How to Get the Best Seat on a Plane

In this section I talk about getting a ‘good seat’. If you want to travel first class then book first class, as the industry saying goes, but if you know how, you can get a great seat in your travel class and save on paying for an upgrade.
Before you book check the seat pitch of the airlines that fly on your route.

Seat pitch and seat width

Seat pitch is the measurement from one point of a seat to the same point of the seat behind. This can be checked at Airline Quality.

Seat width probably has more to do with how comfortable your flight is going to be than legroom, so ensure that you check that as well. So before booking compare both prices and your personal space. The difference in prices between airlines may be cheaper than paying for an upgrade on the cheaper flight.

‘Frequent Flyer’ schemes may allow for a free upgrade, so sign up to as many as you can and make those miles work for you.
The Best Available Seat in Your Class

Now that you can pre-book your seats online, you no longer have to take part in the check-in lottery when it comes to your seat. The first thing to decide is the section on the plane that you would prefer to sit in (in your class!). Front, middle or back?

The back may have extra room due to the shape of the aircraft as the narrowing of the plane means that less seats can fit in the space, so a bank of three becomes a bank of two on a 747 for example. Another possible bonus is that the plane’s seats are usually filled from front to back at check-in, so if the flight isn’t full you may be lucky enough to have a row to yourself.

However there is also a major drawback to sitting at the back – toilets. This is handy if you need to use one, but the area may get busy. Also the seats may not recline, and you may be the last to get fed. It has been reported that the rear of some types of aircraft sway at the back, but not everyone notices. Of course being first on means that you get first go at the overhead storage.

If you are nervous about flying, then sitting near the wings may be the solution as there will be less turbulence. The front is also good for nervous fliers as there is less noise, and you will be first off and at the front of the Immigration queue. You’ll probably be served first at meal times as well.

Being last on and sitting at the front may mean that you won’t be able to use an overhead storage bin. If the crew can’t find space for your stuff then you will have to check it. If this happens remove all your travel documentation and valuables and ask for it to be stored with the pushchairs then it’ll be waiting for you when you get off. Also a luggage tag will have to be completed. Make sure that the correct destination airport code is used.

Legroom seats

If you are tall, then you will need seats with extra legroom. These can be found at the exits, emergency exits and behind the bulkhead. The seats behind the bulkhead may be free and could be bookable when checking in online. On long haul flights these seats are given to passengers with babies, so it could be a noisy and smelly flight.

Only people who are physically capable of assisting in an emergency should be given the exit seat, so these cannot be booked until checking in at the airport and may also incur extra charges.

There are several websites which can assist you on deciding on the best available seats, such as Seatguru and Seat Expert and may be more useful than the plans offered by the airline.

The information that these sites provide include information on where the power pack for in-flight entertainment is fitted (reducing leg room), where the gallery is (smell of food) or where the toilets are (frequent gathering of people that may disturb your sleep).

Due to online check-in and websites such as SeatGuru, you need to check-in as soon as possible (normally opens 24 hours before departure) or if you can’t check-in online, then get to the check-in as early as possible to give yourself the best chance to get the seat you want. However, if you’re flying on a ‘no frills’ flight, then just lose your manners and push yourself through the hordes of other passengers to get that dream seat.

Fancy a gamble?

If you know that the flight will not be full and you are travelling alone, book the centre seat of a row of three. Couples won’t want to be split, so are unlikely to book the seats either side of you. With a bit of luck you could end up with three seats to yourself.