Many of us have experienced this scenario: You’ve nearly completed the process of booking a plane ticket online when the airline’s reservation system prompts you to select a seat. Decisions, decisions. How do you know if 8A is better than 14C? What if you end up in one of those seats that doesn’t recline? Instead of anxiously pondering the fate of your comfort at 40,000 feet, wouldn’t it be nice to have some guidance?

Luckily, there are some genius websites and apps out there to help point you in the right direction.

Resources for Finding the Best Seat

Seatguru

Get seat advice for more than 700 seat maps, backed by 45,000 flyer reviews. Users simply enter the airline and flight number for an upcoming trip and Seatguru provides a seat map for that specific flight. The maps shows which seats have been rated as a “good seat” by previous flyers and also the seats to avoid. Read detailed seat reviews from past travelers to get an idea of the storage space, legroom, armrests and more for the seat you’re considering. The maps also contain information on the locations of power ports, overhead televisions, emergency exits, lavatories, closets and galleys.

ExpertFlyer

A great tool for flyers that want to get out of the middle seat or just find a seat on a full flight. The website offers a free Seat Alerts feature that is also available as an iPhone/iPad app. Through the Seat Alerts tool, travelers can select their preferences (aisle, window, etc.), even if the seats are occupied. ExpertFlyer then notifies the traveler by email or text when a seat becomes available. The site also provides frequent flyers with services that make it easy to obtain an award ticket using miles and business/first class upgrade alerts.

SeatExpert

This site is similar to Seatguru, but offers a quick and simple glance on the best and worst seats on a specific flight with details on legroom, proximity to bathrooms and seats with restricted chair recline, or no option to recline.

Advice from an Industry Expert

We spoke with Chris Lopinto, co-founder of ExpertFlyer, for further insight into selecting and securing the best seat for different types of travelers:

What are the most popular seats or rows on the plane?

Exit rows, the first few rows of the cabin, and of course window and aisle seats towards the front are the most popular. Unfortunately that means these seats are usually reserved for the elite frequent flyers or those willing to spend money on the seat assignment. If those reserved seats aren’t allocated, they are usually made available either at check-in or at the airport, depending on airline.

What sections of the plane offer the most legroom?

Usually the exit rows and bulk head seats (the first row of seats in a cabin). However, keep in mind that any row of seats in front of an exit row won’t recline. So that means if a plane has two exit rows, the first row may have more leg room, but the seats won’t recline.

Air Asia recently announced that they are banning children from the first seven rows of economy. Currently there are no domestic airlines that do this (or at least they don’t publicize it). If you are looking for some peace and quiet on a flight, where do you recommend sitting?

Screaming babies aside, sitting away from the galleys or lavatories will give you the quietest flight. Seat ratings websites such as SeatGuru, which is integrated into Seat Alert and our mobile app can help you determine the layout of your flight

Where would you advise families traveling with small children to sit?

Together, but that may not always be possible. Lately it has been quite common for families to have to pay for at least some of the seat assignments if they want to sit together. This is one of the reasons why we created Seat Alerts; to help families flying together.

Sitting in The Back Has Its Advantages

Here’s another tip: As the competition for the front and exit rows is high, consider sitting in the back – a recent study by the Discovery Channel shows it might be the safest part of the plane. Scientists intentionally crashed an empty Boeing 727 into the Mexican desert to improve aviation safety. They determined that travelers in the back of plane could have literally walked away from the crash, but those in the front wouldn’t have been as lucky. Read more…

Featured Image: Business Class on Singapore Airlines (Maxene Huiyu / Shutterstock.com)

Posted by

Allison is a project manager at Fly.com. She has visited more than 20 countries on five continents and hopes to check Japan, Croatia and Brazil off her list in the next few years. She currently lives in the New York City area.
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  • Oh-yeahitsme

    Everything was going so well until the very last section.  That 727 (Big Flo) was crashed in the most common way, nose first (albeit at a very small angle, none of this vertical dive stuff…. then there would be nothing left of Big Flo but dust!).  In THIS configuration the back was the safest, but there are numerous accounts of aircraft having impacted tail-first (Kegworth air disaster being a notable one), in which case the rear of the aircraft is most likely to be destroyed.  Other crashes, such as water landings, can cause the whole aircraft to fail (assuming it is not a water-plane and has floats of course).  Now, the Hudson river landing is not a valid argument, I am not denying that the pilot was one of the most skilled men to walk this planet but there is a certain amount of luck when performing an emergency landing on water as there are just too many variables associated with such a dynamic surface as water in a large, busy river.  If you want to see what could easily happen in an emergency landing on water, have a look at Ethiopian Airlines Flight 96; it’s pretty gruesome when you think about what happened there.  Anyway, back to the point of the tail is the safest place, the simple fact of the matter is that it is NOT the safest place, there is no one safest place… in the event of a plane crash it IS down to luck as to where the safest place is for that particular flight, that is IF an emergency/crash landing were to occur.  I’m not trying to annoy anyone, just to indicate that the last section of that article is misleading.  However, due to the way aircraft USUALLY crash (as I said, nose first) if you sit in the rear of the aircraft you are more likely to be in a safe area if the aircraft was to crash, but the thing with crashes is that they’re not normally planned!  So sitting at the rear of the aircraft is only a game of probability, not a guarantee of increased safety. 
    P.S. I’m not just some aircraft nut, I’m an aeronautical engineer (a smart aircraft nut)… an aeronautical engineer who had too much spare time at work today!

    • Buylocal74

      ” However, due to the way aircraft USUALLY crash (as I said, nose first) if you sit in the rear of the aircraft you are more likely to be in a safe area if the aircraft was to crash, but the thing with crashes is that they’re not normally planned!  So sitting at the rear of the aircraft is only a game of probability, not a guarantee of increased safety. ”
      So, you spent all that time telling us why it was misleading, then summed it up by stating that the author was right, after all. He never said anything about a guarantee, just better odds.

    • John

      Based on aircraft incidents statistics there is no particular seat that is safer than another. (I’m a former Cabin Safety Instructor for a major airline…..) But, as we all know, flying is so incredibly safe, there’s really no reason to waste time on the issue.

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