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Finding the Best Airline Seats When Flying Economy Class

Updated on April 28, 2020
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The author enjoys traveling the world and visiting educational attractions such as museums where he can learn more about the local culture.

Interior of a Swiss Interational Air A332
Interior of a Swiss Interational Air A332 | Source

It’s fairly easy to find the best airline seat when you’re flying business or first class. Every seat in the premium areas is designed to maximize passenger comfort. This is so you’re tempted to pay the high fares so you can return to them whenever you fly.

Finding the best airline seats when flying economy class is a trickier proposition. Airlines assume that you’re willing to suffer almost any indignity to snag the cheapest ticket. While this may be true, you can still minimize discomfort by choosing the best seat for your preference and current situation.


Sit in front if you want to be the first coach class passenger to leave. (You’ll still have to wait until the business and first-class cabins empty.) This part of the plane has the quietest ride because it is the furthest away from the jet engines. It is served first at meal times, and may have slightly more legroom if “enhanced economy” is part of the airline’s offerings.

But it also suffers the most turbulence because of its distance from the stability offered by the wings. It may be more expensive than other economy class seats due to its being part of “enhanced economy.” Because airlines load passengers from front to back, the front gets boarded last. You may lose any overhead bin space, as passengers who boarded before you store their carry-ons in your space.


Bulkhead seats are those with partitions in front of them. This area is usually assigned to families with babies. They can make use of special cribs that attach to the walls and comfortably hold a sleeping child. The noise and crying from the little tykes makes this an area to avoid if you do not have kids.

Because no seats are in front of you, you don’t have to worry about anyone’s seat back wedging into your knees. But you won’t have as much room to stretch out, and your seat trays will come from your arm rests instead of from in front of you. Finally, you lose carry-on space that is normally under the seat in front of you.

Over the Wing

If you’re affected by motion sickness, seats over the wing boast the smoothest ride. But they may also be the noisiest areas if the jets are mounted on the wings. Your views outside the window are blocked by expanses of white and gray, though you will have greater legroom because the emergency exits are nearby. You will need to be strong enough to operate those exits in an emergency. You may also need to pay extra for the privilege, since many airlines are now charging extra for exit row seats.


Both airline companies and most passengers like to book the front seats first, so if you prefer emptiness around you, book your place in the final rows of the cabin. You’ll also board first and will have the entire airline’s empty overhead bins in which to store your carry-ons. However, you will leave the plane last, may be next to noisy and smelly galleys and bathrooms, and may lose overhead bin space directly above you, since this is where the crew stores extra supplies like blankets, first aid kits and magazines. This area may also be very noisy if jets are mounted near the rear of the plane.

Seating Charts

Once you’ve decided on an area of the plane, you can look at specific seats in the charts provided at the airline’s website. You can also check them at Seat Expert or Seat Guru. The big plus of these two sites is that they detail the advantages and disadvantages of each seat, such as whether it is narrower or wider than normal, whether it reclines or whether it has power outlets. You can typically select your seat when you book your flight, or any time up to 24 hours before departure.


Where do you prefer to sit?

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