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What is the best seat on an airplane in economy class?

Let’s be honest. Flying in the economy class, especially on the long haul flight, can be a painful experience. There are only more people traveling (which is good), so days, when you could get on the half-empty plane, are not as common. On top of it, there is a general sense between the airlines that people are willing to go through some discomfort for the lower price.

That’s life, and we can’t do anything about it. However, with a little bit of knowledge and experience, we can make our travel in the economy class somewhat more pleasant experience. You can read an article about how to survive the long haul flight in the economy which gives you some other tips on making flying nicer.

Do your homework

People usually recommend checking the www.seatguru.com. I agree with that but mostly to check where NOT to sit.

As I mentioned above, booking holidays has never been easier, faster and more frequent. It has been a long, long time since I was able to choose a preferred seat on the airplane. Usually, the plane is already half full, and all the best seats are gone. It doesn’t mean that it can’t happen to you, but the probability is quite low.

However, if you won’t be able to get the best seat you still can have the option not to choose the worse seats.

Which are the worst seats?

The seats where people regularly bump into your chair, stand around waiting for the toilet or seats that can’t recline. Let us have a look at this 777-300ER economy class seating layout.

Let’s have a look at the seat 60H. It happened that I had to sit for a few hours at this place, so I have a hands on experience.

Because there is no seat behind it, people tend to bump into the seat regularly. Sleeping in the small economy seat is already very difficult, but this made it almost impossible.

It is straightforward to find your flight on Seatguru.com, check for yellow and red seats on the airplane plan, listen to the fellow travelers and avoid booking those seats.

Ok, so which seat should I book then?

The strategy of choosing seat is different for short and long flights.

Short flights:

Short flights and flights with low-cost airlines have a different approach. On the flight below three hours, it doesn’t matter how comfy the seat is because before you start feeling bored or tired, you will be leaving the plane already.

  1. The seat as close to the front or back door allows you to get off the aircraft after landing faster. The front is safer, as in my experience, not every airline uses the back door to unload people (mostly low-cost airlines do).
  2. An aisle seat will speed up getting off even more.

That’s it. Nothing else really matters.

Long-haul flights:

Long-haul flight can be an entirely different story.

1. If you are tall and want to walk around a lot, definitely pick an aisle seat

Pros:

  • You can use aisle to stretch your legs
  • You can go for a walk or to the toilet anytime you want
  • People in middle and windows seats usually don’t go to bathroom as often as you would expect
  • You will get out from the airplane faster

Cons:

  • you may need to stand up time to time to let people go to the toilet
  • no view

Tip #1: If the plane has the 3–3–3 or 3–4–3 seating setup choose the aisle seat in the middle row. The person in the middle can escape from both sides which can reduce the stand-up time for you.

Tip #2: I don’t really know about that ‘seat over the wings is less bumpy.’ In my experience, the difference (if there is any) is minimal/not worth it. Rather get the seat closer to the front to get faster off the plane.

2. If you want to sleep the whole flight, go for window seat

Pros:

  • No one will bother you
  • Put a pillow on the window and you will have some more space to sleep
  • Cool view

Cons:

  • you need to ask the person(s) sitting next to you if you want to go to the toilet
  • in overall, less freedom to walk around the airplane

3. Middle seat empty

I always choose my aisle seat in a way that the middle seat next to me is empty. It gives you very small but some chance that it will stay empty. The plane is being automatically filled from the front to back, so the probability is higher at the end of the economy section. I am getting around 10–15% success rate with this strategy. The odds are going up if you fly outside of the hot season.

4.Be loyal and become a member

You don’t need to be a frequent flyer who flies three times per week to sign up for airline membership. If you can choose always fly with the same airline (or ones which are in the same alliance – Star Alliance, one world, etc.) or get the airline branded credit card and eventually you can get some status.

There is a pattern to how an airline chooses if they upgrade you. Status travelers are being upgraded first (the higher status, the better chances). Then the economy class ticket level. If you paid full price your chance is greater than if you paid the discount price.

Since I’ve got Asiana Airline Diamond status which comes with Star Alliance Gold, I became upgraded to the better seat more often.

From my experience, your flight experience in the economy will be affected by the seat position only around 15% of the time. When we are talking about 11+ hours flight, there are other essential things to consider to make your trip enjoyable. Have a look at more tips here.

BUT! Again. There are some seats which can make your flight really miserable. Those are usually seats which are on end/corner of some section (as the seat 60H mentioned above).

Enjoy flying!

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