My New And Extensive Flight Seat Selection Thought Process

Last October I wrote a post titled “My Flight Seat Preference“, where I outlined where in the cabin I liked to sit, and why. I consistently try to aim for the right window seat at the last row of the cabin, which largely hasn’t changed. However, I know summer is coming up, and most of you are going to be flying a little bit more than usual. I’ve taken a few flights after my last post about my seat preference, so I figured I’d like to update everyone on how I choose my seats on flights nowadays, in case you want to follow suit.

Obviously, seat choice is extremely preferential and if you have a strong preference, you should always choose the seat you want to sit in, not the seat that everyone says is best. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, which is what I can say about the last row of the cabin.

img_5495I followed my seat preference on Lufthansa’s A380 in business class, and had a good flight

I’m going to share a few “rules of thumb” that I follow during seat selection, in case you’re stumped on picking the optimal seat for your next flight.

In configurations with one or two seats by the window, my preference is largely the same

Most of my travel is done in business class or premium economy, given that I’m all for keeping an eye out for cheaper fares, so it’s rare for me to be in a configuration with three seats by the window. My preference here hasn’t changed. I like sitting by the window in configurations with two seats by the window, as I’m an avid plane photographer, so it’s rather hard to get pictures from the aisle seat. During a daytime flight it matters less, as I might be moving around the cabin anyway, but during a nighttime flight in economy or premium economy, I’d like to have the option to lean against the fuselage while I sleep, if I can.

In economy and premium economy, I like to choose a seat in the back row because I have complete control over my recline. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t recline if the person at the back wants your seat upright, but rather if he has knee issues, is rather senior, etc.. I’m also more at ease in the back row no matter which class I’m in, as I have more privacy, as only my seatmate can see me if I have one (unless someone turns back and stares at you, though I haven’t had that happen in a while). For me, this makes cabin pictures much easier, as I like to stay discreet, and also like to take pictures from higher up, so I’d prefer to be able to capture the entire cabin without getting anyone’s face in the photo.

I’m also more at ease in the back row no matter which class I’m in, as I have more privacy, since only my seatmate can see me if I have one (unless someone turns back and stares at you, though I haven’t had that happen in a while). For me, this makes cabin pictures much easier, as I like to stay discreet, and also like to take pictures from higher up so y’all get a better feel of the cabin. On the picture front, I also like sitting in the back row so I can take a picture of my seat even if I’m not first to board, as long as I board before my seatmate.

DSCF9224I would’ve been judged harder for spilling my seatmate’s gin and tonic on him had I been sitting a few rows forward

My preference for the right side of the plane is mostly personal, so I choose to sit on the left side at times just so I can balance the angles of pictures you can find on the site.

What about 3-3-3 and 3-4-3 configurations?

The backbones of the longhaul flight industry are now shifting to more powerful twin engined aircraft – these include the 777, 787, and A350. Of course, the A380 and the 747-8 play a pretty big role when it comes to longhaul travel as well. Should you be lucky enough to fly in economy on Japan Airlines’ 787 with a 2-4-2 configuration, or the A380 on the upper deck, congratulations – you’ve just picked yourself a great seat on a great aircraft.

img_5494

That said, you might not be flying to Japan, and the A380’s upper deck might be roped off to the airline’s own top-tier frequent flyer club members. The five airliners mentioned above have one thing in common – they all feature 3-3-3 or 3-4-3 configurations in economy. (The A330NEO will feature an eight-abreast configuration, so they will be great planes to fly – unfortunately, the A330NEO isn’t flying yet, and the current A330s have a lower range.) Let’s not forget our trusty A320s, 737s, and other bigger narrowbodies, all of which feature a 3-3 configuration in economy. Do you really still pick a window seat?

IMG_9322.JPG

I’m fine with clambering over one person in the aisle to visit the washroom, but I don’t do gymnastics or ballet, so I’m hesitant to pick a window seat when I’m struck with a configuration with three seats by the window, even if I’m trying to sleep. After all, I do hit the gym once in a while, so call me porky if you’d like.

In this case, I like to pick an aisle seat. But which seat do I pick? I tend to use the same logic as I do when I pick a window seat by the right side of the aircraft – if there are three seats by the middle, the middle seat in the middle block boards through the left side, as it’s closer to the door (I don’t remember the last time I’ve boarded a plane on the right side). This means that in a nine-abreast configuration, there will be five people boarding through the left aisle of the aircraft, while there will be only four on the right side. Therefore, I like to choose one of the aisle seats on the right side of the aircraft.

If I sit in the aisle seat on the window side, I don’t really get much in terms of plane views, and I also get clambered over by two people to use the washroom. This doesn’t matter if I’m travelling with friends, but it matters more if I’m travelling alone. This means that I’d prefer the right aisle seat in the center block (I’d check if there’s a washroom nearby that’s only situated on the right side, in which case I’d sit on the left side, as I wouldn’t be clambered over by the person in the middle seat at all during the flight). Direct aisle access and no one clambering over me in economy? Yes please.

Oh, and I still want to be able to recline at any time I want, so I’d prefer to choose the right aisle seat in the center block in the last row. The toilet could be nearby, but unless I’m seated right beside it, I don’t think I’d be too bothered (if the center block literally faces the washroom, then I’d consider sitting in a windowside aisle seat in front of the rear washroom, or another seat altogether).

That’s my thought process when I select a seat in economy (assuming I don’t have to pay a hefty price for it) – by no means do you have to follow it, but in case you’re stumped, this could serve as a guide.

What if my preferred seat is taken?

The above is probably my top preference, even if an exit row seat is available. I value privacy over comfort (not that you should, but mostly because I don’t want to show everyone that I’m reviewing the product), so unless there’s a major downside to the the back row (such as a misaligned window), especially in premium economy or economy, I try to book it no matter what. However, in the case of a few of my upcoming flights, the back row is taken.

I value the above points in this order in economy, premium economy and recliner business class seats:

  • A back row seat, as I’d really like the ability to recline throughout all of the flight
  • A seat by the window/a center aisle seat, depending on the configuration, as I’d like to have unrestricted access to either the window (and lean against the fuselage while I sleep) or the aisle
  • A seat on the right side (or left, if the toilet is near me if I sit on the right side) – the difference, after all, is marginal

I value the above points in this order in flat bed business class configurations:

  • A seat by the window, as I can’t name a product where a center or an aisle seat is more private than a window seat
  • A back row seat, as I don’t really recline into anyone’s space, but it’s still more private
  • A seat on the right side

In the case of my upcoming nighttime premium economy flight, I’d try to pick another window seat anyway, as I’d like to lean against the fuselage while I sleep. However, I’d try and snatch a bulkhead seat (which isn’t available for seat selection) during check-in, as I’d try to take the extra comfort – if I don’t get the most private seat on the plane, I’d at least like to be able to stretch my legs out.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, everyone has a different seat selection process, and mine has become much more complicated since my last time talking about it, as I’ve flown more across different cabin classes. Ultimately I love flying in itself, though I’d like to be able to do so in comfort so I can fully maximise the experience. And on that note I feel like selecting the right seat is always the first step to making a flying experience pleasant, especially in economy.

How do you select your seat when flying?

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