News Travel Tips: How to get the best plane seats

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Travel Tips: How to get the best plane seats

Not everyone can secure a business class upgrade to make their air travel more enjoyable, but you don’t have to suffer in economy. A little bit of research and these tips from Skyscanner Australia will help you secure the best seat on the plane for your next flight.

Which are the best seats on a plane?

The best seat on the plane depends on your priorities, with different areas giving you more legroom, a quieter flight or a safer experience. Each of these factors will impact on the choice of seat you should make, getting you as close as possible to the perfect spot.

Seats with more legroom

Seats at the front of the plane, or the front of a section on bigger planes, tend to have the most legroom, with the added benefit that there’s no one in front of you to recline into your space. However, some of these seats are often reserved for parents with small children because of the onboard bassinet, which means if you’re lucky enough to get a seat in this area, you may have to put up with a crying infant a couple of seats over.

Exit rows – where young children are banned – are another option for extra legroom, while aisle seats can give you extra room to stretch, but beware of trolleys and passengers bumping you as they go past. Seats over the wings also tend to be the most comfortable, as the effects of turbulence are felt less in the middle of the plane.

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Quietest seats on a plane

To ensure a quiet flight, you ideally want to be away from children and babies, but there’s little you can do to plan for this (other than avoiding the seats near the bassinet at the front).

Other things you want to consider are that you don’t want to be too close to the galley – where the staff will be preparing meals and drinks – or to the toilets where people congregate, doors open and close, and foul odours waft out.

Because it goes against the grain when flying budget, paying for a small upgrade to a quiet zone or economy plus on a low-fare airline, you can often find yourself in a desolate area, maybe with a whole row to yourself.

Safest seats on a plane

Although air travel is incredibly safe, if you have any worries about being on a plane there are ways to make your trip even safer. For those with safety paramount in their minds, a study by Popular Mechanics magazine revealed your chances of surviving a crash are 40% higher if you sit in an aisle seat to the rear of the plane.

Seats at the back of the plane also tend to get the best service, as this is where the staff keep all their extra pillows and snacks.

Two men sitting on plane. Man behind is cramped and angry with knees bent and man in front seat is sleeping peacefully

The cheapest seats on a plane

When you book your ticket can have a huge effect on the price you pay. There’s no single rule for days or weeks before you book, but Skyscanner research has found the best time to book flights for various routes.

RouteBest time to bookAverage savings
Sydney – Bali25 weeks before departure11%
Sydney – Bangkok18 weeks before departure5%
Sydney – Los Angeles19 weeks before departure9%
Sydney – Tokyo21 weeks before departure14%

Know which seats are most popular

Millions of travellers can’t be wrong, can they? A 2013 survey by Skyscanner revealed that seat 6A was the most sought-after seat on a standard plane and seat 31E the least favourite. If you want a quiet spot, use this knowledge to your advantage.

This result came from the survey responses that showed 46% of people prefer to be seated at the front of the plane, nearly 60% prefer window seats and 62% want an even-numbered row. That said, if you don’t want to be in a fight for a certain seat your chances are bound to increase if you opt for an aisle seat on an odd-numbered row.

A woman in a yellow dress looks out a plane window

Research the flight facilities

Websites such as SeatGuru can help you find the best seat on a particular flight with details about the aircraft you’ll fly in. The information includes the amount of legroom, how close to the galleys and toilets you are and what type of entertainment system to expect. Users of the site also rate various seats, including important ones to avoid at all costs. A little research before you check-in means you can make a more informed decision about the seats available to you.

Man sitting with lots of room on a plane working on his laptop

Timing is key to get the best seat

Travellers now have a heap of competition for the most coveted seats on the plane, with millions of people flying on a daily basis. It’s often possible to book seats when you buy your ticket, sometimes for a small fee, which means you can secure your location. If you haven’t done this, by checking in early you can get the pick of the other seats. Exit row seats are generally reserved for those who check in at the airport, so airline staff can assess their suitability in the case of an emergency.

Throngs of people in an airport departure hall

It pays to be nice

When checking in it is always worth asking the assistant at the counter if they know of any better seats available. When frequent flyers are upgraded they often free up a better economy or premium economy seat. This can all happen at the last minute, so that extra smile at the check-in counter might see you bumped into a better seat.

Smiling man at check-in counter at airport with wife and son standing to the side

How to game the system

If you are travelling as a family or in a couple you can snare yourself some extra space by leaving an empty seat between two members of your party. Ideally on a three-seat row if you book the window and aisle seat you increase your chances of having a vacant seat between you. If the flight does end up full and you want to sit together you can always swap with the person in the middle as surveys have shown the middle seat is the least popular seat on the plane.

Three seats in a row on a plane looking from aisle to window

Skyscanner Australia is a free and unbiased travel search engine helping you find and compare thousands of deals on flights, hotels and car hire. For travel searching on the go, download our apps for Android and iOS.

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