Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Science of Airplane Seating

On airplane flights, your seat can have a significant impact on the comfort of your trip. Some basics, that we have learned through the years:

Seats to avoid


  • The rows right in front of exits don’t recline (because they would block the exit)
  • The last row in the plane often don’t fully recline
  • Seats right by the bathrooms, always busy places, and on long flights can become really smelly places
  • Middle seats, unless of course you are traveling with friends or family

  • On 737s row 6 has no window

Mixed Bags

  • Bulkhead seats. They provide more leg room, but there is no place to stow stuff, so everything must be overhead at take-off and landing.

  • Exit rows. They definitely provide more leg room, but oftentimes offer no stowage under the seat in front of them. On wide-body jets these areas are wide enough that people will hang out in them, talking and stretching their legs. Plus, they tend to be close to the bathrooms.

  • Rear of the plane. Generally noisier and it takes longer to get off the plane. However, I’ll go there to avoid a middle seat.

Personal Preferences

  • I prefer window seats

    • You can look out the window

    • You don’t have to fight over one arm rest—you own the one by the window

    • You can lean against the window if you are trying to sleep

    • You won’t be disturbed if you are trying to sleep by someone needing to get up

  • Aisle seats

    • Easier to stretch out (into the aisle)

    • Don’t have to bug anyone to get up

    • You don’t have to fight over at least one arm rest—you own the one by the aisle.

    • Get bumped by passengers and drink carts as they come down the aisle

Seat Assignment

  • When Booking. It is easy to forget, and sometimes not possible, but the best time to get seat assignment is when you book your ticket. All of the on-line reservation systems I use have the option to do this. Sometimes it is not obvious (e.g. a little seat icon you have to click).

  • On-line check-in. I highly recommend you do this anyway to avoid lines when checking in, but when you do on-line check in you usually have the option to set / change your seat assignment.

  • At the gate. Sometimes they will change your seats at the gate if you ask the people at the counter. If the flight is lightly loaded or you get there early your odds are better.


Seat Etiquette

  • Please don’t recline your seat all the way back if there is someone behind you. In my opinion this is just common courtesy. How do you feel if someone does it to you? Also, recline it fairly slowly, I know people who’s laptop display has been broken by someone slamming the seat back.

  • If the person next to me is big, or likes to live large, I will concede the armrest to the—but that is the limit. Encroaching into my space between the armrests will result in gentle, but firm shoulder/arm pressure. This has always worked for me unless they are huge. In the case they are physically unable stay out of my space privately ask the stewardess/steward if there are other seats available. You should not have to put up with this is there is an open seat available.

Seat Tricks

  • Changing seats. With some restrictions, (e.g. you can’t move up to Business Class from Economy) you can move to another open seat on the plane. The trick is figuring out what seats are really open and which ones belong to late arrivers. Some people will just pick a seat and wait to see if they get kicked out. This is for gutsy people. Once the plane’s doors are closed then it is ok to move to an open seat—don’t ask, just jump up and move. If you ask a stewardess/steward beforehand you might get some priority on an open seat.

  • Blocking Recliners. If you know, or suspect the person in front of you wants to recline their seat all the way back you can brace your knees against it so it won’t go all the way back. This requires a good sense of timing and ability to convince them that their seat is broken.

A User’s Manual to Seat 21C

1 comment:

VirusHead said...

"This requires a good sense of timing and ability to convince them that their seat is broken."

Would you really do that? Wow! You astound me.