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In the world of airplanes, not all seats are created equal, and choosing the right seat can be the difference between a relaxing flight and a stressful one.
There is no "best seat," but rather several good seat options that offer different benefits. The front of the plane offers first dibs on food plus a quick getaway once you land. The middle provides a smooth experience with reduced noise levels, and the back offers extra elbow room and easy access to the lavatories.
Continue reading to find out how to get the best seat on an airplane with this handy guide to the perfect seat type to suit your needs.
The Best Seats on Airplanes
People generally consider bulkhead, exit row, and aisle seats the best on an airplane. But there are several different seats which all offer their own benefits.
Best Seat To Minimize Turbulence: A seat located over the wing
Best Seat For Sleeping: A window seat situated in the front of the airplane
Best Seat To Reduce Noise: A seat located in the middle of the cabin
Best Seat For Families With Children: A bulkhead seat
Best Seat To Maximize Legroom: An exit-row or bulkhead seat
Best Seat For People Who Are Safety Conscious: A seat located near the back of the plane
Best Seat If You Want To Have First Choice Of Food: A seat situated in the front of the cabin
Best Seat For Those Who Want To Make A Quick Escape: A left side seat at the front of the plane
Best Seat For More Elbow Room: A seat located toward the back of the airplane
Best Seat For Air Conditioning: A middle seat
Best Seat To Minimize Turbulence
There's no way you can avoid turbulence altogether during a flight, but there are ways that you can minimize the sensation and make bumps less noticeable. Patrick Smith, the host of askthepilot.com, says the smoothest seats are over the wings.
Picture how the plane moves in response to turbulence. It pivots around its center of gravity, making the front and back of the craft susceptible to more significant movements. Therefore, if you want a smooth ride, opt for a seat in the middle of the cabin - as close to the wing as possible.
Best Seat For Sleeping
If you're the type of person who likes to get some quality shut-eye during a flight, then opt for the window seat. Sitting in the window seat means that people won't have to disturb you when they get up to use the bathroom, and flight attendants won't need to reach over you to serve refreshments to other passengers.
In addition, the window seat offers you control over the natural lighting, plus a place to rest your head for sleep. Although the spacing between the seats might vary, the distance between the windows is fixed. Sometimes this has the effect of placing a seat between two windows. You'll need to lean forward or recline to obtain a nice view out of this kind of window. But if you want to sleep, you should opt for one of those seats to get more wall space to rest against.
And aim for a seat toward the front of the plane, as this tends to be the quieter area, where the relaxed ambiance will make it easier for you to nod off.
Best Seat To Reduce Noise
If you're hoping to enjoy a relaxing few hours through your flight, then you won't want constant noise giving you a headache.
Stay away from the back of the plane if you want to avoid hearing noise from the engine. As this noise deflects backward, anywhere in front of the wing should provide an ample, noise-free environment.
When it comes to people, try opting for the middle of the cabin as noisy passengers generally congregate around onboard food and facilities, which are often located at the front or back of the plane.
Best Seat For Families With Children
Traveling with kids can be hard work, so choosing the right seats is essential to make your trip as pain-free as possible.
If you have an infant, request a bassinet, but make sure you get in quickly as these seats are highly sought after. Often located in the bulkhead, they provide extra leg room and a place for your baby to sleep.
The other option for traveling with young children is to situate yourself towards the rear of the plane, where there are fewer people, and you'll have easy access to the toilet.
Best Seat To Maximize Leg Room
Airlines measure legroom by the "seat pitch," or the distance between a specific point on one seat and the same point on the seat directly in front of it. While the average seat pitch of the 1960s was 35 inches, today's airplanes can reduce this figure by up to seven inches.
This is why you might feel a little cramped halfway through a flight, but some seats on the plane will offer up a bit of extra space to stretch. The best seat to maximize leg room is the bulkhead seat - any seat located in the front row, following a dividing wall.
Some airlines charge extra for these seats, though, and you lose under-seat storage space for your possessions. An alternative option is to select a seat on the exit row. These possess more leg room, but they don't always recline.
Best Seat For People Who Are Safety Conscious
Airplanes are the safest form of transport. Still, accidents do (very rarely) occur, and where you sit impacts your chances of survival.
A study by Popular Mechanics concluded that people seated at the back of the plane were the safest, with a 69% survival rate. Those who sat on the wing had a 56% chance of survival. For people in the front of the plane, it dropped to a rate of just 49%.
Best Seat If You Want To Have First Choice Of Food
If you want first dibs on the food or are hoping to get the meal out of the way so that you can get some sleep, then sitting toward the front of the cabin is a good idea. Alternatively, book your meal online, and you could enjoy your choice of food brought out to you before everyone else gets served.
Best Seat For Those Who Want To Make A Quick Escape
Maybe someone's waiting for you, you have a connecting flight, or you can't wait to get off the crowded plane.
Either way, if you want to make a quick exit once the plane touches down, then choose the aisle seat, which is closest to the exit door at the front of the aircraft. This allows you to grab your bag and make for the exit before everybody else begins to push and shove their way off the plane.
Best Seat For More Elbow Room
Sometimes you just want more space. Space to rest your arms, room to stretch out, or space to move around. So wouldn't it be nice if you didn't have to spend hours squeezed in between two other people?
If you want more elbow room, try booking an aisle or window seat at the back of the plane.
Think about it, which would be the last seat you would book - a middle seat at the back? And it's the same for other people, so unless your airplane is full, there's a good chance that the back middle seats will stay available and offer up some extra elbow room.
Best Seat For Air Conditioning
When flying at an altitude of 36,000 feet, you can hardly "open a window" to get fresh air. Instead, you'll rely on the handy little air vents above your seat. To make the most of the air conditioning, opt for the middle seat, where you can feel the benefit of all three vents.
Tips For Securing The Best Seat On Airplane
Once you've chosen your perfect seat, you'll need to secure it. Here are some helpful hints to get you started:
- Sign up for a frequent flyer program, particularly if you fly a lot, as this will put you first in line for upgrades.
- Book early. Many airlines allow you to book your seats online when you purchase your flight tickets. The earlier you book, the more choices you'll have. If you can't book your seats online, then make sure you check in early.
- Call the airline to confirm your seats. If there's no seat selection online, try calling ahead to the airline to see if you can choose your seats that way.
- Pay for an upgrade. If there's a seat you want, pay for the upgrade, it could be the difference between a relaxing flight and a stressful one, especially on longer flights.
- If in doubt, ask. If you don't try, then you won't know. Regardless of the seats assigned to you, always ask the check-in staff if your preference is available.
Every seat on an airplane offers some benefit to the passenger, but some seats provide more significant benefits than others. If you want space, opt for a bulkhead seat, the exit row, or the emptier aisles at the back of the plane. If you want peace, aim for a window seat on the front left side of the cabin where you can rest your head and go to sleep.
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