I've been a lurker on these forums for about 10 years now, but have finally decided to post! I've been travelling since 1995 quite regularly and fortunately in the premium cabins. As I write this I just left a Air New Zealand flight from LAX in their new business class 777 product. I slept ok (I never sleep that well on airplanes), but I found just sitting in the seats to be quite uncomfortable. Air New Zealand even does the smart move and makes it so their new business class seats fold forward so you aren't sleeping on the same surface as you are sitting. Still despite this, I felt the seat was still a bit hard, narrow and it didn't feel like I was slipping into a really comfortable seat to relax, but more like a leather office chair.
A lot of first class chairs have this same problem but even worse, as they usually use the seat surface to convert into a bed. I've never flown Lufthansa's near 747 with the separate bed in first class, but that actually sounds like a really good idea, but at the expense of fewer seats and probably more expensive tickets. The only first class cabin where the seat was actually comfortable was Etihad's new first class suite product. That leather chair reminded me of the yesteryears of first class flying before the arms race of beds, suites, and super huge lcd screens. Some of the most comfortable old-style first class seats I remember were Thai. That luxurious royal purple velvet with an ultra wide seat was so luxurious. I remember that from some flights LAX-BKK I actually slept the best I have in years. So was Air New Zealand's first class seat. It was similar to Thai's. United's first seat never really impressed me before they introduced the suite.
The other problem these new beds/suites have is they seem to wear much faster. There are so many exposed parts and things not only to break and wear down, but to actually show their age. I don't fly United anymore (long story), but even when they first introduced their first suite product after about 6 months it looked so worn and scruffy. Definitively not something first class passengers want to see in their cabin. It seems as a result of this Airlines tend to upgrade their planes continuously not only in an effort to further the arms race of first/business class but also to replace worn out equipment. The problem is that they rarely ever do it over a timely period and passengers usually see the shiny new product on the website and commercials, but when they enter they cabin they are met with a foreign product that looks extremely worm. There are many times when I have to do a lot of detective work to find out what type of first class cabin I will be getting, and then even then its still sometimes not 100%. Back in the late 90's it wasn't that big of a deal because the seats were generally all comfortable, large and spacious and they never seemed to show their age as much as the suites/beds do now.
How many other people that are lucky enough to experience the first class cabin or even business class want the previous first/class products of the 90's early 2000s? I may be in a minority but I really look back and think how wonderful some of the older seats were to sit and relax in.