With the conclusion of the science phase of the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) mission in late 2009, and the planned launch of ICESat-2 in late 2015, NASA has recently established the IceBridge program to provide continuity between missions. A major goal of IceBridge is to obtain a sea-ice thickness time series via airborne surveys over the Arctic and Southern Oceans. Typically two laser altimeters, the Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) and the Land, Vegetation and Ice Sensor (LVIS), are utilized during IceBridge flights. Using laser altimetry simulations of conventional analogue systems such as ICESat, LVIS and ATM, with the multi-beam system proposed for ICESat-2, we investigate differences in measurements gathered at varying spatial resolutions and the impact on sea-ice freeboard. We assess the ability of each system to reproduce the elevation distributions of two sea-ice models and discuss potential biases in lead detection and sea-surface elevation, arising from variable footprint size and spacing. The conventional systems accurately reproduce mean freeboard over 25 km length scales, while ICESat-2 offers considerable improvements over its predecessor ICESat. In particular, its dense along-track sampling of the surface will allow flexibility in the algorithmic approaches taken to optimize the signal-to-noise ratio for accurate and precise freeboard retrieval.