Often in trip reports I will talk about turndown service in first and business class. Reader Maggie asked me a question about this, which made me realize that this is something I’ve never explicitly addressed. So that’s what I want to do in this post. To start, here is the question that Maggie asked:
I often read your reviews about a turndown service on a flight. Can you elaborate on this? I have flown business class to Europe on Delta (the only airline I have flown overseas) and have never noticed this service. I would like to know when a turndown service is offered or when it is appropriate to request it. I’m sure other readers will be interested too!
Why do some airlines offer turndown service?
In long-haul first and business class, it’s not uncommon for airlines to offer turndown service, where a flight attendant will make your bed when it’s time to sleep. What is the logic for this?
- Some airlines not only provide passengers with a pillow and blanket, but also provide them with a mattress and other sleeping facilities; often the trick is to place these on the seat and make the bed as comfortable as possible so the crew can help with that
- On some airlines it can be a little complicated to convert the seat into a bed, so the turndown service allows the crew to help you with this (take the herringbone seats on Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic, for example)
The inspiration for turndown service comes from hotels, as it is common for luxury hotels to offer twice-daily cleaning (once during the day and once in the evening). Many airlines try to advertise that they offer a hotel-like experience in the sky, and turndown service is an extension of that.
How do you know if bed-making is offered on your flight?
When should you expect evening bed preparation? Is this offered by all airlines in long haul first and business class? After all, you don’t want to be a diva and ask for turndown service on an airline that doesn’t offer it as a service. So, what is my approach, and what are my expectations?
Generally speaking, international first-class turndown service is offered across the board. I can’t think of an airline that doesn’t officially offer this as part of their service. Admittedly, the quality of turndown service may vary depending on whether you fly Singapore Airlines…
…or American Airlines.
In business class it is a little more difficult. A majority of the airlines do not offer bed-making in business class. So how do you know when it’s offered?
- Usually the crew will ask the passengers to tell them when they are ready to sleep so that their beds can be made up
- If you are not explicitly informed that this is available, you can observe other passengers, so often crews will only do it when they see people getting ready for bed
- Bed-making is most often offered in business class on airlines with good bedding that includes a mattress pad, an extra pillow for sleeping, etc., since much of that bedding will only be offered to passengers when it’s time to sleep
For what it’s worth, no US airline offers turndown service in business class. However, it is extremely common on other airlines, from Qatar Airways to Turkish Airlines.
Just to be clear, I’m perfectly capable of using a pillow and blanket, so that’s not what this is about. What I appreciate about turndown service is that the crew often provides extra bedding that is not otherwise at your seat. Besides, there’s something nice about sitting down in a perfectly made bed, whether it’s in the air or on the ground.
If evening preparation is provided, it is generally fair to request that it be taken care of at any time. Of course, try to be aware of the general service flow in the cabin and the crew’s workload, especially if it’s during a meal time. I just ask for it when I’m ready to sleep, saying something along the lines of “no rush, but when you have a moment, would you please make my bed?”
Speaking of turndown service, I can’t help but think back to how American’s flight attendants union filed a complaint about this being offered in first class back in 2011. The union argued that more research needed to be done to “ensure that this didn’t go”. to cause an unreasonable workload’ for flight attendants. The flight attendants were then given surveys that included questions such as “were there any safety issues with the turndown service at all?”
The bottom line
It’s quite common for airlines to offer turndown service in first-class cabins, where the crew will make your bed when it’s time to sleep. This is most useful when there is bedding beyond a pillow and blanket, or when it is complicated to convert the seat into a bed.
A turndown service is almost always offered in international first class, while on top airlines it is usually offered in business class. If you’re in business class and aren’t sure if it’s offered and don’t want to ask, just see if the crew proactively offers it and observe other passengers in the cabin.
What has been your experience with first and business class turndown service?