up to 50% extra. Hey airlines, get onto it.

  60. Another Smurf says:

    What about putting a small bag under the seat in front of you? “Excuse me miss, would you please spread your legs? I need to get some fresh batteries.”

  61. MentalDisconnect says:

    You know how we look at things done at items used on mental hospital patients up into the 1960s, like movement-restricting cages, and wonder how could anyone think that was a good idea? People from the future are going to look at our airplane seating design and wonder the same thing.

  62. Trackback says:

    A recent post on Consumerist.com asked readers to comment on a plan to install rear-facing seats on airplanes.

  63. Joafu says:

    Sitting backwards may be safer, but imagine taking off and landing backwards. I’m a frequent flyer but I’ll say that for some reason the thought of taking off/landing backwards makes me sick.