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How to Get the Best Seat in the Aircraft

Some passengers prefer the middle section, but for most of us it’s upfront. Read on for five great tips to ensure that you sit comfortably during your flight.

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No, all airplane seats are not created equal. Anyone who flies frequently knows that a vacation or business trip can go downhill faster than you can say “final boarding call” because of an airplane seat that simply doesn’t cut it.

You need not approach your next trip with apprehension though. There are some simple rules and some great sources out there for finding that perfect seat and avoiding the duds. Here’s all you need to know:

1. Location, Location, Location
While this might seem obvious to some, the physical location of the seat in the aircraft can often create the most uncomfortable aviation conditions known to man: stinky bathrooms, wild rides, and leg cramping confinement to name a few.

Be sure that when you select a seat it is nowhere near the bathroom. For the turbulence challenged (if you ever used a sick sack for anything other than disposing of your chewing gum this applies to you), the back of the airplane almost always provides more swaying movement and less stability. Over the wing seats are typically the most smooth.

2. The Seat Itself
Bulkheads beware! A bulkhead is a wall that separates sections of the aircraft. At some point it became common knowledge that bulkheads offer the superior experience.

While this might be true when the bulkhead is 5 feet in front of you, some seats (even first class seats) have bulkheads that restrict your legs from stretching into the space in front of you.

And just because that ticket says “exit row” doesn’t mean you are home-free. On aircraft with two exit rows, the front exit row seats typically don’t recline.

They don’t want you reclining into the escape route, which is a good thing, but it doesn’t mean you should sit like a statue for 12 hours to Tokyo.

3. Extra Legroom
Check with your airline about extra legroom. Almost every airline offers some plan that allows you to buy a seat with extra legroom without going broke by upgrading to business class, but be sure you shop around since the cost for these seats goes from free to shockingly high.

The best deals are through frequent flyer programs, where a higher status will get you an instant “upgrade” to a seat that is a little more civilized. Don’t expect champagne and caviar though. It’s just some extra room.

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4. Turn Left!
Anyone who has boarded a big airplane for a long haul flight knows that deflated feeling as they sneak a peek at the magical world of business class up front, yet turn right and enter the baby-crying, stuffy, depressing world of the rest of us.

While business and first-class tickets can literally cost north of $15,000, there are some ways to get something for nothing–or nearly nothing. The most popular way to upgrade without going broke is to use your miles.

Indeed, this is the best bang for your buck when it comes to redeeming miles. Short of that your options are to marry an airline employee, hit the lottery, or get your employer to send you on a business trip in style. Fat chance!

5. On a Last Note
We’ve outlined some practical tips for choosing a seat that leaves you feeling like a modern traveler and not some 16th century boat hand. But we saved the best for last: Seatguru allows you to look at every aircraft from every airline and view the best and worst seats as rated by road warriors and airline aficionados. It’s indispensable!


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