Tips for Avoiding the Worst Airplane Seats

by andreasnestoros

While there is no guarantee of avoiding one of the worst seats, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your odds.

Book a First Class or Business Class Seat: Paying extra for a first-class or business class seat almost ensures you will avoid many of the issues discussed above. The problem is these seats are usually very costly. Ideally, your airline status upgrades you to first-class or you have enough miles. If not, expect to pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in cash.

Avoid Basic Economy and Other Cheap Fares: Purchasing a basic economy seat greatly increases your odds of having one of the worst seats. In many cases, you will not have the option to select your seat. While you may be randomly placed in a good seat, the odds are there will be something wrong with it. Pay a little extra for a ticket that allows seat selection.

Pay Extra to Pick Your Seat: Some airlines and fares do not allow you to select your seat unless you pay more. Frontier Airlines is one of the most common examples of an airline that makes you pay to pick your seat. Unless you want to be at the airline’s mercy, you should add the option to your ticket. That will ensure you are seated exactly where you want to be.

Book Early: Book your ticket as far in advance as possible if your goal is to avoid a bad seat. The best plane seats fill up quickly, and there is a chance only middle seats remain when you book. A lot of airlines allow you to view the seat map before booking, so do that before selecting a flight.

Check SeatGuru and the Airline’s Seating Chart: I always check SeatGuru before picking a seat. It shows the exact seating chart for your plane and highlights the best and worst seats. It also includes reviews from people who have flown on the same plane. SeatGuru may even highlight bad seats that you otherwise would not think are bad. Before using SeatGuru, ensure you have found the exact plane from the airline that you will be flying on. In some cases, there are different layouts for the same plane.

You should also check the airline’s seating chart and layout for your flight. Look for where the bathrooms are located as well as abnormal seating rows.

Look for Planes with Rows of Two: While it is not always possible to pick your plane, you should do it if there are multiple flights available near your time. Plans that include rows of two are perfect if you want to avoid middle seats. They are also great if you are traveling with one other person and want the row to yourselves.

Buy Upgraded Boarding if Flying Southwest Airlines: Since there are no assigned seats, you want to board Southwest Airlines flights as early as possible. Consider buying upgraded boarding to guarantee a good seat. If you do not opt for priority boarding, you should line up as early as possible.

Do Not Trade Your Seat for a Lesser Seat: This may seem obvious, but do not trade your aisle or window seat for a middle row seat. Do not trade your seat towards the front of the plane for a seat in the back near the bathroom. Take everything into consideration before trading your seat with another flyer.

Fly an Airline That Offers Better Seats for Everyone: Airlines like American Airlines and United Airlines are known for offering limited legroom for most economy seats. I recommend aiming to fly airlines like Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways because they are known for more comfortable seats with more legroom. Two other airlines offering limited legroom include Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines.

Seat Selection is Not Guaranteed: While airlines will do their best to put you in the seat you selected, it is not guaranteed. I recently paid for an exit-row seat and was placed in a non-exit row seat. While I was able to get a flight credit, I was not happy losing the site I thought I had rightfully paid for. If the airline changes your seat, there is not always much you can do. I still recommend talking to the gate agent and requesting a comparable seat. While moving you from an aisle seat to a middle seat is not common, it does happen.

The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts

For your own comfort, I highly recommend doing everything you can to avoid the worst seats on a plane. While it may cost a little more, you will likely thank yourself for picking a seat that is free of annoyances. I always pay extra for aisle exit-row seats and never regret the decision.  Happy travelling!

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