February 2, 2016 9:00 am
Updated: February 4, 2016 12:09 pm

How to score the best seat on the plane

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Planning a winter escape or looking ahead to your spring getaway? Before booking your flight, the experts at FlightHub and JustFly, offer some tips on how to pick the best seat on the plane.

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Most airlines will let you select your seats when you purchase your flight online or let you do it later when you confirm your reservation, although some now charge an extra fee for the privilege. If you don’t want to be stranded in the middle seat, then it’s often worth it to fork out the fee. Some airlines’ loyalty programs will give priority access to seat selection for their members so look into that if you fly a lot.

“If good seats are important to you, it’s important to book early,” said Henri Chelhot, Business Unit Leader at FlightHub. “Available seats can book up early and if you’re planning on travelling with others, you’ll want to make sure to choose an airline and flight that allow you to pre-select your seats.”

If you’ve got the money, then the easy answer is to fly first or business class as every seat is a good one, but if you are like most people, you fly economy. In economy class, be aware that some seats are better than others and choosing the wrong one can make for a less than satisfying flying experience.

“The great thing about FlightHub is that seat maps are available while booking your flight, so you can ensure you’ll be comfortable,” said Chelhot. He also recommended SeatGuru.com which has an obsessive amount of detail about the seating on the different types of aircraft operated by the world’s major airlines.

If you like to gamble, you can make your seat selection at the airport by asking the airline staff at the gate. Depending on how crowded the plane is, you can either end up with a crappy seat or get an upgrade to something better, but with aircraft loads beings so high, it’s more likely that you will strike out. Even worse, if the plane is oversold, you may end up not flying at all.

So what are the best seats on the plane? It depends on what you are looking for. FlightHub’s travel experts suggest these options:

The safest seat on the plane
The odds of being in an accident while flying are incredibly low, but if you worry about safety, the seat you select can affect your odds of surviving a crash. Studies show that passengers in the back of the plane behind the trailing edge of the wing are more likely to survive an impact during takeoff or landing. Sitting in the emergency exit row also lets you be the first off the plane, increasing your chances of survival.

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The best seat for getting off the plane quickly
If you’re in a hurry to get off the plane and out of the airport, get a seat in the front of the plane. First-class and business-class passengers leave first, followed by the people in the front of economy. This only works if you’re flying with carry-on luggage. If you have checked bags, you’ll only end up being the first person at the baggage carousel and will still have to wait until your bags show up.

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The seat with the most legroom
The seats in the emergency-exit row have the most legroom because safety rules require a minimum amount of space to facilitate the rapid evacuation of the aircraft. Premium-economy seats, a new offering from several airlines also offer a lot of legroom. They are more expensive than regular economy seats, but not nearly as expensive as first or business class. Avoid window seats near the rear of the plane because the walls taper toward the tail and some legroom gets sacrificed. Bulkhead seats can be good or bad. On some aircraft, they offer more legroom. On others, they offer less.

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The best seat for travelling with kids
If you are travelling on a long-haul flight with an infant, look for a bulkhead seat with a bassinet. There are a limited number of these spots available so you will have to pester the airline in advance to secure one. Even if you have larger kids, bulkhead seats can be good because your child can only annoy the row of passengers behind you. The downside is that with no seat in front of you, you can only store bags in the overhead bin. A seat near the bathroom can also be good for kids as they seem to need to use them a lot when they fly.

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The best seat to get some sleep
If you want to sleep on a plane, look for a seat that offers the most legroom and the least chance of being woken up. Window seats are best as you can lean on the wall as you sleep and don’t have to worry about someone climbing over you in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. If you really can’t sleep on a plane, lie-down beds in first and business-class are an expensive, but comfortable, solution.

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The best seat for storage
Ever since airlines started charging for checked luggage, people carry more and more stuff into the cabin, which has made the battle for overhead storage space even more fierce. Sitting in the rear can be an advantage if you need the overhead space since most airlines begin boarding by the rear. The earlier you can get onto the plane, the better your chances of finding a spot for your bags. Bulkhead seats are a disadvantage as you cannot store anything beneath the seat in front of you. Also, if you sit in the emergency aisle, the overhead bin will often contain first-aid gear, reducing the space available to store your things.

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The seats to avoid
There are numerous loser seats on an airplane and if you’re not paying attention, you may end up in one of them and it will adversely affect your flying experience. For example, the seats in the row in front of the emergency-exit row do not recline. This is for safety reasons to keep the row clear, but not being able to recline on a long flight can be brutal. Sitting in the last row of the plane is even worse as not only do the seats not recline, but you will be bothered by the noise of the flight attendants working in the galley and the constant parade of passengers to the toilet. Then, of course, there is the dreaded middle seat where you are sandwiched between two other passengers. It’s fine if you are a child, but it’s rare that adults are ever comfortable in these seats.

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