wikiHow to Get a Good Seat on an Airplane

A nine-hour trans-Atlantic flight is always much more pleasant if you have a good seat. What's makes a seat good? It helps if you aren't sitting next to the bathrooms, too close to the rear or squished in the middle seat between two snorers. Sometimes getting stuck in a bad seat is unavoidable, but you'll have a shot at enjoying your next flight if you research your plane's layout, spring for first class, and book online so you can choose your seat.


  1. Image titled Get a Good Seat on an Airplane Step 1
    Choose which class you will be traveling in. Try to get an upgrade to first class.
    • First Class[1] is the most luxurious class. Large seats, plenty of legroom, improved entertainment, and good meals can be expected. First class is also the most expensive, with tickets ranging in the ten-thousands for long or international trips.[2]
    • Business Class[3] is more or less similar to First Class, though often not quite as spacious.
    • Economy Class[4] is the least luxurious class and the least expensive. Seats in economy class receive reduced service quality, smaller seats, and average food.[5] Usually, economy class takes up most of the airplane and includes most of the poor seats.
    • Premium Economy class is available on some flights. Middle seats are usually filled last in this section, possibly giving you some additional room to feel comfortable.[6] Premium economy seats are typically in the economy seating area, but feature a little more legroom, better service, and possibly improved in-flight entertainment. To get a seat, you may have to pay higher fare than economy class, or it may only be offered as a free upgrade to frequent fliers or people who buy a full-fare ticket. Follow this link for a Wikipedia article listing the airlines that offer this class, and what they call it.
  2. Image titled Get a Good Seat on an Airplane Step 2
    Make a list of your preferences, if flying economy class (seats vary in economy class, while all first class typically comes with these features). Do you want...
    • In-seat power outlets?
    • Internet Access?
    • Meals?
    • Audio?
    • Items for infants?
    • A seat in the front, middle, or back of a plane?
    • A window seat or aisle seat?
  3. Image titled Get a Good Seat on an Airplane Step 3
    Choose which airline you will be flying with, if not already done so. Some are better than others.
  4. Image titled Get a Good Seat on an Airplane Step 4
    Once you find a candidate airline, try to find out which type of aircraft usually serves the route you will be taking. Is it a Boeing 767-400ER? Or is it an Airbus A340? Make sure that you are specific (A 777-200 is different from a 777-300).
  5. Image titled Get a Good Seat on an Airplane Step 5
    Check an online seat guide like SeatGuru,[7] Seat Expert or USA Today's seat comfort reports to find out which seats.
    • have the most room
    • don't recline
    • are adjacent to lavatories
    • are exit rows (see the next step)
    • have power ports
  6. Image titled Get a Good Seat on an Airplane Step 6
    Ask for an exit row seat. They usually have additional pitch (which is the distance between the rows, measured from the back of one seat to the back of the seat behind) and legroom, but you have to be capable and willing to help in case of an emergency. Additionally, the seats in front of the exit row don't usually recline, giving you even more room than normal. However, they may be narrower because tray tables are often stowed in the arm rests, and you can expect there to be someone in the middle seat because most people know it's a roomy row.It is not a good idea to get a seat in front of an exit row, because most of these seats don't recline due to the space behind that might be needed for an evacuation.[6]
  7. Image titled Get a Good Seat on an Airplane Step 7
    Strategize for an empty middle seat. Look for an aisle seat towards the rear of the plane where someone is already sitting in the window seat (or vice versa). The reason you want a row where there's already someone in the window or aisle seat is because if you sit down in a row with two empty seats next to you, there's a good chance that a traveling pair will take them. But in general, the empty middle seats (when there are two people on either side) tend to fill up last towards the rear of the plane, so you might get that spacious advantage. If you're traveling with someone, try to reserve the window and aisle seat towards the rear of the plane, leaving the middle vacant--if, by any chance, someone does end up sitting in the middle, they're usually more than happy to switch at the last minute.[6]
  8. Image titled Get a Good Seat on an Airplane Step 8
    Know which planes have the best seat pitch. Sometimes even just an extra inch of pitch can make a big difference in terms of comfort and, say, your ability to work on a laptop. While most domestic (US) coach seats have a 31" seat pitch, some have more or less:[6]
    • A320, United Airlines - 31" seat pitch in economy class
    • US Airways A320s - 32" seat pitch
    • jetBlue - 34" seat pitch in the last 16 rows of their A320s
    • United 737-300s - 32" seat pitch
    • Southwest Airlines - 32" or 33"
    • Frontier Airlines - 33" seat pitch
    • AirTran B717 - 30" seat pitch
    • US Airways 737-300 - reduced pitch in last row
    • American Airlines MD80 - reduced pitch in last five rows
    • US Airways A330 - 34" seat pitch (economy class seating to Europe)
  9. Image titled Get a Good Seat on an Airplane Step 9
    Book your flight. It's best to book online, directly from the airline's booking site, as you can usually easily pick which seat you want.
  10. Image titled Get a Good Seat on an Airplane Step 10
    When prompted to pick a seat, see which are available and which are not.
    1. On SeatGuru,[8] find a seat that is colored green on your specified airline and aircraft. Green indicates a good seat. Use your preferences to decide which seat to pick.
    2. Reserve the seat that you want online.
    3. If the airline won't let you choose a seat, it might be a sign that the flight is overbooked. You'll probably just get whatever is left over.[6]
  11. Image titled Get a Good Seat on an Airplane Step 11
    On the day of your flight, get to the airport with plenty of time to spare – if you are not checked in on time, the airline may give your seat to another passenger. Plan on arriving at the airport at least two hours before an international flight and a one and one half-hours before a domestic flight to allow time for check-in and security.[9]
  12. Image titled Get a Good Seat on an Airplane Step 12
    Enjoy your flight with your good seat!


  • Make sure you check the air security laws in your country to see what you are allowed to pack and what you aren't.
  • Bulkhead seats have their ups and downs. Since there's no one sitting in front of you, you don't have to worry about people reclining in your face, but sometimes the wall that's there instead is awfully close, and your carry on luggage will have to go above you. Also, you may not have a tray table.
  • Passengers seated in the rear of aircraft are more likely to survive crashes, so you should take this into consideration if you have concerns about safety.
  • As a general rule, you should try to fly with an airline that is part of an alliance to maximize the benefit of your frequent flier miles.
  • If your airline permits you do so, check in online as early as you can to reserve a good seat.
  • If you are not early/slightly late or the flight is overbooked you have a greater chance of getting a seat upgrade. If they are fully overbooked then you may get a free flight and an upgrade. Check the airlines rules ahead of time. The next flight may be the next day, so this is not advised if you are on a schedule.
  • Be aware of all emergency procedures, in case an incident occurs.
  • Most airlines will allow you to check in 2 hours in advance, take advantage of this. Southwest Airlines has no assigned seating but boarding is based upon the order that you check in. Business select is the first 15 people that board and [that right] can be purchased for an extra fee. After that first 15, the rest board in the order that they checked in.
  • Many airlines now reserve the best seats (such as exit row seats) for their rewards program customers, and may charge a fee for others to use these seats.
  • Some airlines (in Australia, at least) allow you to check in online 24 hours(i.e. 1 day) in advance. The earlier you check in, the better the seat you will get.
  • Follow steps to reduce jet lag if you are flying long distances.


  • Don't make a joke about bombing planes, terrorism and such. Just a simple joke about that can get you a front row in prison.
  • Follow all safety rules associated with riding an airplane.
  • Make sure you arrive at the airport in time for your flight. If not, you may be put on the next airplane with less-than ideal seats.
  • Stay away from the last row of seats in any airplane. They usually don't recline, and the noise and bumpiness are at their worst.[6]

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