One of the common questions I get after booking a Hawaii vacation package is; “How do I get the seat I want on the airplane?” Contrary to what many people think, seats can be assigned up until 24 hours before travel. Of course this depends on how many actual seats are still available. For example, if the plane is full obviously it will be difficult to get an assigned seat prior to getting to the airport.

In general, it’s best to book in advance to get the seats you want. Seats become available on an airplane usually 330 days before the flight with the exception of Delta and Northwest who make their seats available approximately 200 days in advance. Each inpidual airline has their own rules about assigning seats but there are some things that you can do to ensure that you get the seats that you’re looking for on the plane. When we book airline tickets we automatically generate a seat assignment. We’ll try to get a seat that is closest to the front and if it’s two people we get window and aisle by themselves. We do this to get the seats put on the record as soon as possible so that if needed, we can change the seats as they become available if the seats that are assigned are not what our customers want.

One of the great things about flying to Hawaii is that for the transpacific part of your flight the airlines are using larger planes such as the 767 and the 777’s which have over 250 seats. So unless you are booking last-minute there’s a very good likelihood that you would get the actual pre-assigned seat you want. Even with plentiful availability there are times when a preassigned seat is just not possible which happens more these days because airlines try to fill the planes to capacity. When this happens there’s really no need to panic or get upset. It also doesn’t mean that you won’t have a seat on the plane. When the airplane gets to a certain capacity, usually in the neighborhood of 80% to 90% preassigned seats, the airline begins to withhold seats from normal pre-assignment. This is mostly to give them some flexibility at the airport so that when folks want to be seated the gate agents can accommodate them.

Sometimes no matter how much we assure a customer that we will get a seat assignment for them they still feel uncomfortable having us (the travel agency) assign seats for them. That’s really not a problem at all because once we create your booking you are free to try and get seats on your own either through their website or by calling them. When doing so, please make sure that you give them your record locator number, also referred to as a “PNR” is a number recognized uniformly to all airlines and is usually different than the booking number we assign you for our internal records. Doing your own seat assignment can be especially important if you have someone who has special needs or who was very tall. For example you may want an exit row which can only be assigned 24 hours before the plane leaves. Many airlines today and allow for this to be done online as long as you sign a waiver explaining that you will assist in the emergency.

There are times when you get onto an airplane and you’re just not happy with your seat for whatever reason and you see some seats open on the plane. When that happens, it’s time to play musical chairs. Watch very closely and as soon as the door closes then move to the seat you see available. Don’t do this before the door closes because you might get one of the flight attendants a little annoyed. As a rule of thumb you’ll find more empty seats towards the back of the plane.

Hopefully this helps you understand some of the issues that arise regarding seat assignment. Please make sure you check with your agent to discuss seating at the time of booking and for the most part you’ll get the seat you want.


  1. We will be visiting Oahu staying at the Hale Koa Feb 23 through Mar 2, 2011. We will be traveling from Spokane, WA round trip. I know that most airlines will not let you book more than 330 days in advance but can you give me an idea of airfare for two adults?

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