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March 12, 2021

Window Versus Aisle Seat – How To Pick The Best Seat On A Plane

by Jason Dutton-Smith
Best seat on the plane

Let’s face it, flying these days can be an exercise in patience, especially when you’re flying in economy. Crowded planes, minimal legroom and little in the way of onboard service can make even the shortest trip seem like an eternity.

Get your preferred seat though and the discomforts of flying are eased somewhat. Follow these easy tips and you may never have to endure another middle seat in the back of the plane again – or crying babies, noisy gallies.

Aisle Seats

If you’re a little taller than average, an aisle seat is best so you can stretch your pins out into the aisle. Sitting on the edge of the row is also the pick if you’re a frequent bathroom visitor, if you like to move about the plane during a flight, or you are a little claustrophobic.

Window seats

If you’re a solid sleeper or frequent napper, then the window seat is for you. Pop your pillow between yourself and the window and not ever worry about accidentally leaning into your seatmate. Unless you’re an acrobat, the downfall of a window seat is needing to use the bathroom and potentially having to wake your neighbours on longer flights. But, if you’re content to sit there with a good book, or you love to binge-watch movies, then tuck yourself away by the window and enjoy the nonstop passing view.

Views from the window seat.

Views from the window seat.

Getting The Best Seat On The Plane

No matter which seat you prefer, there are a few tips and tricks to ensure you can get the best pick of the plane each time.

Plan ahead

Don’t wait until you get to the airport for your seat assignment. Select a seat when you book your ticket or check-in for your flight online. Most domestic and international flights allow for online check-in and seat selection 24 to 48 hours in advance.

Arrive early

For airlines that don’t provide online check-in or advanced seat assignments, be sure to get to the airport early. The sooner you check-in, the more seats you’ll have to choose from ahead of time.

Airport departure board.

Airport departure board.

Know your aircraft

For some frequent flyers, there’s more to the equation than simply a window or aisle seat. If you’re looking for privacy and less noise, choose a seat away from the galleys and bathrooms. If you enjoy the scenery out the window, choose a seat away from the wings, where the views are unobstructed. Maybe you want a seat with maximum legroom or a spot in the cabin as close to an exit as possible. Your airline or travel agent can help select the seat that’s right for you depending on the seat configuration of the aircraft you’re flying – they can differ a lot of option.

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A home guide

For those who like to make their own bookings online, a handy resource when it comes to seat selection is Seatguru.com. An indispensable tool for frequent flyers, this website features cabin seat layouts, or ‘seat maps’ as they’re called in the airline industry, for all kinds of airlines and aircraft types.

On the SeatGuru website, select the airline and the aircraft type you’re flying on (the aircraft type is often printed on your itinerary), and your search will generate a seat map showing a list of the best and worst seats on the plane. Seat ratings and comfort criteria are based on things like personal space, cabin noise levels and more and often include images uploaded by passengers.

Delta One with privacy screen doors - Image courtesy Delta.

Delta One with privacy screen doors – Image courtesy Delta.

Go for the upgrade

Make sure your email address and contact number are in your booking. The latest trend with airlines is the ‘bid for an upgrade’ service (not currently found on US-based airlines, but widely used in Europe, Asia and Australia). If you’re on a higher Economy fare, airlines might send an email or text message a day or two before your flight, asking if you’d like to spend a bit more for an upgrade to Premium Economy, Business Class or First Class. Just choose the amount you want to spend, and if you’re ‘bid’ is successful, you’ll be flying high in a premium cabin at often a fraction of the price.


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Know your status

Even if you don’t fly often, it sometimes pays to join an airline’s frequent flyer program. All it takes is one or two overseas trip, and that could push your frequent flyer status to an elite category. Some of the most coveted seats on a plane may be reserved for their elite frequent flyers, so with elite status comes more seat options onboard the aircraft. Hit Gold or Platinum status, and the seat map opens right up!

Spend a little more

Let’s face it, sometimes you get what you pay for. If you’re after the lowest fare, with no service amenities included, seat selection options could be minimal. But buy a more expensive flexible fare or Premium Economy, Business Class or First Class ticket, and the seat options become plentiful.

Do you have any other tips for selecting the best seats on a plane? Let us know in the comments below.

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