inside plane


SF insider: How to get the best seat on a plane

Published May 6th, 2013

This week at Student Flights we sat down with our resident flight expert to get the insider-scoop on the best seats to choose on a plane. Having been flying on the regular since 1999, from day trips to New Zealand to jet setting all around the United States, we estimate our resident frequent flyer has taken his seat on over 1000 flights, making him the man to talk to for some seat advice.



“Generally speaking the further to the front you sit the better. There are a couple of reasons why; one being that you’re in front of the wing where the engines are, so it’s quieter.  And the second reason is generally that airlines usually seat their frequent flyers and elite status passengers up in the front rows. Often in this case it’s because there’s sometimes an extra inch of legroom.”


For even more legroom, our insider recommends choosing an exit row, which is the row by the emergency exit doors.


“If there is more than one exit row on your flight, opt for the last exit row because the seats recline. The first exit row seats will not recline because encase of an emergency, it needs to be easy for people to get out.”


“On a lot of airlines you can pay for an exit row, and more often than not, it’s worth it.”



Bulk head seats, which are found on larger plans, also offer more legroom. These seats are usually near bathrooms or a galley, and have a wall in front of them. The downside to this though is that bulkhead seats often where children are seated. “On an international flight I would avoid bulkhead seats as this is where bassinets are allocated.” Our insider also tells us it’s possible to ask at check-in if you can be seated away from any infants on a plane – pending that there is room.


And so what about the old aisle verse window debate? Our insider says it depends on the type of flight you’re on. “I usually prefer an aisle seat, only because it’s easier to get in and out. But if I’m on an overnight flight though I like the window seat so I can rest against the window.”



Wherever you sit though, there is a bit of debate when it comes to reclining etiquette. Some people will tell you to never do it, while others won’t ever not do it. According to our insider though there’s a time and a place.


“During dinner I think everyone should have their seat up. If someone’s sleeping then I don’t mind if they have their seat reclined, but if they’re not sleeping and leaning forward watching a movie or something, and their seat is back, then I do mind.”


Drawing from his many, many flights, our insider has also had his fair share of upgrades which, according to him, don’t usually happen when you’re on board but during check-in or at the gate.


“Firstly you have to be dressed smartly so no t-shirts or thongs. Because if you want to be upgraded to a business or premium cabin, which is for business flyers, you’re going to need to look the part.”


Apart from being courteous and not demanding, don’t be afraid to get creative as well. “Pretending I was on my honeymoon once worked for me.”


If you’re too shy to vie for an upgrade, you can always aim to nab a seat that’s in a free row. “You can ask at check-in how full the flight is, and if it’s not entirely full, ask if there’s a row with a spare seat. They’ll never guarantee it, but you might be lucky.”


And just remember, it never hurts to ask politely . Good luck!



Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.