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Airplane Seats Are Not All Equal

Updated on June 30, 2011

Nobody wants to spend their first few days of their well-deserved holiday with hours of sleep debt. Unfortunately this happens all too often after a long flight. Unless you are one of those fortunate people, like myself, that can sleep anywhere irrespective of your surroundings, then you need to find out everything there is to know about airline seats.

The Middle Seat

Without booking the correct seat location for your flight you may find yourself stuck in a middle seat with a neighbor who has a weak bladder and a desire to spend the entire flight consuming large amounts of liquid. Needless to say you will not get much rest as your fellow passenger climbs over you every hour or so when he needs to relieve himself. 

When you do eventually fall asleep you might be rudely awakened by your neighbor whose shoulder you have managed to drool all over. Most embarrassing and enough to put anyone off trying to sleep any further.

Another risk of sitting in a middle seat is that of the person in the window seat opening the shutters just as you eventually doze off. The flood of bright sunlight will put paid to any attempts to catch up on the nights sleep, no matter how sleep-deprived you feel.

Window Seat

The Window Seat

Almost like buying a house the most important factor to consider when booking a seat on an airplane is location, location, location. Window seats are recommended but before accepting any window seat make sure that the seat is actually next to a window and not between windows.

Sitting next to a window will eliminate the need for anyone to climb over you when they need to use the toilet and you will have some control over when you wish the day to begin.

The window will also give you somewhere to rest your head while you sleep - an alternative to some stranger's shoulder.

Last Row Of Seats On Airplane

All window seats do not however offer the same level of comfort. Avoid any seat in the last row of a plane as this is the noisiest area. Besides being too close for comfort to the toilets  it also happens to be where the galley is and to a top it all its the area of the plane with the most engine noise.

Often all the seats in the last row are unable to recline  so you may find yourself  stifling from the smell, being deafened by the noise and feeling like you are sitting in a straitjacket. Not very conducive to sleep to say the least.

Bulkhead Seats

Seats on planes that are very popular are those situated in bulkhead rows. The main reason being that you do not passengers directly in front of you as the bulkhead row is the row immediately behind a division in the layout of the plane. This is usually the division between business and economy class.

This means you don't have to contend with people reclining their seats to the point where you feel like a dentist getting ready for oral surgery.

Before opting for one of these seats make sure that the bulkhead seats on your flight can recline and whether or not their armrests can be raised. If not you may find yourself in the straitjacket position with only a bit more legroom as consolation for not opting for the back row.

Seats at Exits of Airplane

Seats in the exit row can be an ideal choice if you are not traveling as a family. Children under fifteen years of age are by federal law not allowed to occupy these seats and infants and babies are not allowed to travel in the rows immediately in front or behind the exit rows.

These seats are ideal for people who are traveling without children as they offer slightly more legroom and obviously no noisy children within a three row radius.

Overhead Luggage Compartment

Aisle Seats

If you are going to need access to your luggage in the overhead compartment it may be best to choose an aisle seat as opposed to a window seat.

This will however mean that you will have to make way for passengers that need to get passed you each time they leave their seat.

Frequent Flier Program

How to make sure you get the seat that you want

If you qualify join a frequent flier program. This will obviously only really help if you are a loyal and high-ranking member of the program but this is by far the best method of ensuring a good seat. Armed with your frequent flier number at the time of making reservations will go a long way towards getting one of those coveted seats. 

Some airlines do not reserve specific seats at the time of making reservations. If this is the case with the airline that you have chosen present the check-in clerk with your member number when you arrive at the check-in desk.

There are various airlines who now offer economy-class seating with additional legroom at an additional cost.  JetBlue and United are two airlines with offers related to additional legroom subject to certain conditions.

Buy your tickets as well in advance as possible. The closer to departure date that you make your booking the less chance there is of any reserved seats being available. If the airline offers the option of seat selection online make sure that you make use of this amenity as soon as you have booked your flight. If this is not an option then make sure that you arrive at the airport well in advance of your boarding time. These reservations are done on a first-come first- serve basis.

Visit the Airline website to determine the seat numbers on the airplane that you will be flying on. When you reserve your seat, whether at check-in or online it helps to know the exact seat number of the seat that you want.

Although many of the airline websites allow you to reserve your seat when you purchase your ticket there are some that require you to do so online once your booking has been confirmed. There is usually no charge for making your seat reservation online but there are exceptions to this rule. Sale or discount coach fare purchased from AirTran, for one,  is subject to a minimal fee for each advance seat reservation.

Most airlines allow you to confirm or change your seat 24 hours before departure time while checking in online. Remember that you still need to arrive at the airport on time or you may find that you have lost the reserved seat and will have to settle for a choice between whichever seats are still available.

If you are not able to confirm your seat online then make sure that you confirm your seat at the check-in counter.

Before boarding the plane you can ask at the boarding gate whether any new seats have become available. This happens when people cancel at the last minute, don't show or upgrade to business class.

How to Pick a Great Airplane Seat


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    • camdjohnston12 profile image

      camdjohnston12 6 years ago

      Great to know about airplane seats.Thanks for this great information.

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 7 years ago from South Africa

      Glad I could be of assistance Taleb80!

    • Taleb80 profile image

      Taleb AlDris 7 years ago

      Thank you for these nice tips.

      So I have to avoid, at least "Last row of seats".

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 7 years ago from South Africa

      Welcome to hubpages SAFlights! I have added a link to your hub for all people who know which seat is best but need information on best flights!

    • SAFlights profile image

      SAFlights 7 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Laura. Thanks for the useful hub. We will be adding new travel related hubs on a regular basis and we'll link back to this hub because it offers good value to our readers.

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 8 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for sharing that useful information Pampushky

    • pampushky profile image

      Lori Orchow 8 years ago from Las Vegas

      nice article. I would like to mention that the other thing to consider is that not all airlines have the same legroom or seat width. Spirit Airlines is the WORST airlines for space. We called it the "Greyhound Bus" of the skies...horrible

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 8 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Peg, Thanks for adding that useful information and I will be delighted if you link this to your airline hub!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 8 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      This is great insider scoop on airline seating! You've got them covered quite well. Just one thing, on the bulkhead seating, you will not have under seat storage (no row in front of you) so you'll be required to stow all articles including purses in the overhead bin during takeoff. Passengers used to complain about that quite a bit.

      Would it be ok if I link this hub to my airline hub?

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 8 years ago from South Africa

      Hu Jerilee

      Glad that there are at least some people that take your husband's height into consideration.

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 8 years ago from United States

      So very true and many U.S. airlines have no heart when it comes to seat assignments. Yet, very often in foreign countries, they take one look at my 6'5 husband and actually offer him a more roomy seat for his long legs -- very handy when traveling from Asia to the U.S.

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 8 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks sweetie

      Glad you found the hub useful

    • sweetie1 profile image

      sweetie1 8 years ago from India

      I have never been on an airplane ride but thanks for the info. I would definitely keep it in mind if i have to choose a long distance flight some day.

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 8 years ago from South Africa

      Glad you enjoyed the hub lorlie. Sorry to hear of your bad flight experience. I love flying and if you consider your accident rate on the roads then flying is probably less risky than road travel. :)

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 8 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      I loved this hub, Laura, though I haven't flown since 1985 when my plane suddenly lost quite a bit of altitude over Japan. I'll never fly again! :o)

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 8 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks for stopping by Paradise! Those long flights are really the worst to get stuck in a bad seat. !

    • Paradise7 profile image

      Paradise7 8 years ago from Upstate New York

      Good thorough job on the topic. How many times I've gotten stuck, and always on the LONGEST FLIGHTS IN THE WORLD, in the middle seat at the back of the plane.

      Thanks, Laura.

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 8 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks Cashmere

    • cashmere profile image

      cashmere 8 years ago from India

      Good tips for choosing a comfy seat while traveling

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 8 years ago from South Africa

      Thanks Mike

      Will add the other links - I have a link for

    • MikeNV profile image

      MikeNV 8 years ago from Henderson, NV

      Seat Guru dot com. Or fly southwest and fight it out! Nice hub. voting up.