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​Aisle Be Damned – How to nab your favorite plane seat

May 02, 2019

Photo: Toa Heftiba

If you’ve sat in the middle seat on a long-haul flight between a toddler and a basketball player with his kneecap lodged under your laptop, you know what torture feels like. Nobody prefers the middle seat. That we can agree on.

But if you’re an aisle seat person you’ll be surprised that two-thirds of business travelers prefer window seats over aisle seats. That rises to 71% in Asia Pacific, and falls to 59% in the Americas, with the Europeans in the middle at 65% window over aisle.

Passengers who prefer the aisle seat say it’s better because they can walk up and down the aisle when they please, access their overhead luggage and don’t require the clambering skills of a tightrope walker and charm of a diplomat to get to the bathroom. They’re the first off the plane and have a meerkat’s view of when meals will arrive.

Window proponents like control of the window shade, a fuselage on which to rest their sleeping head and ample opportunity to fill their Instagram feed with obligatory shots of the plane wing in the clouds.

Whatever your preference, here are four tips to getting your desired seat.

  1. Loyalty matters - Depending on the airline, a loyalty card may entitle economy fliers to a better seat. Your card may work on another airline if it has a codeshare agreement with your carrier.
  2. Check-in at the airport  - Check if window seats have opened up as a result of cancellations. If you use a self-service kiosk, you can often review your seat selection and change to a different seat.
  3. Pay for it - Most airlines allow you to choose your own seat when you book a trip online, sometimes at a marginal extra cost. Click on a button saying something like "pick my seats.” If you have connecting flights, click on "next flight" so you can choose a seat on that plane as well.
  4. Ask for it – If you haven’t secured your desired seat before going through security, get to the boarding gate early and ask the gate agent if there’s any way to switch.

Look for people traveling alone on the plane if you have not been able to score your desired seat. Ask someone if they’re willing to swap. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

And finally – for those with a taste for risk– if there’s an empty row in the middle of a plane that isn’t full, sit in the middle seat. You could well end up with the entire row to yourself. Or you could end up between a toddler and a basketball player. You win some, you lose some. 


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