I have formed a habit of using seatguru before I book any airline ticket for anybody to understand the aircraft that the flights will be flown on. Especially for longer flights, flying on a better airplane can make a big difference in terms of flight comfort, even in coach.
Disclaimer: Please note that I am not affiliated or connected to seatguru or any any other websites in mentioned in this post in any ways, commercial or otherwise.
For example, if you are flying New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG) on Air France, there are 4-5 daily flights operated by Air France between the two city pairs in consideration. Of these, 1-2 flights are on Airbus A330-200, some are on Boeing 777-200ER, and one is on Airbus A380 (the new double-decker plane, world’s largest commercial aircraft). Please note that there are two configurations in Air France’s fleet for Boeing 777-200ER. It has been reported that flight comfort is superior on A380 as compared to any other aircraft in the world as it roomier, quieter, newer, has better designed cabin and has a better entertainment system. It shouldn’t be surprising as it is a newer model of airplane. I recommend folks to try to take the A380 flight over others, if the flight schedule works for them and if the fare is the same (or the difference is not significant).
One website that I use more often is seatguru which has a list of aircrafts used by most major airlines in the world as well as their seatmaps. Seatguru also identifies which seats to prefer and which seats to avoid on a particular aircraft type for each airline. Please note that seats type, layout, configuration, entertainment system and in-flight service can vary from airline to airline, and aircraft to aircraft, even within the same airline. In fact, same airplane model within an Airline can have multiple configurations.
And one should always know what type of seats they are going to fly in before booking a business class or first class ticket. Some airlines have completely flat-bed seats in their business class cabin where as some don’t. It can make a world of difference to your condition after a long-haul flight by flying on these flat-bet seats, having a good sleep and arriving refreshed at your destination. And as mentioned above, be aware that some airlines have flat-bed seats as well as basic reclining business class seats on the same aircraft model. Look carefully.
Other interesting websites for aircraft types and seats that I use are seatexpert, seatmaestro and flatseats. So, go ahead and use these available tools to understand and identify better seats on nicer aircrafts before you book your tickets.