Free First Class Next Month:


Hey there, you’re reading an outdated post! The updated series from April 2015 can be found here.

This is the twenty-second post in a monthlong series. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flier miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Today I’ll be explaining a tool I use every time I book a flight or research an award to ensure I get the best seat possible, Seatguru is an online compendium of airline seatmaps.

Along the left side of the site, you select your airline. If you click on an airline, every aircraft in its fleet will show up. If you click on one, you can see its seat map.

The aircrafts are grouped by whether they are being used for longhaul or shorthaul trips and by class. For instance, at the bottom of the United page, you can compare its first class products on its longhaul planes.

I use seatguru in three ways. The first is to figure out the best product on an airline. For instance, if I know that I want to fly in US Airways business, I could look at the bottom of the US Air page and compare the business class product offered on various US Airways planes.

From comparing them, I learned to avoid the 757, which only has recliners, and to shoot for the A330-200, which has lie flat beds inside their own suites.

I would use this information when booking any paid or award ticket. When booking a ticket, the aircraft is always listed alongside each option. I would make sure if I were booking a business class ticket on US Air that the flight was operated by an A330-200.

The second way I use seatguru is to make sure I get the best seat within my class of service. I had a flight on a British Airways 777-200 in business class.

When looking at the seatmap, note that some seats are color coded. Just like driving, green is good, and red is bad. Seatguru shades a seat green if it has more room than normal.

It shades it yellow or red if the seat has a defect like a window seat that isn’t aligned with a window. Or a seat that is too near to a galley or toilet. Or the worst of all, coach seats that don’t recline.

From looking at the map and holding my cursor over the map, I chose seat 3E. It has tons of extra space, only one seat mate, and will be easy to enter and exit.

The third way I use seatguru is to figure out whether a business class seat is angled lie flat or true lie flat. At the top of each aircraft’s page, hold your cursor over More Info in the seat descriptions section.

A text box will pop up explaining whether the seat is fully flat like BA business:

Or whether a seat is angled lie flat like AA business:

Seatguru is intuitive to use and is a wealth of information. From now on when booking or researching a flight, pull up the seat map and find out where the best seat for you is.

Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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  1. One thing I noticed is they aren’t always updated with the latest layout or seat type. For example they still show old United recliner seats in some biz class, where United’s own website says it’s lie flat. Sometimes layouts don’t match what the airline’s own seat selection page or ExpertFlyer show.

    • You’re right. It’s not 100% accurate or complete. If I’m suspicious, I’ll reconfirm with the airline’s website.

  2. If I’m thinking properly, I believe you’d also recommend a tax cost vs seat type analysis as well, right? The wife and I are planning a 2014 trip to Europe in which I’ll have accrued 200,000 AA miles for RT first/business class, and we want to do it in style. Having looked at the oneworld/partner possibilities (MCO to either FCO, MAD, BCN, CDG, or any other in that area I’m not considering), it seems like the only fully 180 deg. lie-flat seats are with BA, which has ridiculously high taxes on awards. Let’s assume this one of few opportunities to fly to Europe, and the point of getting miles is to save money (for me anyway), so I’m left dropping BA, because the cost of the award seat in taxes would be almost as much, if not more, than purchasing an economy seat. So, unless I’ve missed something (entirely possible), I’m thinking the best value is the MCO-MIA-MAD trip on Iberia, because it’s a newer Business class and you save a bundle on taxes. Of course, the trip isn’t until 2014 and something could change (I was using 6/2013 info). As a semi-noob, am I on the right track, or am I missing something?

    • Hopefully AA will have flat business seats by then. Their new plane orders are getting them. But everything you’ve said is right. It would be about $650 per person to fly in BA biz roundtrip. If you don’t value flat vs. non flat that highly, go with the inferior products.

      With all that time til your trip though, I might suggest accruing United/US miles for it and using the AA miles to a different region.

      • Thanks Scott. I’ve got the US Div Miles MC which should have my 40k miles soon, but considering a limited ability to acquire many more cards prior to a home purchase around 2014-2015, I’m hesitant to go nuts with apps. I’m probably down to 3-4 more cards and then I need to freeze there until I get the mortgage. That’s why I chose the AA miles for Europe, and maybe try to get a RT MCO-SXM a year from now on US/Star for us both.

    • Good question that I’ve never pondered. There is not a lot of overlap in the types of aircraft in the longhaul and shorthaul categories, so there’s rarely confusion. In case, I’m not sure what seats will be used, I’ll usually go to the operating carrier’s site, and do a dummy booking until seat selection to get a better idea.

  3. Thank you for your consistent valuable information. I’ve used but not to the full extent you have explained here. I’m constantly learning, and your website is one of the best.

  4. The info can definitely be outdated. Also if the destination you are going to doesn’t fly the better aircraft there isn’t much you can do. And yes, the 757 is one to avoid. Obviously better than coach but that business seat isn’t something you want to spend much on.


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