How to Get the Best Seats on a Plane: Pro Tips for a Comfortable Flight

Some people can work with whatever seat they land. Budget-conscious travelers are no strangers to leaving their seat placement in the hands of the airline gods: algorithms. But there’s no denying that your seat on a flight can make or break your experience. Even in basic economy, where there’s no real difference in the amount of space you have, you’ll still find a big difference in experience comparing a window seat to a middle seat. So, where will you find the best seats on a plane?

Discover the right seat based on your travel needs and ways to secure the best one for a comfortable flight.

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Which Seats Are Best on a Plane?

Some may argue the perfect seat only exists in first class. But, barring only flying first class, you can still find great options in economy. What you need to ask is which airplane seats are best for you. Consider these factors:

  • Flight length 
  • Your size
  • Additional travelers
  • Connections 
  • Flight nerves 

Different aspects of your journey, like the flight length or possible connecting flights, can and should affect your seat selection. For starters, you don’t want to be stuck in the middle seat on a long flight, constantly jostled by your seatmates. Likewise, you don’t want to be in the back of the plane and last to deboard if you’re rushing to make a connecting flight.

So, consider the details of your trip and choose the best seat based on your travel needs.

5 Great Tips for Getting the Best Seat on a Plane

Airplanes are massive beasts, even before you get into models for long-haul and international flights. So, picking your perfect seat out of the crowd can feel a bit like playing the lottery. But don’t fret; you don’t have to leave your next seat selection up to chance. Here are a few tips and tricks to find the perfect seat every time.

1. Check Out the Airline Seat Map

When you want to get the lay of the land, check out the airline seat map. 

Most airlines will provide a helpful visual of the plane during the seat selection part of the booking process. However, these only go so far as to tell you the seat type and fare class. A better way to find out precisely what you’re dealing with is through a site like SeatGuru

Like airline seat maps, SeatGuru provides a visual display of the plane but offers a detailed map key and helpful reviews to tell you why some seats may be better off avoided. It also provides information on the aircraft type, number of seats in each class, and in-flight amenities available. 

Simply enter the airline, date of your flight, and flight number. SeatGuru will then populate the details of your aircraft model, which you can use to select the perfect seat.

2. Know the Seat Types

With basic economy class tickets, you can have your seat randomly assigned at check-in for free. However, airline algorithms can be fickle. If you want the absolute best seats on a plane, you’ll be better off choosing your own at booking rather than leaving it up to chance. 

Economy class on any airline typically offers five standard types of seats. Knowing the benefits and drawbacks of each seat type will help you choose the one that fits your needs.

Window Seats

The coveted window seat is prime plane real estate for many flyers. Not only do you get fantastic views, but you have complete control over the window shade. You can also comfortably nod off against the wall without fear of accidentally snuggling up to your seatmates or being jolted awake as they move to stretch their legs, hit the lavatory, or grab something from the overhead. That said, the biggest downside to window seats is having to disturb your seatmates when those same needs arise.

Middle Seats

Middle seats might as well have a sign above them reading “awkward and uncomfortable flight ahead.” No one, we repeat, no one wants to claim a middle seat.

Of course, couples and families often use them to sit together. However, single travelers will ignore middle seats like the plague unless there are no other options. One slight advantage of middle seats is that some airlines make them wider than the window or aisle seat. That still leaves you squashed between two other passengers.

And although the armrest debate for the middle seat may appear settled, take this with a grain of salt, and don’t assume your seatmates will yield both armrests.

Aisle Seats

Another popular economy option is the aisle seat on a plane, which, for many people, equates to freedom. Sitting in the aisle seat allows you to move freely about the cabin without having to disturb your seatmates. So, stretch out your legs, look for items in the overhead bins, and come and go as you please. Just watch out for the beverage carts and other passengers; otherwise, you may be in for a bumped knee or knocked elbow. 

Because you have easy access to the overhead bins, a major plus for the aisle seats is the ability to store all your additional items up top. This leaves the space under the seat in front open for more room to stretch.

Exit Row Seats

Finding extra space in economy class is near impossible, which is why seats in the emergency exit row are always in high demand. The extra room to stretch your legs and move around is priceless. 

That said, it’s not all rainbows flying in an exit row seat. For starters, the seats don’t recline on some aircraft models if there’s another exit row behind yours. The exit row seats on a plane are also the only seats with an age limit, so passengers must be at least fifteen years old to sit there. And, of course, in the event of an emergency, those seated in the exit row must be able to assist the crew and other passengers.

Bulkhead Seats 

If you can’t sit in an exit row, another possibility for extra space still exists: snag a bulkhead seat. These seats are located directly behind the interior wall separating cabins in the plane. Because there aren’t any seats in front of you, there’s usually a bit more space and extra legroom.

Additionally, bulkhead seats have more seat pitch—the distance between the same point on two seats. Because no one’s reclining into your space, you don’t feel quite so claustrophobic sitting here. 

Contrarily, you are missing the additional space under the seat in front of you to store your bags or stretch your feet. On top of that, bulkhead tray tables are flimsier than drop-down tray tables. Finally, because of the location near the galley and lavatories, the constant traffic may get bothersome.

3. Consider Your Travel Style 

Knowing the different seat types will help you narrow down seat choices during your booking process. But, depending on why you’re traveling, you may find that sitting in the aisle seat would serve you better than by the window, no matter how much you love the view. So, here are the best seats on a plane depending on the reason for your travels.

The Best Seats for Working

Putting your hours in the air to good use means keeping distractions and cramped conditions to a minimum. The front of the plane puts you furthest away from the engines. Bulkhead seats will ensure no one snaps your focus or encroaches on your space with an ill-timed recline. Another option is to sit back in the emergency row. If there are multiple emergency rows, you’ll want to choose the second row as the chairs in front won’t recline.

Of course, the best spot for those who can’t afford to waste time will be those coveted seats in business class. Business class offers more room, comfier seats, and power outlets to keep you plugged in, often a necessity when you’re traveling on international flights. Furthermore, Business-class seats are located in the front of the plane, making boarding and deboarding a quick process.

The Best Seats for Traveling with Kids

Hopefully, if you’re traveling with kids, you haven’t tried to squeeze in a short connection. For families, the best seats on a plane will be one of two places: at the front or all the way in the back.

Sitting in the bulkhead row gives you and your smaller tots more room to move around and space to use a bassinet. You also don’t have to carry your luggage very far. 

Contrastly, sitting in the back row is another out-of-the-way area that puts you close to the lavatories. So, if your young kids need to make frequent bathroom trips, you don’t need to book it up and down the aisle to get them there. Although that would be one way to get your steps in 30,000 feet in the air.

The Best Seats for Sleeping

Some flyers love nothing more than popping on their eye-masks and noise-canceling headphones the minute they settle in. If that’s your goal, there’s a place you’re likely to sleep better than any other: a window seat. Specifically, pick a window seat on the left side of the aircraft. These seats are usually off-center, making leaning up against the side of the plane more comfortable.

A bulkhead seat is also a great option because you don’t have to worry about anyone reclining into your space. You also get a bit of extra legroom to stretch out and comfortably settle into your sleep position. 

If you’re trying to sleep, the worst places you could sit are near the galleys and lavatories or in an aisle seat. The first see a lot of traffic throughout the flight. Meanwhile, aisle seats mean subjecting yourself to disturbances as people move around and flight attendants cater to other passengers.

The Best Seats for Legroom

Being blessed with height isn’t always a good thing. Sure, being tall means you can always reach the top shelf, but is it worth flying sixteen hours folded into a cramped seat in economy class? That’s for you to decide. However, if you’ve been blessed and cursed with the tall gene, you’ll find the aisle seat in an exit row to be your best friend.

These seats are coveted for that extra bit of legroom, so prepare to reserve your seat ahead of time. If your plane happens to have two exit rows, the first row of seats won’t recline, so if that’s something you want, sit in the second row! 

Another option is to skip economy altogether and upgrade. Some airlines offer affordable upgrades solely for more legroom and a few add-on perks, like JetBlue’s Even More Space Seats and Delta Comfort Plus.

Or, you can really treat yourself to a pampered experience flying premium economy or business class. Both of these class fares offer more legroom and plusher seats than anything in the main cabin. According to Skyscanner, premium economy offers 5-7 more inches of legroom and wider seats, while business class offers 15-20 more inches of legroom. Those inches add up to lots of extra space.

The Best Seats for Larger People

If you need extra space, you have a few options. Some recommend playing the odds. Choose a middle seat in the back rows of the plane, then cross your fingers the flight isn’t fully booked, or no one sits next to you. But that’s a lot to leave to chance.

So, in the name of your space—and sanity—go with the sure bet of an aisle seat every time.

Sitting on the aisle allows you to lean out, giving you and your seatmate a little more room to breathe. You can even lift your aisle armrest for a more comfortable flight by pushing or sliding the latch button on the underside of the armrest.

The Best Seats for Nervous Flyers

Flying thirty thousand feet in the air has its perks. No stoplights, no traffic, and someone else at the wheel while you sit back and relax. Or hyperventilate. Because you’re thirty thousand feet in the air.

But there’s good news—even the most nervous of flyers can claim the best seats on a plane to soothe their fears.

While you can’t avoid turbulence altogether, you’ll certainly want to avoid the back of the plane, as that area experiences the most turbulence. Instead, try the middle. Above the wings offers the least amount of turbulence and a smoother ride.

Sometimes, it’s not the turbulence that sets off our fears. It could be watching too many flight disaster movies. Regardless, for the safety-concerned flyer, the best place to sit is the back of the plane. Specifically, the middle seats in the rear of the plane offer the safest seating choice on an aircraft.

The Best Seats for a Short Connection

It may seem like a no-brainer, but if you’re pressed for time between connections, the optimal place to sit will be near the front of the plane. Your best option is sitting in business class or near the bulkhead row. However, any seats close to the front will reduce the time it takes to deplane and get to your next gate.

Pro-tip: Save a few precious minutes with a seat near the front on the left side of the plane. Because it’s on the same side as the door, it usually deboards faster.

4. Reserve Your Seat as Early as Possible

Reserved seating on flights is just like reserved seating for movies: the best seats go first. Don’t expect to show up the day of your flight and stumble onto premium seats. 

Most airlines include your seat selection as part of the booking process for your tickets, so if you want to guarantee the perfect seat, reserve it as early as possible. If you don’t, you’ll receive an assigned seat from the airline, which is usually the least desirable option.

Pro-tip: Some airlines, like Southwest, don’t assign seats or allow advance reservations, so checking in as early as possible is the best way to get your dream seat.

In summary:

  1. Book as early as possible
  2. Book a less busy flight mid-week 
  3. Check-in for your flight as soon as possible or arrive at the airport early 

5. Join a Frequent Flyer Program

Frequent flyer programs have several benefits, chief among them being free tickets and in-flight perks. Moreover, elite member status comes with benefits like being the first in line for upgrades. 

Most airlines set aside their best seats for premium and elite members, so it’s best to join a program you use often. Then, it’s simply a matter of accruing points to become an elite member of that program for perks. Additionally, if you want to make a big splash right out the gate, you could sign up for a travel card or affiliated-airline travel card that offers a big signup bonus to get you on your way to elite status and premium seats.

Save Money on Your Flight with Next Vacay So You Can Upgrade Your Travel

When it comes to flying, everything costs money, including choosing the best seats on a plane. The best way to come out on top is by finding cheap flight deals to offset the price of your perfect seat. Whether that seat is in business class or economy, let Next Vacay help you fly in comfort with deals to destinations worldwide. Next Vacay takes care of everything, delivering deals right to your inbox. The only thing you have to do is book your flight and pick the right seat.

Fly in comfort. Fly for cheap. Fly with Next Vacay.

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