Where's the Best Place to Sit on a Plane?

If you were forced to make a choice, where would you sit in a plane?

Besides the coveted seats in first class or along the exit row, the great debate tends to divide people into two main groups: Team Aisle Seat, and Team Window Seat. Let's consider the arguments for each side, as well as the middle seat – our unsung hero.

Team Aisle Seat

Is the plane packed like sardines? Passengers who have the aisle seat get to experience that glorious feeling of more space. The ability to stretch out and walk along the aisle is also a huge benefit, especially if you have long legs but couldn’t score an exit row seat.

Sitting next to the aisle also gives you better access to the restroom and your bag in the overhead compartment. Need something else? No worries, it’ll be easier to make your request to a flight attendant. And once the flight is over, you can leave the plane faster than your middle and window seat neighbors.

Team Window Seat

Even if you’re not in row 1, the window seat gives you front-row access to some spectacular views. Once the clouds take over or it turns into night, you can rest your head against the window for uninterrupted sleep. You’ll also get a bit more privacy, which is good if you want to use your laptop without people from other rows catching a glimpse of your screen.

The window seat means there’s no risk of being bumped by the food cart or other passengers moving along the aisle. And with less people likely to make contact with you, there’s also less chance of getting sick. As reported by Furthermore, a study at Arizona State University found that minimizing contact with other passengers makes it 30% less likely for disease to spread.

What About the Middle Seat?

In a survey at the Yieldr office, we found that a grand total of zero people would choose the middle seat. This lack of love extends pretty far – a 2009 survey by 3M found that 54% of Americans would rather go to the dentist than have the middle seat on a packed flight.

Just like a middle child (🙋), the middle seat can be overlooked. But there's actually a lot of benefits to consider.

  • You get the best of both worlds – a view out the window without straining, and no getting bumped by people along the aisle.
  • You also get dibs on both armrests – it's in the unwritten laws of plane etiquette.
  • Feeling social? You double your chances for a mid-flight chat.
  • You'll get more leg and storage room with 100% claim on the space. This is because you don't have to worry about wayward feet kicking you or your belongings from the aisle, or built-in power boxes that sometimes take up valuable space under window seats.
  • If you prefer to sit near the front of the plane, your chances of this happening are higher. Since middle seats are less popular, they generally stay unclaimed when check-in opens. Don't count on this though – planes are getting more full every year, with a passenger load factor record high of 81.4% in 2017.

Here's What Might Make You Change Your Mind

Are You Traveling with a Friend?

Congratulations, you get your own human-sized cushion to lean on. If you and your travel companion have the window and middle seats, you can both capture that epic view for Instagram. If you have the middle and aisle seats, the middle seater can stretch their legs or climb over their friend guilt-free if they need go to the restroom.

Are You Traveling with Kids?

If you're a mother traveling with your baby and you prefer a little extra privacy during feeding times, a window seat is probably better. Alternatively, claiming an aisle seat might be a good idea if you have a child who's prone to a lot of toilet breaks.

Is It a Long or Short Haul Flight?

If you're prone to a lot of toilet breaks yourself, you might also want to pick an aisle seat during a long-haul flight. You won't be bothering your neighbors when you get up, and you won't be trapped in your seat with a full bladder if the person next to you is sleeping. The window seat is perfect if your plan is to enjoy a movie marathon or have an uninterrupted sleep.

Do You Have a Connecting Flight?

It's aisle all the way – especially if you can score a seat close to the exit. You'll be the first to grab your luggage from the overhead compartments, and you won't have to battle as many people to escape your seat. Just don't be one of those people who stands up to grab their bag even before the seatbelt sign is off.

Tips to Get the Perfect Seat for You

  1. Choose your seat when you order your ticket. It usually costs a bit extra, but it’s the best way to guarantee your seat.
  2. Don’t want to fork out extra cash at the time of booking? Check into your flight online as soon as it opens – usually 24-48 hours before – and beat the others to your prefered seat.
  3. If you’re checking in at the airport, a simple friendly request at the desk can help.
  4. Check out SeatGuru, a website that has seating charts for over 100 airlines and over 1000 aircraft. You’ll get the real reviews on seat comfort per seat number, with bonus details such as proximity to the lavatories, legroom, floor storage, recline and if your window seat actually has a window – such as seats 9F and 10A on KLM’s Boeing 737-800.
  5. While you're at it, here's a nice overview of plane seats you should avoid.

Let’s be real, though. In times where the passenger load factor is predicted to keep increasing, we’re lucky to even get a seat. So let’s agree once and for all where the best place is to sit on a plane – the pilot seat!

Jodi ten Bohmer

Jodi ten Bohmer

Content Marketer