Best times to fly to score a row of seats all to yourself

Posted: 22 March 2018 1:32 pm
News

Plus, the airlines to fly with that constantly take off under capacity.

As an avid solo traveller, I've often found myself sitting on the plane watching the seats next to me hoping and praying that no one claims them so I can spread out when the captain turns the seat belt light off.

Sometimes I'm lucky. Other times I'm not.

But there are ways to increase your luck of scoring one or even two spare seats next to you and this comes down to when you fly and who you fly with.

After analysing over 900,000 international flights over a 5 year period, finder.com.au has discovered what times of the year planes are most likely to fly under capacity as well as the least popular airlines and routes, so you too can feel like you're in business class when you're putting up with economy.

The quietest months to travel

As opposed to last year where we found October and February the quietest months of the year, this year's analysis says May is the month to take off. The averages show that during this month, planes fly at only 74.2% capacity when leaving Australia and just 69.7% capacity when returning Down Under.

The best destinations to beeline for in May are Malaysia and Thailand where capacity drops down to 65% and 68% respectively. By the numbers, this means that one in three seats is empty, so you could be looking at at least one free seat next to you – so long as the stars and group configurations line up in your favour.

If you do choose these destinations in May, hit up Malaysia's east coast to avoid the monsoon season elsewhere in the west and travel early in May for Thailand to avoid monsoon season which begins late in the month.

The busiest months to travel

As to the worse months to travel? Those are unsurprisingly December and January as it's peak season around the world with airlines at 88.3% and 90.1% capacity, respectively.

When to travel with select airlines and to select destinations

If you're loyal to an airline, Qantas welcomes its quietest month in October flying 75% full. This month is also optimal for flying Virgin Australia to the United Arab Emirates where almost half the plane is empty.

If Japan is on the cards, flying Jetstar in July also sees the plane take off around half full giving you room to stretch on the budget airline. It's also the country's summer months, so you're definitely not losing out in terms of weather.

In a similar situation, flying to the Philippines in August is bound to be a smooth ride, particularly on Philippine Airlines where only 49% of the plane is booked. However, once you're on the ground you might meet a dampener as you're flying into monsoon season throughout the country.

For a sure bet wherever and whenever you're travelling, consider Air Niugini, Philippine Airlines and Air Vanuatu. While their capacity has increased since last year's analysis, all three take off under 65% capacity giving you more room on the plane. Unfortunately, each offers limited routes out of Australia, so if you're keen on travelling elsewhere use our table below to determine the best month to go so you can avoid the chair kickers and annoying neighbours for a peaceful journey from A to B.


Average flight seat capacity by month from 2013-2017

Month Outgoing flights Incoming flights
January 76.8% 90.1%
February 73.8% 83.9%
March 76.9% 74.7%
April 78.6% 77.3%
May 74.2% 69.7%
June 82.7% 70.7%
July 75.1% 86.9%
August 78.1% 76.2%
September 80.9% 79.7%
October 72.4% 85.8%
November 78.8% 77.2%
December 88.3% 75.9%
Average 78.1% 79.1%

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