What are your thoughts on flying while seated backwards?

seat mapIn a month I am heading to India for the first time. Expect to hear a lot about it as I work through the logistics of a week-long trip, with 60 total hours of travel time.

While the idea of spending 30 hours in transit one-way is, at the very least, overwhelming, I am extremely lucky to be traveling business class the whole way. There are a lot of legs to my trip–four getting there and three on return–and I’m flying three different airlines. As a travel blogger (and nerd), I’m excited at the opportunity to experience the differences in offerings between American, British Airways, and Etihad. Because the shortest long-haul flight is 8 hours, I have spent a lot of time reading trip reports, staring at SeatGuru, and trying to figure out the best seats.

Here is my struggle. All of the planes I’m flying on have seats facing backwards. The last time I flew backwards was 13 years ago. It was the day after my birthday party, I may have been a teensy bit hungover, and I was incredibly ill the entire flight. It did not help that I was staring at people who really, really wanted to have meaningful conversations the entire time. So I have some anxiety about flying backwards.

Coming home I will be flying 10 hours from India to London after being awake for close  to  24 hours. I will definitely need to sleep on that flight. In his trip reports from One Mile At A Time, Lucky says that the forward-facing aisle seats have zero privacy, but the rear-facing window seats are very private. But then I remember my last experience flying backwards and start freaking out and omg I need to breathe into a paper bag.

Dear readers, can you please tell me your experiences flying business class, facing backwards, on long-haul flights? Do you actually feel like you’re moving backwards while you’re in the air? Or is it only during take-off and landing? I do want privacy, and to sleep undisturbed, but I also  want to not feel sick!!

Readers, what do you think about flying while seated backwards? Is it worth it?

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  1. Personally I do not like sitting backwards while flying. I’ve done it on UA and AA. I was in backwards seats between China and Chicago on AA’s 787 last time. I wasn’t sick, but did not like the sensation, especially looking out the windows. One good thing about AA is that the backwards biz seats do not have the add’l over the shoulder belt. Otherwise I’d go with the frontward facing.

  2. I prefer it and always try to choose it. With planes seeming to fly slightly nose up, being rear facing keeps my head above my feet (even in “lie flat”/180 degree seat) when I sleep.

  3. Just spend a LHR-ORD flight on BA 747 in a backwards facing window seat. I didn’t think it was bad at all as the only time you can tell you are seated backwards are during takeoff and landing (and even then it is not that bad). I really did like the privacy on the windows seats though

  4. I would not fly siting in the opposite direction as I am moving I easily get car sick and have a hard time walking back to my seat after using restroom… However it is mind over matter

  5. I don’t really like it but will choose it over a non-aisle seat, as I get a little uncomfortable but not really sick.

    By the way, some lessons I learned after a recent trip to India:
    – Plan to eat vegetarian (“veg” as you will hear the locals say) even if you aren’t vegetarian generally. The grilled meats I had were good, but those disguised in sauce can be very undercooked and it may be hard to tell until it is too late. I was sick for 3 weeks after returning, and had another week of business in Europe before I was able to head home.
    – Pack plenty of Immodium and your preferred pain reliever. I’d also get an antibiotic if you can.
    – Be sure that the bottled water you drink is truly sealed when you open it. I came across several bottles that had been previously opened and refilled with tap water. Even at the airport…really check!
    – Expect that you may have airport like security at your hotel. Not a huge deal for frequent travelers, but it was a surprise after a very long trip to get there and arriving at 2 a.m., to have to wait in line at the hotel to even be able to get to check-in.
    – Dress relatively conservatively and a scarf can be very handy.

  6. As Tim said, the nose up flight pattern of the plane gives a slight tilt in the cabin. A backwards seat places the spine in a neutral position instead of a reclined position. That makes it perfect for people with lower back issues – especially sciatica problems.
    Those that get car sick will have the same problems facing backward.

  7. I prefer it, isn’t an issue for me. I’ve been flying backwards for 17 years now! I especially like the rear bulkhead window seats, with easy aisle access.

  8. I flew facing backwards twice (in business class). Both times I got horrible headaches for the duration of the flight. The experience was miserable and I would never do it again. 🙁

  9. I’d say the only physical sensation is at take over when you lean in the “wrong” direction and looking out the window at low altitude.
    Once you are underway and close the blinds to sleep, you won’t realy notice.
    And if you are very anxious during take off you can always cheat a little and recline your seat a bit to counter the feeling of leaning forward out of your seat…

  10. I did this once, a very long time ago – when I used to get carsick. It was not a problem, but the seat angle at take off was a little vertical, I may have reclined it a little to ease that.

  11. I don’t mind sitting in any direction … I’d take the best seat regardless of direction … but I think it has to do with your body’s affectation with motion. If you get car sick, sea sick, etc … you’re likely to be uneasy sitting sideways on the subway or limo, or backwards on a car/train/plane, too. #SafeTravels #QualityMatters

  12. I love flying backwards. Why? It is safer way to sit. When laying flat, your head is elevated making for better sleep.

  13. Take Dramamine beforehand or practice by taking the train. People riding in carriages used to complain about not wanting to ride with their backs to the horses and I always wondered why. This blog has a very annoying obsession with etiquette and minor issues like this. If you can’t stand it, don’t go. Be thankful taildraggers were superseded by tricycle gear airplanes.

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