8 ways to get the best airline seat
Make sure you snag the perfect seat for your next flight.
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Let’s face it. No one wants to be stuck in the middle seat, in the middle row, near the toilets.
From getting a bit of extra legroom to sitting far away from crying babies, here are eight handy tips that can help make your next flight a lot more comfortable.
1. Always check the seat map.
Depending on the model and layout of the plane you’re flying, what you think is an aisle seat might end up being squeezed between two passengers. And on planes that narrow toward the back, the letters allocated to each seat may change. It’s a good idea to check the seat map carefully when choosing your seat to avoid disappointment.
2. Check your plane on SeatGuru
Like TripAdvisor for airplane seats, SeatGuru offers reviews of seats on most major airlines. It provides seat maps (such as the one pictured below) and you can hover over each allocated seat and read notes about them. The site will usually note things like extra legroom and proximity to the bathrooms.
3. See if there's an app for that.
There are a few apps out there that can help you trade or swap with other passengers to get better seats. Others can alert you when seats have become available on your flight.
- Although only available for U.S. users at the moment, Seateroo lets you swap seats with other passengers on your flight for a negotiated price of $5 or more. The app charges a 15% fee (at the seller’s expense).
- Set up alerts on SeatAlerts by Expert Flyer and you can find out when a preferred seat becomes available on your upcoming flight. You’ll then be able to change your allocated seat to the one you prefer.
4. Get discounted seat upgrades, guaranteed empty seats next to you.
Working with select airlines, Optiontown allows passengers who have already booked their tickets to pay as little as a quarter of the regular price for extra baggage or a seat upgrade. It also offers an option if you want to pay to have an empty seat next to you.
You just need to enter your airline, reservation number and name to see what options are available. If you choose to book one, you’ll get confirmation before you take off. If you can’t get your upgrade, you’ll get your money (minus an admin fee) back.
5. Suck it up and pay to choose your seat, and be ready to cough up for the extra legroom.
Sometimes the nominal fee for a few inches of extra legroom can be worth it – especially if you’re tall or are on a long-haul flight. For longer flights, Jetstar charges $47 each way, Virgin Australia charges $50 each way and Qantas charges $60 each way.
6. Make the most of your online check-in window.
If you don’t want to pay for the privilege of a good seat, it’s a good idea to make note of when your flight’s online check-in opens. The earlier you check in for your flight, the sooner you’ll have your assigned seat.
7. See if there’s a designated quiet area
Budget airline competitors Scoot and AirAsia X both offer a separate, child-free section. This option is ideal for those trying to catch some sleep without having to worry about being seated next to a crying infant.
- ScootinSilence, which is located in rows 21 to 25, offers more than just quiet seating for those aged 12 and older. Passengers will also be sitting closer to the front of the plane and a 35” seat pitch (four inches more than a standard economy seat). The airline charges $39 (up from the standard $12) to sit in this area.
- AirAsia X’s Quiet Zone is available for passengers aged 10 and older. It’s located just after the Premium Flatbed cabin from ros 7-14 and offers minimal noise, soft lighting and faster meal delivery. AirAsia X charges a fee for this option based on your flight, with prices for standard seats staring from MYR69 (around AUD$23).
8. Try just being nice.
It could be worth asking politely at check-in and again at the gate whether there are any better seats available, or if there are spots still available in the exit row. While it’s unlikely you’ll get an upgrade to first class, it’s certainly worth a try.
Great tips, but where should I sit on the plane?
Believe it or not, each part of the plane does have its benefits. Depending on what your personal needs are when you're flying, here are a few things you might want to consider.
For peace and quiet: Choose a seat in a quiet zone
As noted above, some airlines let you pay extra to sit in a designated quiet zone. It’s ideal if you’re hoping to sleep during the flight.
For less turbulence: Choose a seat over the wing.
If you’re worried about a turbulent flight, sitting above a wing tends to reduce the amount of movement you feel.
For a short connection or a quicker exit: Choose a seat close to the front door.
Not all flights will disembark using both the front and rear doors. So if you need to get off the plane quicker, choose a seat toward the front of the plane, or as close to it as your ticket class will allow.
For more space: Choose a seat near the back of the plane.
If a roomier flight is your main priority, choose a seat toward the back. Flights tend to fill up from front to back, so selecting a set at the back gives you a higher chance of having an empty seat next to you – or a whole row if you’re really lucky.
Now that you know how to pick the perfect seat for your next flight, it's time to book:
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