Are you picky about your seat when you fly? Do you want the window or a seat in the first few rows so you can exit quickly? Whatever your reasons for preferring a specific seat, knowledge about seat assignment rules will help you get what you want. Different seats also come with different experiences. If unaware of these factors, you could accidentally find yourself in less than the ideal seat. With these tips, you'll know what to expect in different seats and the odds of getting the one you want.
JUST PAY FOR IT
If you want to be guaranteed a particular seat, or a seat by your travel companions, buy your ticket early and pick the seat you want. This might mean that even if you have elite status, you don't wait for an upgrade to clear or for check-in when specific seats open up for free selection.
This certainly means you never book a basic economy class ticket. With this cheapest fare, the airline will assign your seat. Depending on the airline, you won't even be allowed to pay for an upgraded seat.
As for a preferred economy seat, some airlines won't let basic economy passengers pay extra for those either. You'll usually only see dollar amounts on the seat map next to specific seats if you've booked a regular economy fare. Purchase the seat you want to guarantee yourself an exit row or just the chance to be one of the first off the plane, which can be helpful if you have a tight connection.
Thanks to the 2020 pandemic, we've seen airlines cut route capacity. Airlines also cut the threshold to obtain elite status, which allowed the ranks to swell. These factors, plus an increase in leisure travel, have created fuller planes. Therefore, when it comes to these preferred types of seats, paying for them in advance is increasingly the only way you'll get that seat assignment. It's almost guaranteed that these seats will go to passengers willing to pay or elite fliers because some airlines allow all elite fliers to book them for free.
NOT ALL SEATS ARE CREATED EQUALLY
As you make your seat selection, it helps to know two facts about seats that are true regardless of the airline. First, know that seats do not recline if an exit row is behind them. On smaller regional jets like the Bombardier CRJ and the Embraer, likely only the last row of the plane will have this experience, plus the seats before an over-wing exit, if one exists.
The second fact to know is that sitting in the first row of each cabin will require you to put all belongings in the overhead bins for takeoff and landing. This affects the first row of first-class and the main cabin. Weigh this knowledge with the extra legroom offered by the bulkhead row.
To be reminded of these and other seating anomalies, check SeatGuru.com before booking a flight. SeatGuru will also display the window seats that don't really have a window, narrower seats owing to tray table placement, and power outlet availability.
A TRICK UP YOUR SLEEVE
If you don't want to pay to sit up front and don't value more legroom, there is still one thing you can attempt, to get extra peace and quiet. While this won't work on sold-out flights or routes with a standby list, consider this booking strategy if you happen to be flying at a not-busy time. If traveling with another person, book yourself in the aisle and your companion in the window seat, leaving the middle open. Another passenger is less likely to reserve the middle unless they must. While the airline may place a basic economy flyer in the middle, he or she will likely switch with you, reuniting you and your travel companion.