How to find the best airline seat in 5 steps?

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A view the Airbus A320 cabin
A view of the Airbus A320 cabin. (Courtesy of


Finding the best airline seat is not that difficult despite the many types of aircraft operated by airlines. Remember, some airlines don’t offer reserved seating or they operate just one type of cabin class, so there’s no choosing a seat with these airlines. Low-cost airlines are a good example of offering open seating and one type of cabin class (economy).

We’d not talk about business or first class as they are to be spacious, comfortable, and offer extra amenities. In economy class, however, where the bulk of the public travels, the situation is a bit different.

Here are some commonly known facts about air travel we‘d like to share in advance:

  • The last row of seats on any section may recline very little or not at all.
  • The seats in front of an exit row will not recline due to federal safety regulations.
  • Some seats are not assigned before check-in. Come to the airport early to get a better chance of getting a seat you like, if you haven’t chosen one online already.
  • Sit over the wings and you will experience the least turbulence if it occurs. To the back of the plane is where every jolt and bump feels.
  • If you like peace and quiet stay away from the bulkhead where families with little children are seated. During flights toddlers and little children often get distressed so they cry a lot.
  • Aisle seats are in demand as many passengers prefer them on a long-haul flights. The aisle seat gives you an easy way to stand up and stretch without the need to disturb other passengers.
  • If you can sleep during a flight and you’re looking for that extra wall support, the window seats is your game changer.
  • No one wants to take a middle seat, especially on transcontinental flights. It is deemed most uncomfortable.

Follow these 5 steps below to get the seat you desire.

Step 1: Be Informed

To change seats or choose your own seat, or upgrade to a better seat you will need to have some information available to you to help you make the right choice.

If you are a frequent traveler and you’re a member of Star Alliance, Oneworld, and Sky Team, the three major airline alliances in the world today, or if you’re a participant of an airline individual loyalty program you might be eligible not only for free luggage check-in and priority boarding among other perks but also to priority seating options either for free or at a minimal fee; options that otherwise may not be available to non-participating passengers.

On the other hand, if you want to get access to travel perks and you’re a frequent traveler, look for options to become a loyalty member to one of the world airline alliances or to your preferred airline to enjoy these extra perks. They are a good start towards having to enjoy a better seat on board.

During flight booking, don’t forget to plug in your membership account number when prompted. It identifies your frequent traveler’s status to unlock the options available to you including reserving seating or getting upgraded to an upper-class cabin.

By being an airline loyalty member you also can accumulate travel miles which in many cases depending on your program’s specific conditions can be used towards seat reservations or upgrades.

Step 2: Set Your Standards

Since no single seat on an airplane can be said to be the best as seats have pros and cons before you can choose one you need to set your priorities. Do you like your seat to have extra legroom, or to recline more? Here are some things to consider:

  • Lesser Noise: Do you look for a quieter and more peaceful seat?
  • Greater Legroom: Do you look for more legroom?
  • Quicker exit upon arrival: Do you want to exit the plane faster because of a tight flight connection?
  • Smoother flight: Do you get dizzy from turbulence? In what seats you’ll feel less of it?
  • Closer access to bathrooms: Do you use the bathroom often?
  • Aisle seat: Do you like to get up and stretch often?

Once you know what is important to you, avoid seats that don’t offer that comfort. Remember: all seats have their pros and cons depending on their location in the cabin.

Make sure you know if the seat you choose has overhead bins unavailable for carry-on luggage. Some overhead bins are reserved for crew onboard equipment and if you happen to seat under one of them, you have to put your carry-on somewhere else or in a bin that is not closely located to your seat. Such reserved bins are often found towards the back of the plain.

In addition, under some seats, there is electronic equipment placed. If you happen to end up behind one of these seats, you will have a hard time stretching your legs or placing any additional luggage under the seat in front of you.

For all these details and restrictions, you have to look at the aircraft seating maps.

Step 3: The Seating Maps

Before you look at seating maps, you have to consider that some common understandings about airline seats are simply not true:

  • Thinking that you can have extra legroom at bulkhead seats may not be always the case. Some seats just don’t have that extra legroom.
  • Bulkhead seats may not always be the best choice as you cannot store anything in front of you. All of your belongings have to be stowed away during take-off and landing.
  • The window seats don’t always have a window. Do you know that some window seats are in between windows? If you end up in these seats you’ll have partial or no view.
  • Even though exit row seats offer extra legroom, they are narrower than normal rows on some cabin seat configurations. And of course, you have to agree and be able to assist the crew in case of emergency if you are seated at an exit row.

As an airline’s website may offer seating diagrams to choose a seat, there are two major websites that will give you all the information you need to know for any seat on any aircraft of any airline.

We recommend and here is the Tip: To find information about a particular seat put your mouse over the seat on the map and a tooltip window will show information for that seat.

To use these websites you need to know the airline and type of aircraft you’ll be flying. This information is written on your flight booking. After you locate your airline and aircraft, you can look at the seating maps.

Step 4: Making a Choice

Once you’ve located the aircraft and the seating map on, you can open your flight booking and look for the option to change or reserve a seat. You may also consider calling the airline to help you with that seat choice.

Remember to check if your airline already reserved a seat for you at the time of the booking. If you don’t have a reserved seat you can definitely get one at a fee or for free, depending on the airline or your loyalty membership.

Look at what seats the airline website offers. If you like a particular seat and it is available to reserve look it up at to find out what are the pros and cons of that seat. Will it have extra legroom or greater reclining, or it is a window or an exit row seat that might have no room under the seat in front of you or has reserved carry-on luggage bins above, or it’s closer to the constant noise from the flushing lavatory that passengers would use at least once during the flight – all the pros and cons will be listed!

Step 5: Reserving the Seat

Once you’ve made your choice of what seat you like, you have to make sure that you can book that seat right away. Here comes a little trick. The airline may ask you to pay a fee in order to book or reserve it. If you are a premier member of that airline, you may be able to book the seat at no additional charge or at a reduced price. You may also be eligible for upgrades. Some airlines will upgrade you automatically in advance or at the time of boarding depending on your premier membership status.

Airlines will attempt to get your money to reserve seats but if the demand for these seats is low, it is worth checking 24 hours prior to the flight to see if the airline reduced the price previously asked or made more seats available. 24 hours before the flight, you have a greater chance of finding that seat you like at a lesser price, but there is no guarantee. It all depends on how full the flight is and how fast tickets for this flight are selling.

Note, an early booking of your flight will not always guarantee that you can find the best seat available.

Airlines now show on their seating maps the extra legroom and greater reclining seats in a separate section of the plane often located between economy and business class. For example, United Airlines offers the Economy Plus cabin class; Lufthansa, the Economy Premium class.


We hope that these 5 steps will help and guide you on the way to finding the best seat you like. With so many airlines with different preferred and non-preferred travelers, things may get a little confusing but not impossible.

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Ian Powers is a travel blogger and nature enthusiast. Ian has over 20 years of aviation travel experience.

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