How to get the best seat in coach
How to get the best seat in coach
How to get the best seat in coach. Flickr/
Pieter van Marion

Location, location, location” is an important consideration not only when buying real estate, but also when selecting an airplane seat. With more people traveling and more airlines cramming planes with more seats, passengers often wind up with less. Especially when it comes to comfort. But taking the time to select a seat customized to your needs can avert hours of potential in-flight misery.

Persistence Pays

The best way to ensure you don’t wind up with a poor seat is to book your flight well in advance. According to Peter Greenberg, travel editor for NBC’s Today Show, and author of The Travel Detective: How to Get the Best Service and the Best Deals from Airlines, Hotels, Cruise Ships, and Car Rental Agencies, flights that are less crowded are those departing around noon on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.

At the time of booking, be sure to choose where you want to sit. An excellent website for locating prime seats for each aircraft type on numerous airlines is Besides color-coded diagrams of seat plans indicating where the good, bad and ugly seats are, you can see the locations of power ports, exits, lavatories and galleys.

If you’re unhappy with the selection of seats remaining on your flight, keep checking back to see if any new seats have become available. Still can’t snag a good seat? On the day of your flight, arrive at the airport well in advance, as new seats, including those in emergency exit rows, are often “released.” When you check in, let the gate agent know where you prefer to sit. No luck? Ask again before boarding. Your last chance at getting a better seat is to wait onboard until all passengers are seated and before the seat belt sign is illuminated. Flights that aren’t full often have empty seats at the rear. This is a great spot to check if you want to stretch out after take-off.

Where to Catch Some ZZZs

If you’re interested in catching a few winks, the back of the aircraft is not a good location, as those seats are near the noise and smells of galleys and lavatories. Sleeping onboard is also difficult in seats with little or no room to recline, such as those in front of lavatories or emergency exits. The bulkhead, or partition between cabins, is another spot you’ll want to steer clear of. Airlines often set aside seats here for people traveling with babies, because there is more leg room for bassinets. On some aircraft, bulkhead rows have large movie screens. Sitting so close to a bright screen can make it difficult to sleep. And, armrests in bulkhead rows often store the tray tables, making armrests immoveable and the seat width narrower. If you need extra width, opt for aisle seats either in an emergency exit row or in the rear, where double seats might be available.

Wellness on Wings

Sitting at the rear, especially in the middle, is not advised if you’re prone to motion sickness. Request an over-wing seat where there is less movement, and look out at the horizon, a natural stabilizer. Having a seat by a lavatory (but not too close or the odors might get to you!) and a motion-sickness bag close at hand are good back-ups.

If you are prone to claustrophobia, choose an aisle seat away from the restrooms, where line-ups can leave you feeling caged in.

If you’re a nervous flyer, you’re best suited for the over-wing area, as this is where you’ll experience the least amount of turbulence. Avoid emergency exit rows, as passengers seated there must be comfortable assisting the flight crew during an evacuation.

Feeling Like a Pretzel, Anyone?

Perhaps you’re tall and your sole goal is to make it to the end of the flight without winding up like a pretzel. The emergency exit row is your number one choice for extra leg room. The down side to sitting beside the exit on some aircrafts is that they can be quite cool, due to a draft from the window. Seats in these rows also may not have armrests, or the armrests may be immoveable. Another possible choice is the bulkhead, but some can be cramped, so look to or for the lowdown. An aisle seat is yet another option.

Be Up Front

If you’ll need to run to catch a connecting flight, guarantee yourself a quick exit by sitting as close to the front as possible. Be sure to find out at check-in if you need to pick up your luggage before your connection. If the gate number for your connecting flight has been announced, look in the in-flight magazine for a map of that airport and plan your route. Should you wind up in the rear section of the plane, ask a crewmember if it’s possible to move closer to the exit before landing. Build into your connection time potential weather and flight delays, as well as customs and immigration line-ups.

Airplane seats really are like real estate. Investing some time to decide which ones are best will net you positive results. Sit back, relax and enjoy your flight!

In-Flight Comfort Tips

To help you sleep more easily, take an inflatable neck pillow, as well as an eye mask, earplugs and warm clothes.

Do stretches in your seat or at the back of the plane. (Some airlines provide illustrations of good stretches in their in-flight magazines.)

Keep hydrated by drinking a glass of water or juice every hour or so.

Avoid stimulants such as coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks.

Take time to focus on breathing deeply.

Listen to relaxing music.

Walk around every few hours.


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