Whether you’re a seasoned traveler, an occasional vacationer, or a first-time flier, the seat you end up in on the plane can make a WORLD of difference in your travel experience. Before you book that long-haul flight, doing a little research can make for a much more comfortable time in the air. Here’s everything you need to know to get the best seat on the plane for every flight, for however you like to travel.
Know Your Preference
Let’s start with the basics here. Needless to say, nobody likes the middle seat best, but people are split, pretty much 50/50, on aisle or window preference. Not sure which is best for you? Here’s some food for thought to get your baseline preference settled:
Do you like to sleep on the plane? You may like to get a window seat, then. Not only do you control the window shade, but you get the wall to lean on. You also aren’t trapping your seat-mates in the row if you fall asleep in the aisle seat.
Do you like a little more leg room? Snag that aisle seat. You can stretch out a little into the aisle when service isn’t happening (but not TOO much, tripping people).
Are you claustrophobic? Get that aisle seat – full stop. Having an easy out can help ease your anxieties.
Do you like to get up and move about the cabin? Go for the aisle seat. You can get up as much as needed without having to bother someone in the aisle seat.
Do you suffer from vertigo, motion sickness, or any other inner-ear problem? Consider the window seat. Those that suffer from motion sickness in many of its iterations often benefit from being able to see the ground or horizon.
Know Your Aircraft
Now we’re getting into the nitty gritty. This is where a few minutes of research can make your experience SO much better. When it comes to choosing the best seat on the plane, the first thing to know is that almost each plane is laid out differently. Just because you’ve been on a KLM Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner doesn’t mean that the seat layout is the same on a United Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Each airline specs each aircraft order differently. Knowing the precise layout of your specific aircraft will help you get the best seat. You don’t want to get excited for (or pay extra for) an exit row seat only to find that it has some serious drawbacks.
I strongly reccommend you check out Seat Guru – it will help you be a seat-selecting pro. Plug in your travel date and flight information, and they’ll show you the seat map for your specific flight. Check the seats you’re about to book, and it’ll give you all the real details that the airline won’t.
The Middle Seat Trick
Flying with another person and you want the best possible chance of having an open seat in between you? Instead of booking seats right next to each other, book the aisle and window seat of a certain row. The middle seats will always be the last to be picked, so you’re less likely to get a third in your row with only the middle seat open. If someone DOES book the middle, they’ll be more than happy to switch with one of you so you can sit next to each other. Or not.
If you want the best chances for the open middle seat, book the aisle and window in the back of the plane. When only middle seats are open, people will almost always book the seats as close to the front as possible. So, the farther back you are, the more likely you are to have that open middle seat. This also works with wide body aircraft for long-haul flights. Book both aisle seats in the middle section toward the back of the plane, and you’ll be much less likely to have anyone between you.
Which Row Should You Choose?
This is a big question. One that, again, can make or break your flight experience. If you’re not gunning for the front of the plane in an upgraded seat or to make a tight connection, conventional wisdom would tell you to aim for an exit row or a bulkhead. While these may offer more legroom (and that may, indeed, be the most important thing for you), they often have some unique drawbacks. Many exit row seats have limited recline, so if that’s necessary for you, you’ll want to double check. They also, often, have a narrower seat due to having the in-flight entertainment system in the armrest instead of the seatback in front of you. They also can be quite chilly, and sometimes do not have a window. Consult SeatGuru to check your specific aircraft before committing to one of these seats.
If you’re not aiming for an exit row or bulkhead, there’s a little strategy to choosing your row. As mentioned before, the farther back in the plane you are, the less likely you are to have a neighbor, BUT there are almost always lavatories in the back of the plane. If you’d like to avoid any people hanging out in the aisle next to you, and, of course, the smell, leave between 3-5 rows between me and the lavatory. This also goes for being close to the galley for those long-haul flights, if you don’t like the smell of food being cooked. Check your seat map to see where the lavatories and galleys are, and choose your row accordingly.
If you are someone who is sensitive to turbulence, choose a row over the wing, or as close to it as possible. Those seats will have the smoothest ride.
When you’re booking your flight, take a few minutes to do the research, you’ll have no problem snagging the best seat on the plane, every time.
Have a great flight!