How to Pick an Airline Seat

February 2023
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Flying can be stressful, from arriving at the airport on time to worrying about a delayed or canceled flight. (The Southwest holiday meltdown remains fresh in the minds of many passengers.)

Even seat selection may cause some anxiety — window or aisle? We all have our preferences. On long flights, that window seat may seem appealing for sleeping (and if you happen to be flying over a scenic locale such as the Grand Canyon). However, what happens if you need to use the lavatory or want to take a stroll and need to step over your aisle mates?

The following advice is for the new or occasional traveler, not the frequent-flyer warriors who we enviably pass in first class on the way to economy. In a recent article for CNET, jet-setting traveler Geoffrey Morrison shared thoughts on how to pick a seat. 

For window or aisle, he says there isn’t a right or wrong answer. “For me, I always choose the window. Even after flying all over the world, seeing it all from 35,000 feet never gets old,” he writes. “Also, it lets you lean against something to sleep, and you don’t get wobbly passengers bumping into you every few minutes.” 

However, as he points out, the aisle has appeal. “You’re free to get up and move around anytime you want. Need to use the bathroom? No need to wake your seatmates. Want to stretch your legs? Go for it.”

When it comes to location, Morrison says that it’s best to pick a seat toward the front of the plane: “It’s usually quieter, and you can get on and off faster.”

Meanwhile, he points out the pros and cons of bulkhead seats — those next to the walls that separate sections of the aircraft. Sure, these seats offer more legroom, though there isn’t any space to stow your items beneath the seat. He recommends avoiding the seats in front of a bulkhead. “These often have limited, and potentially no, recline,” he writes.

Finally, if you had an opportunity to pick the type of plane you’ll be on, he offers two favorite choices. “If there’s an option to fly a Boeing 787 or Airbus A350, consider those,” he says. “These aircraft feature a more modern design, with higher cabin pressure and humidity. This makes them more comfortable to sit in for many hours.” 

Here are some other tips to consider when it comes to flying and seat selection:

• Get to the airport early
• Opt for nonstop flights, if possible
• Avoid middle seats
• Consider an upgrade only for long flights
• Check SeatGuru, which rates seats on different aircraft

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