Today, we see airlines operating Airbus A380s boast their first class suites which included beds, or huge seats that turn into beds, similar to like a sofa bed. To many of the present generation, this is a big innovation, but in reality, it is not really new. In fact, Philippine Airlines had them on their Boeing 747-200s during the 1980s, and they were called the "Cloud Nine Service Skybeds", which was available for first class passengers.
PAL can easily claim to be the first to introduce full flat beds on its aircraft way before its rivals. These are not just seats that recline to a full-flat position, but on the upper deck of the aircraft, there were bunk beds! PAL introduced this only on their Boeing 747-200 jets used for North America, Europe, Australia, and Middle East flights.
During the 1980s, air travel was considered a luxury, and first class passengers wanted always for the best all-out comfort. PAL did not settle for less as they knew that seats converting to beds were not enough. Hence, the airline introduced the "Cloud Nine Cabin".
First class had the choice of two types of seats, the Siesta Class seats on the lower deck which are basically recliners similar to today's business class seats sans the IFEs, and the Skybeds on the upper deck for passengers who wanted to sleep throughout the flight. Why two? This gave passengers more options. For those who only sleep lightly and would want to talk around, they would stay at the lower deck. If they feel later on that they want to sleep throughout, they may choose to just move to the upper deck and sleep on a Skybed which provides more sleeping comfort.
The Skybeds were also equipped with seatbelts which are take-off and landing certified so passengers may sleep throughout the flight. During the 80s, flights to Europe took longer, as much as 18 hours, as most airlines were not allowed to overfly the Soviet Union. The Skybeds were perfect for such trips as it provided the ultra-comfort for passengers of sleeping in a bed instead of a reclining seat.
Despite it being a very iconic innovation for Philippine Airlines, the feature did not last long as it became uneconomical. Fares were falling and business class was in its ascent. In the 90s, the Boeing 747-200s were replaced with the 747-400s. They were no longer equipped with the Skybeds but had a first class section until they were all removed in favor of a bi-class configuration, business and economy class.
Today, the old airline adage "space is the most precious commodity on any plane" still holds true to this day. Every space is maximized, hence, the reason why full-flat business class seats are now here. PAL also no longer operates first class sections on their aircraft, but has introduced premium economy which is indeed very comfortable for those who are looking for business class comfort but at the price of an economy class section.
Unlike before where full-flat seats were only limited to the airline's 747s, almost all of PAL's aircraft are equipped with seats that recline to a full-flat position. The airline's Boeing 777-300ERs, Airbus A350-900s, Airbus A330-300s, and Airbus A321NEO LRs are equipped with full-flat business class seats, something never seen before.
So don't be surprised to see some airlines equipping their aircraft with beds. It is actually nothing new. It was done already before by Philippine Airlines.
Where you able to experience the PAL skybeds? Share us your stories!