best seat on a plane

I was once assigned a seat in the middle of a row of five on a Boeing 777 on a full flight that also turned out to be my longest flight ever: strong head winds extended the flight time of the flight from Kuala Lumpur to Amsterdam to 14 hours 15 minutes!! During the flight, I couldn’t help but think how I got myself into that seat (or rather, predicament) in the first place. On any plane, there are the best seats and the worst – this was definitely the worst! I can’t remember ever feeling so elated to get off a plane. Since then, I’ve made it a point to do some research and book a specific seat in advance to ensure I get a good seat on the plane.

The best seats on a plane – factors to consider

Your choice of seat, especially on long-haul flights, is crucial for your comfort during the flight. Not all seats are the same. Even in Business Class, there are seats that are better located than others.

Bulkhead seats

Bulkhead seats often offer a bit more legroom but if they’re located near the galley, it could be noisy as the crew prepare meals or chat with each other in between service times. The light emanating from the galley could also be a nuisance when the cabin is dark (eye shades are a quick fix).

best seat on a plane
On one of my trips, I flew in British Airways’ Club Suites. The seat was near the galley but I could close the door to block the light.

Window seats

If you like window seats (like I do), you’ll want to check if there really is a window (it could be a blocked window or wall). In the case of Business Class, some airlines have staggered seats which mean that some seats are further from the window (with a storage cabinet between the seat and the window) than others. This is troublesome if you enjoy the plane views like I do.

I love watching the views from the plane window and taking photos – there’s a good collection of Plane Views photos on this blog.

I much prefer seats located directly next to the window. In addition, these seats will have the storage compartment on the outer side of the seat, thereby creating more distance between the seat and the aisle.

best plane seat window
In some Business Class cabins, a staggered layout means that you might be further away from the window, even if you chose a window seat.

In Business Class, I’ll always book a window seat (with the seat next to the window) at least a few rows away from the galley and lavatories. One exception is Singapore Airlines’ Business Class, where you can lie down flat or stretch your legs only in a diagonal position. If you’re flying Business Class on Singapore Airlines, book the first row or bulkhead as these seats provide the most legroom and you don’t have to lie diagonally.

Me flying with a Singapore Airlines A350 in Business Class – notice how my legs are stretched out diagonally.

Exit row seats

In Economy, seats next to the Emergency Exits usually offer more legroom but beware of the window seats. On wide-body aircraft, the bulky compartment protruding from the door that houses the emergency slides may inhibit your legroom. In addition, this area also tends to be colder than the rest of the cabin.

best seat on plane exit row
The Exit row usually offers more space and legroom.

Seats in the back

Seats in the back row often have limited reclining space because of the wall behind. Aisle seats close to lavatories and galleys may also not be a good option as you’ll have people bumping into you throughout the flight as they head for the lavatories (or galley for snacks) and back.

worst seat on a plane last row
The last row, with a wall behind, means little or no possibility to recline your seat.

The best seats in Economy Class

In Economy, I’ll typically choose a window or aisle seat near the front of the cabin or at the bulkhead. Another spot I often consider in Economy Class is an aisle seat located about 4-5 rows from the back. These seats offer direct aisle access and there’s sufficient distance from toilets and galleys. In addition, as airlines often fill up planes starting from the front, if the flight isn’t full, there’s a bigger chance that you might have a whole row to yourself. These aisle seats in the back are often recommended by cabin crew as some of the best seats on a plane.

Finally, one resource I use to look up pros and cons of a specific seat is SeatGuru.

Read more about the safest seats on a plane, my favourite travel pillow and my favourite plane to fly on.

3 Responses

  • Thanks for the tip Melvin. Yes, airlines (especially low-cost ones) have started to charge for the extra legroom available at emergency exit seats. I once joked (with a hint of sarcasm) with a stewardess; I asked her if I would get my money back if something happened and I had to open the emergency exit and help people out. She didn’t find it very amusing! 🙂

  • I just checked seatguru. That site is useful, but it seems that the seats which it recommends are nearly all at the emergency exits. These are really hard to get & some airlines even started to sell them for a few bucks more. I think it was LTU (german charter airline) who charged about € 20-25 per person per seat. 🙁

    A good tip is, if flying with 2 persons and there are 3 seats at the site, to reservate the seat at the aisle and the one at the window. Nobody really like to sit alone in the middle of two. If you are lucky you get an empty seat. If this one also gets reservated, it’s easy to swap in the plane, as it’s for sure nice to sit at the aisle than in the middle.

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