Airplane Seating

Airplane Seating - Getting the Best Seat in the House

By John Lopinto
Co-Founder, ExpertFlyer.com

Airplane seating is usually the last thing you choose. First, you've managed to secure the cheapest airline ticket or the best value ticket based on your travel itinerary. Or, maybe you've managed to snare that elusive upgrade or free award ticket in First Class. That's terrific, but you're only halfway there to a great experience. Now it's time to choose your airplane seating. Where are you going to sit? On the wing?

Traveling from one city to another can vary greatly based on the airline and the equipment (type of plane). Different airlines will fly different aircraft types and each will have its own airplane seating configuration and amenities. This can drastically alter you're your flying experience. Even with the same airline, two or three different aircraft types may be used and each with varying quality of airplane seats and seat arrangements.

Tips for Finding the Best Airplane Seat

  • Airplane Seating Tip 1 - Get to Know the Aircraft
    There are several web sites, like SeatGuru.com, that will graphically show the relative position of every seat for every aircraft model flown by over 30 airlines. The comments listed on SeatGuru are invaluable as they are the results of passenger observations. Find out which aircraft type your flight will be using and study the seating chart. Make particular note of the nuances of each seat. Avoid seats near galleys and rest rooms at all costs.
  • Airplane Seating Tip 2 - Find Out What is Available
    Airline web sites may not always show you what seats are available for your flight. And leaving your seat assignment up to the airline's computer is like playing the lottery and hoping for the best. Go to ExpertFlyer.com, which will show you which seats are occupied or available for specific flights up to 11 months in advance for over 100 airlines worldwide. Pick an available seat then call the airline and ask for it specifically.
  • Airplane Seating Tip 3 - Not All Aircraft Types are the Same
    So you found out your flight will use a specific aircraft type. Do you think they are all configured the same? Guess again. Japan Airlines has over a dozen different seating configurations just for their 747s and American Airlines has two very different 777 First Class configurations. The seat maps of ExpertFlyer.com and SeatGuru.com will help you find the right configuration and the best seats.
  • Airplane Seating Tip 4 - Think Twice About Asking For The Exit Row
    The common belief is that an exit row seat is probably the best seat in coach. Maybe, but it can also be the worst. If an aircraft has two exit rows, one behind the other, never pick the first exit row. Why? The seats will not recline so as not to intrude into the exit row behind. And while the exit row seats may have a little more leg room they usually have less width. This is to accommodate the tray table that must be stowed in the armrest instead of behind the seat in front.
  • Airplane Seating Tip 5 - They Save the Best for Last
    Airlines will generally hold back certain choice seats for assignment to their elite frequent flyers. If these seats are not assigned they will then be released at the airport just before flight time. These include seats at the front of the coach cabin and exit row seats. If you don't like your seat assignment, ask at the airport when you check-in if one of these "blocked" seats is available.
  • Airplane Seating Tip 6 - Changing the Fleet
    As airlines bring new aircraft into their fleet and retrofit older aircraft, the in-flight seating and entertainment will vary amongst the same aircraft for a particular airline. This is especially true in First and Business classes with more advanced entertainment systems and "lie-flat" seating.
  • Airplane Seating Tip 7 - Beware the Lie-Flat seat "Lie"
    The Holy Grail for any long haul traveler is to be able to lie perfectly flat in your seat as if you were lying in bed. Some airlines have installed bed-like seats in the First and Business cabins. But others seem to have taken liberties with the concept of "lie-flat." Be aware that some seats that claim to be lie-flat are actually on an angle or "wedge". The seat can be reclined to a position that is virtually straight, but it is pitched on an angle creating what looks like a wedge with respect to the floor. While these are certainly nice seats, they are definitely not the real thing as passengers have a tendency to slide down the seat.

To learn more about how you can travel cheaper and smarter, discover the ExpertFlyer difference. Subscribe today.