Many business travellers swear by bulkhead seats -- the ones at the very front of the cabin, behind a dividing wall (in aviation terms, that's called a bulkhead) -- as they can deliver extra legroom.
But others swear at them, especially taller travellers who prefer to be able to tuck their feet further under a seat in front of them rather than have extra room at the knees.
The situation is especially tricky in business class, where 180-degree fully flat beds and angled lie-flat seats all mean that the situation isn't clear-cut when picking a seat.
So which is better? Australian Business Traveller is here -- in the latest of our series of how-to articles and primer guides -- to help you figure out which you'd prefer.
Bulkheads: the pros and cons
The best thing about the bulkhead is that nobody's leaning back into your space.
That gives you the feel of more room, the ability to use a laptop to get some work done while having the screen pointed at a comfortable angle, more room from hip to knee and the chance for a window or middle seat passenger to pop out without the person in the aisle seat necessarily having to get up.
And if there's entertainment on board, you may well have an armrest-mounted entertainment screen (which is also very useful for jury-rigging your iPad so you don't have to hold it in place).
However, with no "under the seat in front of you" space, bulkhead seats -- especially in domestic business and international premium economy -- can sometimes feel like they have less legroom if you want to stretch out.
(Some airlines have tried to fix this with a cutout section carved from the bulkhead at foot level so you can still get your feet through.)
In addition, that armrest-mounted entertainment screen and tray table may well mean a reduction of a couple of centimetres of seat width.
The end result? Better for knee room and laptop space, but for actual room to put your legs or seat width you may be better off in another spot.
But what about in business class?
Bulkheads get a bit more complicated in business class, where you might find a 180-degree fully flat bed, angled lie-flat seat or a regular recliner seat that's just larger and more comfy than Economy.
(Don't know your flat from your lie-flat? We cover the basics in our article on the lie-flat lie.)
For that larger recliner, much of the same situation applies as in economy: you'll get all the benefits of nobody reclining back into you (easier to get out, more space) but airlines don't tend to reduce legroom as much as in the cheap seats.
So we'd usually pick a bulkhead on domestic business class or international premium economy.
Angled lie-flat seats
In angled lie-flat seats (like Qantas' first generation Skybed, or many Asian airlines' business class seats) the bulkhead is a great pick.
That's because your feet normally tuck under the head of the passenger in front of you.
With no passenger there, you'll usually have that space free to stretch out or store your carry-on during the flight, and it makes it a lot easier for window passengers to nip out into the aisle.
So yes -- go for the bulkhead in a lie-flat seat.
180-degree fully flat beds
If you're in long-haul business class with a fully flat bed that converts to 180 degrees, the bulkhead is less desirable. Since the space between these seats is dictated by the length of the bed (usually over six feet), there's no extra space to be gained here.
In fact, if you're a big fan of in-flight entertainment, it can be better to be in the bulkhead, since your individual screen is likely to be in your armrest rather than at the foot of the bed. Garuda Indonesia's fully flat beds are a good example of this.
Great bulkhead seats in fully flat business class also include Singapore Airlines' flat-bed A380 and Boeing 777-300ER seats -- your feet don't just have to be popped into that little cubbyhole -- and British Airways' Club World, where if you pick your seats right then window passengers don't need to scramble over the aisle seat's footrest to get out.
What do you reckon: to bulkhead or not to bulkhead? That's our question to you, our readers. Share your answers in a comment below -- if you dare to reveal your secrets to other business travellers!
New to the world of frequent flying or need a refresher on some of the more in-depth aspects? We've got you covered:
- Leg room and seat pitch: what those numbers really mean in economy and business class
- The lie-flat lie: when "flat" beds aren't actually flat, but angled
- Frequent flyer airline alliance basics for Australians: the Star Alliance, oneworld and SkyTeam
- Airline alliance basics part II: what benefits you'll get on partner airlines, and how to translate your frequent flyer tier on Star Alliance, oneworld and SkyTeam airlines
- "Direct" and "nonstop" flights: what's the difference, and which is better?
- ...and don't miss the rest of our Travel Tips articles.
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