Some say there are ways to enhance a flight, either with a first class seat, purchased amenities, or simply an aisle versus a window spot. Some may disagree however, believing that a seat is a seat and a six-hour flight in the exit row is more or less the same as a six-hour flight in the back of the plane. But according to Skyscanner, an online flight comparison site, there seems to be one lucky seat that tends to make flying easiest. And it’s not first class. It is seat number 6A, a window seat up front.

The survey asked over 1,000 people their preference on airplane seating and it was also revealed that more people prefer a window seat to an aisle one. (The ratio for this was 60:40). While you might have your own opinions on where the most coveted seat is on a plane, we’re going to let you in on a few secrets to help make your decision easier. So before you wake up early and stand in line for hours on end at the airport to ensure you nab that lucky 6A seat, read our tips and learn a little more about what your first choice for seats might really be.

Window or aisle? That is always the biggest question. In my family, we used to all fight over who got the window seats, since our flights were usually long and we liked to prop our heads against the window to catch some zzz’s. Windows are also good for their view of course. There is nothing like flying into Honolulu and seeing that bird’s eye view of the island’s gorgeous southern coastline. Or witnessing the sparkling city lights of San Francisco on a late night flight into California. Window seats also offer a sense of more privacy, since you can turn toward the window and close yourself off better from the rest of the world.

Aisle seats are good for those who make frequent bathroom breaks or don’t like to clamber over their seat neighbors. They’re also good for taller people because they can stretch their legs into the aisle every once in a while. Not surprisingly, only 1% of the survey responders said they would choose a middle seat over an isle or window one. Middle seats tend to get the least amount of space, and typically both armrests will be taken up by your neighbors.

Left side of the plane or right side? While this may not seem like something you would necessarily think of, there is a science behind choosing the right or the left side of a plane. According to Scientific American, only 15% of flyers are left-handed. Chances are your seat neighbor will eat, drink, and write with their right hand, and even lean toward their right side for comfort. So if you’re right-handed, this means whatever space your neighbor leaves open on their left side will be yours for the taking on your right. This also usually means you’ll have the armrest available to your right too. The left side of the plane is known to be better for those who prefer window seats however, because the windows are typically off-center. This allows more wall space for passengers to lean on. Definitely something to think about if you plan to sleep during your flight.

Front or back of the plane? Typically people will choose to sit toward the front of the plane. People tend to think that sitting as close to the front as possible will make the “getting on” and “getting off” part quicker and easier, which is true. But during the “de-planing” process, the time difference between a front row seat versus a seat 10 rows back is only about 7-9 minutes. The front rows also have a little more to offer passengers, such as less engine noise and first choice on the food and beverage carts. Oftentimes passengers are left with little or no choice on food options when the cart finally reaches them in the back. And here’s an interesting fact about the middle seats on a plane: passengers are less likely to feel turbulence in the middle sections than they are the front or back. If turbulence is something that bothers you or instill anxiety, we recommend snagging a spot as close to the mid-section as possible.

7% of survey responders said they would choose the back of the plane over the front, whereas 46% choose the front (the first 6 aisles). When reserving seat numbers, 62% choose an even number over an odd one, but my guess for the reasoning behind this is as good as yours. Maybe people associate odd numbers (like 7 and 13) with unluckiness… who knows. So we mentioned that the favorite seat number on a flight is 6A, but what about the worst seat? This one happens to be 31E, a middle seat toward the back of the plane. We will say one good thing about the back of planes however, and that is you are closest to the bathrooms. If you’re on a long flight and encounter turbulence, the flight crew asks passengers to stay seated for longer durations of time. So when that seatbelt sign finally blinks off, you are closer than most to the restroom, shaving down on your wait time in those narrow, awkward aisles.

Now that there are studies showing consumer preference and actual science over aircraft seating, airlines are beginning to capitalize on it (big surprise). Spirit and AirTran carriers charge an extra fee for advance seat choices, and Southwest offers early check-in for the first boarding group for a fee of $10 a person. Delta Airlines just recently announced their new fare class, Basic Economy, where passengers can pay $15 less than an average ticket price, but you forfeit the option to choose your seat in advance. I imagine this basically means you get the “left over” seats that no one else wants. Just curious, would you be enticed by this?

A TripAdvisor survey released this month found 40% of people would pay extra to sit in a designated “quiet” section of the plane. While I personally question how this is even possible (you can’t stop a crying baby from crying, and chances are you’ll hear it from any seat on the plane anyways), let’s keep this willingness to ourselves. We don’t want to give the airlines any more reason to charge us extra for seats than we’re already paying!

So take your pick, because you have plenty of choices. Before you make a decision, consider a few things. Do you tend to use the bathroom a lot? Are you someone who might not want to bother your neighbors multiple times during a flight to get up? Are you looking to sleep? How about needing some privacy for doing work on your laptop? Are you a picky eater? Do you like your elbow space? Are you dying to see a view of the city or beach landscapes from above? Are you traveling with a child or infant? Will you be in a hurry to de-plane? We all have plenty of reasons why we choose one thing over another. Our preferences are as unique as our opinions, so if you have strong ones, make sure to call the airlines ahead of time and book your seat in advance.

Since 2006 Bruce Fisher has been publishing the Hawaii Vacation Blog and the Hawaii Vacation Connection Podcast which, create daily content about Hawaii Travel and Tourism. This Blog is the only online resource providing Hawaii-based information aimed at travelers seven days per week. Postings reflect the Hawaiian Islands, their culture and their lifestyle as accurately and thoroughly as possible.
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3 COMMENTS

  1. Dear Bruce,

    My take on this would be that it really all depends on what aircraft “type” it is, and in some cases even which airline, as different airlines of course tend to configure the seating arrangement in their particular planes differently. Since 99% of my many flights to the islands have been with United, and took place on the 8-10 hr. long haul stretch between ORD and HNL, I can give your customers some pretty good options for seat choices if they are flying that route.

    Choice one if you can swing it, First Class Row #1. These are bulk head seats with ample room for all but the tallest of travelers to stretch their legs our fully. I always pulled down my small carry on bag just after takeoff and placed it in front of me for a foot/leg rest. As far as I was concerned, I could put my feet up, lean the seat back slightly, and fall asleep just as easy on the 8 – 10 hr. trip as if I was sitting at home in my recliner (after the meal of course). Putting some eye coverings on also of course kept the flight attendants from bothering me during the long flight, and with a pair of noise cancelling headphones, the next stop was just a nap away.

    My exact seat preference in the first row of the UA777 was either 1E or 1F, being the 2 middle seats. You have the comfort of not having anyone to crawl over to get out if you need to, and also the convenience of no one having to climb over your outstretched legs if they need to get out, as they are both isle seats. Second choice of seat picks, would be 1A or 1B depending on if you wanted window or isle on the left side of the plane, or 1H or 1J if you wanted window or isle on the right side of the plane. ALL very good seats, but as for getting out, 1A always has to climb over the legs of 1B and 1J has to climb over the legs of 1H. But it’s worth it in any case!! (1H you also get to look very easily into the galley to see how the “cook” is coming and many times get some tasty desert leftovers or hot nuts if there are any to spare).

    As far as First Class on this Triple 7, if I couldn’t get a first row seat, I didn’t waste my money or my Mileage Plus miles. I never figured there was any other amenities in the First Class worth spending the extra money or using up hard earned miles to obtain.

    If that row number #1 in First Class could not be procured, the next choice for me was always Row #16, the first row in the Coach section, The exact seating choice becomes a little trickier here, but still the only row in coach worth making the long flight on.

    16A and 16J are both window seats and Exit Row seats, with absolutely nothing in front of you but the flight attendant (when they are seated for takeoff & landing) (a mile in front of you even at that). Again, even though my feet always stuck out a “little” in front of the exit door, no one ever bothered me when I pulled down my carry on to use it as a foot/leg rest.

    Next best seats, are 16B or 16H Again both Exit Row seats so you have nothing to hinder your full leg extension.

    If these seats are already full, time to look at 16C-G These are of course middle seats but they are Bulk Head Seats, and like in First Class, there is LOTS of room for stretched out legs. The choice OF course must be made whether you want to have someone else crawling over your stretched out legs to get out and use the potty, or whether you want to be the one inconveniencing someone else if you are the one who needs the break, but either way it really isn’t that bad. Personal choices will very but there is still lots of room to maneuver about when you need to.

    Again, this is all personal choice, but for me, and the 50,000+ miles I flew per year back & forth between Chicago & Oahu, if I couldn’t procure one of the seats I have mentioned, I either picked a different day or week to travel. As they used to say, “getting there is half the fun” and having to suffer either in a cramped up seating arrangement or travel in less than desirable seating conditions for the amount of time it took, made the juice not worth the squeeze.

    Of course now the TSA makes it that way all the time so I just stay home. Sure do hope the islands miss at least a little bit all the money I used to spend there.

    Sincerely,
    Lyle Reene

  2. Aloha Lyle, Big mahalo for this insight, sorry for the late reply!! I will pas this info along to fellow travelers!!

  3. Aloha Bruce! This is a wonderful tips to have a fantastic vacation in Hawaii. You can have a fun vacation by choosing an airline first in order for you to get there! And the best would be is to choose best seats for you and your family.

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