The Ultimate Guide to Smart Airline Seat Selection

Flying can make a great beginning of your long-anticipated vacation; however, if you end up in a bad airplane seat for up to 12 hours, then your vacation can quickly feel like cruel and unusual punishment. Control your fate using these important tips to get your ideal airline seat planned out early. Where you sit dramatically changes your entire flight experience.

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Best Airline Seat
Select the best seat on your next flight

How to Pick a great Airline Seat?

The following factors play an important part in selecting the best seat on an airplane:

1) How long do you have between your flight connections?

In most international airports, 2 hours or more between flight connections is a comfortable window of time to find your gate, get a snack and get on the next plane. One hour or less between flights means the only things that you have time for are finding the next gate as soon as you land and getting on the plane! With these tight connections, it’s important to sit as close to the front of the plane as you can to exit the plane as soon as possible.

Airbus seats
Courtesy of abdallahh on flickr

2) The longer the flight is, the more important your seat comfort becomes.

Many agree that when it comes to the most cozy economy class seat, Qatar Airways is the best international airline choice.  Other international carriers with ample leg room in economy include Thai Airways and Asiana Airlines.  These three airlines are also ranked as having the best overall economy class comfort by Skytrax (an airline and airport review company).  JetBlue is the best U.S.-domestic airline choice because it has the greatest amount of leg room out of all United States economy carriers.

Business class passengers can expect a lot more in comfort from their seats. That’s why, internationally, Singapore Airlines ranks best for seat comfort. In North America, travelers love both Air Canada Executive First Class seats and American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER business class seats.

While all first class seats may offer a lot of extra comfort, the favorite first class seat choice for an international flight is Etihad Airways. If you’re flying across America, then experienced passengers recommend a United Airlines wide-body aircraft flight for maximum enjoyment.

Assess the seat comfort on your flight by researching:

  • How far the seat reclines
  • Seat width
  • In-flight entertainment boxes – which can eat into leg room on some flights
  • The likely temperature of your seat

For example, if the seat width is a concern for you, then avoid sitting where there’s a wall directly in front of you rather than a seat. These rows are “bulkhead rows,” and the tray tables are between the seats here, decreasing the width of each seat. Furthermore, every airline has different seat widths; you can check their specific measurements by visiting your airline’s website. Also, if you get cold easily on long flights, then don’t sit near the exit door to avoid drafts.

Courtesy of momementcaptured1 on flickr
Courtesy of momementcaptured1 on flickr

3) How much noise is too much?

Bulkhead seats might be near the front of the plane for a faster exit, but they’re also where people traveling with infants sit since baby bassinets fit well there. If engine noise troubles you, then you’re less likely to hear it when you sit near the front of the plane or on the upper deck of an Airbus 380 or Boeing 747. Sitting near the bathrooms guarantees that you’ll hear flushing and food preparation sounds; plus, it’s probably the most social area of the airplane. If you can’t stand noise, then try sitting in the front middle section of the plane. Business class passengers sitting in the last row sometimes hear economy class noise as well.  If all else fail, bring ear plugs with you just in case. (Side note: Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Air Berlin, and others often times offer complementary ear plugs!)

4) How much privacy do you need?

Some large planes (such as Airbus A330/A340) still have some rows with only two seats in them for greater privacy. To sleep best during the flight without disturbance, pick a window seat. If you usually need to get up and stretch, and you don’t mind a little socializing, then an aisle seat is better for you.

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5) Consider food serving times.

If you’re ordering a special meal ahead of time, then it won’t matter where you sit because they’ll serve you first anyway. Otherwise, sitting in the back of the airplane will mean that you won’t have many food options left by the time stewardesses reach you at meal time.

6) What are the best seats for air sickness and fear of flying?

For air sickness, choose the largest plane possible to feel less turbulence and sit next to the wings to minimize motion sickness.

7) Fear of flying

If you  have a fear of flying, choose an aisle seat near a door to ease the feeling of claustrophobia.

How to choose ideal seat in airplane
Courtesy of “i am real estate photographer” on flickr

8) Making your airplane seat selection online is easy

On SeatGuru, you can view a customized airline seat guide for most major commercial aircraft. Just enter the airline and flight number, and you can browse through color-coded airline seat maps that reflect customer feedback. They also show photographs of the seats along with the aircraft’s special features.

Many airlines allow you to choose your seats online right after you’ve booked your ticket. If this option isn’t available for you, then you can usually call up the airline to reseve the seat.  As a last resort, remember to ask for the seat you want as soon as you check in for the flight, and check in early!

FAQ

Q: What is airline seat pitch?

A: Seat pitch is defined as the distance between an exact point between on your airplane seat and that same exact point on the seat right in front of you. It is a common way to measure leg room, but 32″ of ‘seat pitch’ doesn’t mean you’ll have a full 32″ of room between your knees and the back of the next row.  In general the more seat pitch means a more comfortable ride.

Q: Which airline is the most comfortable for economy seats?

A: These airlines are known for offering comfy seats in economy class:

  • Singapore Airlines
  • Thai Airways
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Etihad Airways
  • Qatar Airways

Q: How can I find the best airline seat for heavy people?

A: Not all airplane seats are the same width by any means. Even in economy class, you might be surprised by the difference in seat width between popular airlines. According to SeatGuru, some seat on Alitalia are a tiny 16.5″ wide, while some economy seats on Singapore Airlines are a comfy 19″ wide. The difference might not sound like much, but you’ll really appreciate that extra room on long flights.

Q: What are the best airplane seats for traveling with baby?

A: Many airlines can accommodate parents traveling with infants fairly easily. The very first row of economy class can be outfitted to hold a baby bassinet on the interior cabin dividing wall.

Q: What is the average coach seat width?

A: The average coach seat width is 17.2″.


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Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts or ask some questions in the comments section. We will be more than happy to help when possible.

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