What’s usually the worst part of any vacation or business trip? The flight, of course! Everyone who has travelled usually has some sort of horror story about a past flight – one that is funny now, but was agony while it was being experienced. One way to improve the time you spend on an airline is to get the best seat possible. Of course, if you travel first or business class, you might as well stop reading right here. This article is for those of us who travel in coach, economy, or the “cattle” section – whatever you like to call it.
So what’s the best seat? That definition changes depending on who you talk to. If you like to wander the plane to stretch your legs or have to visit the bathroom often then you probably prefer the aisle seat for easier access. If you are trying to sleep or are just annoyed by being constantly bumped by passers-by, then the window seat is usually a must-have. I can’t really think of a reason to prefer a middle seat unless you just need to be able to talk to more than one person the entire flight (please don’t sit next to me!). Whatever your choice, finding and booking the best seat involves the same procedures and sources of knowledge.
What are the best seats?
Without considering the personal preference of aisle, window, or middle, the best seats are generally considered to be, in descending order, exit row, bulkhead, and near the front of the plane. Once again, your personal preference may trump this order – some people feel safer in the back of the plane, others sit over the wing for slightly decreased turbulence. If you do have a unique preference for an unusual location, then you are in luck! Everyone else fights over the usual favorite seating locations.
Exit rows almost always offer more legroom and are consequently the first choice of seasoned travelers. But remember, not only are these seats in high demand, but they also come with some restrictions. Airline rules require that anyone seated in an exit row must be of the age and ability to operate appareils de musculation the emergency doors. This means that absolutely no children (under 15) are allowed to sit in these rows, so if you are travelling as a family, find a different location. In fact, sometimes infants aren’t allowed in the rows fore and aft of the exit row. Flight attendants have final judgement on the seating in the emergency exit row, and if you are of an advanced age or have an infirmity, you may be asked to change seats. In some third world countries where I have travelled, I have even seen women removed from exit rows on the theory that they were too physically weak to operate the emergency door. Of course, the guys who took their place probably had no idea what an emergency exit was and were much more of a safety liability!
Exit row seats are usually the first to be reserved, so unless you are booking your flight far in advance, these prime spots may be difficult to get. But, always check, because you may get lucky! In addition, some exit rows have strange seat arrangements which occasionally gives extra legroom to passengers directly behind. Check seating charts and actual seat reviews to see if this is the case for your flight.
Bulkhead seats, located directly behind one of the airplanes barriers, also provide a bit more legroom. And, because there is no one sitting directly in front of you, there’s no worry about someone suddenly reclining their seat into your space. However, there are some drawbacks to this location. Families usually like this spot because it allows the children some room to move and the ability to switch seats without disturbing a row of passengers in front of them while doing so. Don’t be surprised if you are asked by a flight attendant to change your seat so that a family can use that row! Storage can also be an issue because there is no seat in front of you to slide a bag under. Everything has to be placed overhead because the row must be kept clear. Another drawback is that tray tables are usually smaller and slide up out of one of the armrests. Also, the entertainment systems on some of the newer planes are not as good in these rows. Since there is no seatback in which to install a screen, sometimes passengers must make do with a single screen for the whole row, and no choice of what to watch.
Seats near the front of the plane usually make for a quicker exit and also have the benefit of less noise than those further back. Being in front of a jet engine is much quieter than being behind it! You do have less chance of having an empty seat next to you, however, as these seats usually fill up first. Not only do passengers tend to choose them, but the placement by ticket agents generally is biased towards these seats first.
Remember that not all seats are “created equal”. Due to airplane dimensions and entertainment system installation some seats can be better than others. Sometimes the curvature of the plane’s body can reduce headroom in window seats, but may also provide extra space near the rear of the plane if the outside rows drop from 3 seats to 2. Seats immediately in front of a bulkhead often do not recline. The new entertainment systems often place a “black box” under the window seats which reduces foot room. Another little known fact is that different airlines have their planes set up differently even though it is the same model. Check for things like seat pitch and reclining angle to increase your comfort. It may cause you to change airlines! How can you find out all this specific information? The free website Seatguru.com keeps statistics for individual airlines and for each type of plane that they fly.
10 Ways to Get a Better Seat
1. Buy your tickets early. The number of seats available for pre-assignment gets smaller as the flight date approaches. Try to buy your tickets at least several weeks in advance and reserve your seat at that time. One caveat: If you get a note from the reservation service that flight times, numbers, or routes have changed, immediately check that your seat is still reserved. Airlines often remove all seat assignments if they alter your itinerary in any way. I personally have lost exit row seats on international flights because I did not re-reserve my seat quickly after this happened.