Is there the perfect seat on the plane? It depends on what you're looking for when choosing a seat. Nowadays, most airlines charge a fee to choose any seat on the plane — even middle seats — so if you're going to pay to pick a seat, choose wisely.
Comparing Airplane Seats in Economy
Of course, you can always leave it to chance and have seats randomly assigned for free during check-in if you're traveling in Basic Economy. But if you prefer to know where you sit in advance, here's an overview of the types of seats you can choose in the economy class.
These seats are perfect since you end up sitting against the wall. You can nod off pretty easily, and you get to enjoy a sky view upon departure or arrival. If you’re someone who doesn’t like the sun while flying, you’re at the prime location to control this. Plus, you don’t have to worry about being stuck in between two passengers. The downside of a window seat is that you'll have to either wait for other passengers in your row to get up or bother them each time you need to get up to use the restroom. But the plus side is you can sleep through the flight without needing to get up for other passengers who need to use the lavatory.
Aisle seats are ideal if you like to stretch your legs and have the freedom to stand up when you please without bothering other passengers. Watch out for the beverage carts when sitting in an aisle seat. You may get a bump in the elbow or knee if you encroach too far into the aisle during in-flight service. Aisle seats also have the advantage to store your bag in the overhead bin and always have easy access to your items, which leaves the space under the seat in front of you free for stretching your legs.
Who would dare choose a middle seat? I can't say I know anyone traveling solo that would, but you might be inclined to choose a middle seat if you're traveling with a companion. Some couples like to play the game of choosing a window and aisle seat and hope the middle seat stays unoccupied, giving them extra space to stretch. With planes flying at high capacity these days, it's unlikely, but you can always offer to trade seats and the person with the middle seat will probably be glad to switch. If you like to have control over both armrests, some say there is an unwritten rule that the middle seat gets both armrests and some airlines are making middle seats slightly wider than window or aisle seats.
Exit Row Seats
If you’re looking for a seat that has lots of room, opt for an exit-row seat. These seats have the possibility of no one sitting in front of you, so it’s pretty easy to move around. These seats also generally have more legroom than first-class or premium seats. Be aware that on certain aircraft exit row seats may not recline if there is also an exit row behind you. Also, you must be at least 15 years old and be willing and able to assist in the event of an emergency to sit in an exit row.
Many people get a little glow in their eyes when they get to their row and notice it's a bulkhead. These seats are in the very first row of each section on a plane, which is separated by galleys or lavatories. The biggest advantage is that there aren't any seats in front of you and you don't have to worry about others reclining into your lap and it is sometimes possible to get from the window seat to the aisle without making other passengers get up. But while there may be more legroom for your knees, there is usually less room to stretch your legs than a seat in other rows where you can extend your feet underneath the seat in front of you. Instead, there is a wall and you may have to bend your knees slightly for the entire flight.
If you’re really serious about seat selection, you might want to check out SeatGuru.com. SeatGuru is a TripAdvisor site full of wisdom on seat selection. On SeatGuru, you can compare the different seats on different carriers. Use its airline comparison chart that details the options available on each airline and in each class of service.
Paying for the Right Seat
If comfort is important to you, paying for an upgrade or premium seat might be a good idea. Even after following the above tips or using SeatGuru, your desired seat may cost you some extra money. It’s sometimes worth paying for, especially if you have a long flight. If you want to avoid the risk, don’t take the gamble of waiting until you get to the airport to choose a seat—you never know which one you might get stuck with.
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This story was originally written by George Hobica and updated by Peter Thornton.