How to choose the best airplane seat

Where you sit on a long airplane journey has the power to turn your flight into something of pleasure – or pain.

Here’s a few tips to help you pick a good seat on board any flight – without paying for a costly upgrade.

Pick early

Whether you like the front or the back of the plane, an aisle or window seat, the best way to ensure you get what you want is to buy your tickets well in advance and select your seat early. Depending on the airline you may be able to do this for free, or pay a small fee to select the seat you want – thus also cutting out the additional stress of online check in ahead of time.

Remember the emergency exit

In economy class, the easiest way to get extra legroom is to sit in an emergency exit seat. Some airlines now charge a small fee to book these seats in advance, but many others will let you select them for free. If you want or need extra legroom, this is a good seat for you. It’s worth noting however, that sometimes in these seats you won’t have the option of storing your bag under the seat in front of you.


The CAA state the following:

Some passengers may not be permitted to sit in a seat row next to an emergency exit. This is because if the emergency exit is needed, it is important the exit can be opened and the aircraft evacuated as quickly as possible.

The following passengers are among those who should not be allocated, or directed to, seats by emergency exits:

  • Passengers with physical or mental impairment or disability to the extent that they would have difficulty in moving quickly if asked to do so.
  • Passengers who have significant sight or hearing impairment to the extent that it might be difficult for them to respond to instructions quickly.
  • Passengers who, because of age or sickness, have difficulty in moving quickly.
  • Passengers who, because of physical size, have difficulty in moving quickly.
  • Children (whether accompanied or not) and infants.

Choose a bulkhead

Bulkhead seats are another good option for a bit of extra room. These are the seats that are behind diving partitions in economy class. Like emergency exit seats, you won’t be able to store your bags under the seat in front of you and will also have to contend with a TV that folds out of the arm rest rather than being fixed in the seat infront. Because this is also where airlines place infants and babies so they can use a cot, you may end up sitting beside a young family – or, if they need the seats, you might just get bumped up into business class to accommodate them.

Think of turbulence

If you’re a nervous flyer or are easily upset by turbulence, choose a seat as close to the front of the wing as possible. Sitting in the plane’s centre of gravity will help you minimise the feeling of any bumping and jostling while you’re in the air.

Consider connections

If you’re trying to make a tight connection, choose a seat as close to the plane’s exits as possible so you can off board quickly. Remember on smaller planes – typically on shorter flights – there are also often exits at the rear of the plane as well, so sitting at the back might not be so bad after all.

Check the plane layout

Today you don’t have to be in the dark about what seats are best on board. Most airlines will give you a plane layout when you go to choose your seats online, and services like Seat Guru make it quick and easy to look up your flight and see exactly which type of aircraft you’ll be flying, plus notes from passengers about the best seats on board.


What tips do you use to get the best airplane seat?

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Rachel - Silversurfers Assistant Editor

Hello there! I’m Rachel and I’m the Assistant Editor for Silversurfers. I work behind the scenes to bring interesting, informative and entertaining subject matter to the Silversurfers community. I hope you enjoy the features we have shared with you. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us, we love to hear from you!

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19th Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
Thanks really useful tips.
14th Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
Only just joined and I love it already. Great information about seats on aeroplanes. Thanks
14th Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
Unfortunately due to costs my husband always books with travel companies with their own airline. I hate it. I would rather not go on holiday abroad at all. Tiny seats, smelly toilets, noisy inconsiderate fellow travellers.
12th Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
I have been pleasantly surprised at the wonderful memories you keep bringing to fb and have enjoyed them all so far. Thank you.
12th Oct 2016
Thanks for voting!
I recently paid for a front row seat on EasyJet be the door - 1A. Whilst I was very happy with the extra legroom, and that I could take an addition handbag as well as a cabin bag, my feet were absolutely freezing due to an extremely cold draft/blast coming through the door! I wish I'd taken some socks with me!
Thanks for voting!
one thing you didn't mention here was that if you choose an emergency exit seat for the additional room but have a mobility/disability problem then you will be re-seated elsewhere even if you have paid. this has happened to me twice now where the airline has allocated one of these seats to me and then when I've boarded wouldn't let me sit there because I was using a walking stick to assist with a replacement hip. Even being overweight will stop you from being able to use these seats as the airlines deem you unfit because of your size although I know quite a few people of this calibre who are probably fitter than their skinnier counterparts.

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