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 are located at the front of the cabin or the first row after a dividing wall and offer more legroom. Many airlines charge extra for these seats. For airlines with a Business Class product, it’s becoming increasingly common to offer these seats as a Business Class+ seat (for an extra charge or reserved for frequent flyer members with elite status). Examples include JetBlue’s Mint Studio and Virgin Atlantic’s Retreat Suite. Airlines such as Air France and Singapore Airlines often reserve these bulkhead Business Class seats for their highest tier frequent flyers (releasing these seats to other passengers only a few days before departure).

However, if the seats are located near the galley or toilets, it could be noisy as the crew prepare meals or chat with each other in between service times, or when passengers utilise the toilets. 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
A staggered layout in some Business Class cabins means that you might be further away from the window, even if you chose a window seat.

To identify the seats directly next to the window, look up the seat map of your flight – many airlines show the seat map during the booking process (where you can make your seat selection).

best business class seats on a plane
As an example, here’s the seat map of an Air France business class cabin on its A350. You can easily see which seats are located right next to the window and which are further away.

Exit row seats

Seats in the Emergency Exits rows usually offer more legroom – and many airlines charge extra for these seats – 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.

Beware of seats located in the row directly in front of an Emergency Exit row as these won’t recline. This is because a reclined seat may cause an obstruction during an emergency. 

Seats in the back

Seats in the last 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 Business Class

In Business Class, I’ll always book a window seat at least one row away from the galley and lavatories. Bulkhead seats are more often than not considered the best seats on a plane. They offer more room than other regular seats but I would only choose a bulkhead seat if they have doors. This is due to their proximity to the galley or toilets – the light emanating from the galley or people using the toilets may form a disturbance.

One exception is Singapore Airlines’ Business Class, where you can only stretch your legs or sleep in a diagonal position due to the footwell’s location to the side of the seat in front. If you’re flying Business Class on Singapore Airlines, try to book the bulkhead as these seats provide the most legroom and you don’t have to sleep at an angle as there’s a large ottoman instead of a footwell to rest your legs.

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

The best seats in Economy Class

On shorter flights in Economy, I’ll typically choose a window seat (for the views) and pay extra to sit in the front of the cabin or at the bulkhead for more legroom.

On long-haul flights, I’ll consider 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.

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

7 Responses

  • Some airline websites show which Business Class seats are next to the window and which are away from the window, when you get to the seat map during the booking process. I’m not sure if SQ has this. Have you checked with SeatGuru?

  • Yes I want to book a seat DIRECTLY next to the window but it seems impossible to get the information i.e. which Singapore Planes have seats in Business Class directly next to the window???????

  • That’s correct. Exit seats offer more legroom, often for a higher price (especially with low-cost airlines). Personally, I don’t mind the tv screen that unfolds from under the seat and the table from the arm-rest. I would pay the premium just for the extra space.

  • Exit seats are good choice because of extra leg room but usually seats are fixed and not reclining. Manytimes, the serving table is inside the arm rest and tv screen below the seat. Also, it cost extra.

  • 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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