Want a happy, comfy flight? Then avoid these seats

Ensure a happier holiday by avoiding these plane seats.

Want a happy, comfy flight? Then avoid these seats …

Leon’s search for the perfect India Pale Ale means he’s sampled some of the finest frothies from all over the globe. Although he feels he’s come close to finding the holy grail of beers, he hopes he never does – so that his quest continues in perpetuity.

Your choice of seat on the plane can make the difference between a comfortable journey and a flight for which you’ll need four gin and tonics to enjoy. Sure, seats with legroom are a major drawcard, but there are still some major drawbacks to those most prized of airplane spaces.

The good news is that with the advice in this article and the use of a seat comparison website, such as SeatGuru or SeatPlans, you can avoid thse seats and have a happy, comfy flight.

Middle seat
I don’t know a single soul who likes the middle seat, although I recently flew with someone who didn’t mind it, as long as she knew the person next to whom she was sitting. Quite often, though, you can get stuck with a middle seat, as the aisle and window seats are usually the first to be booked out. If a middle seat is on your horizon, we recommended reading our middle-seat survival guide.

Bulkhead rows
These seats may look dreamy after you’ve been stuck in cattle class for eight hours. They may be considered the first class of economy seats, and that’s because they have that little bit of extra leg room. But they come with the same hazards as the main exit seats. And unless you’ve got a baby basinet stuck to the bulkhead wall (a drawback in itself) you’ll find that your extra space is used as a thoroughfare between aisles and an area for in-flight yoga. Oh, did we mention the narrower seats and the fact that you’ll have to pay around 20 to 25 per cent extra for them?

In front of the loos or the galley
Any seats at the back of a section, which are usually in front of a toilet or the galley, are perfect for the type of traveller who likes to sit up dead straight the entire trip, or for anyone who wants the guarantee of not having a scrappy little so-and-so kicking into the back of your seat. However, if you like to kick back and recline, then best steer clear of these seats.

Next to the main exit door
This is a great seat if your only concern is extra leg room, but you don’t have the luxury of that handy seat pocket in front of you and your seat will be narrower, because it will have a solid side armrest that houses your tray table. Oh, and it’s usually a fair bit colder than the main exit seats, which may have something to do with a lack of insulation in the exit door.

plane seat exit row

In front of exit rows
The extra room enjoyed by passengers in seats next to main exit doors comes at the cost of the leg room for the rows in front. These seats also don’t recline so unless you like the old sit-up-straight routine, then leave these seats off your list.

The entertainment box seat
Sure, the word ‘box seat’ sounds great, but not in this instance. These seats have a large metal box underneath that houses the entertainment equipment, which takes up the entire area and prevents you from storing your bag beneath your legs. Especially annoying when there’s no room in the overhead compartment (which is almost always!).

Near the bathroom
In my humble opinion, this is the worst seat in the cabin. Let’s just ignore the stench, the urine seeping out from under the door and the sounds of straining and focus on the best part of this scenario. That is, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have an audience for the whole flight, as passengers line up for the loo or use the area to stretch their legs and use your seat as a hand rest for their version of plane Pilates. And there’s the constant chatter and the incessant bumping into your shoulder whilst you’re trying to sleep or watch your in-flight movie. Do I need to go on?

plane toilet signs

The broken seat
You can’t plan for this one and, as most passengers’ luck would have it, you’ll cop it on a full flight. It’s the seat with loose workings, broken recliner, bung headphone jack or spring sticking up into your nether regions. If, by chance, this happens to you on a not-fully-booked flight, just ask to be moved. With any luck, the only seats left will be in first class and you’ll get the free upgrade!

Tapered window seat
Many planes have a section of two by two seats at the back, which is handy for stuffing your carry-on but painful if you want to lean and sleep. Even more painful if the guy sitting behind you decides to use it as his stinky footrest.

The non-window, window seat
Some planes have seats that don’t align with the windows, so you have the chance of getting a seat with a big bar down the middle. This can not only obstruct your view, but it can also make sleep time a challenge should the person in front or behind you want to allow the light in. But, at least you’ll get some use out of your eye mask.

Back row
Non-reclining seats aside, you’ll most likely also have a loo behind you, so you’ll cop that stinky aroma for an entire flight. It’s also usually the last row to disembark, so enjoy that smell, bucko …

Seats between different configurations
This can be one of the most uncomfortable seats on a plane, because when the configuration changes, you have to twist and manoeuvre to find comfortable forward leg room.

Read more at Smarter Travel



    To make a comment, please register or login
    4th Mar 2017
    This article should have been the best seats in the plane . Would have been a lot shorter.
    4th Mar 2017
    Never mind the best seats, any seats worth sitting in.
    4th Mar 2017
    Quite right MJM, seems to me none in cattle class are any good, I have used those seat planner things and it matters not what you would like you get what is left. I have logged on to the various airlines just as the seat allocations dictate I.e. 24 or 48 hours pre flight and never been able to get a decent seat. Seems some poeople are able to get the seats far earlier. Some airlines let you book your seat when you buy ticket, some don't etc etc. to me it's a raffle.
    Apart from that in my humble opinion the price of flying is cheap compared to your wages say twenty years ago, if they kept pace with the cost of living etc then we should be paying at least treble ( compared to say a new car) so business is the way to go. I don't see any value in premium economy for double the price you should get at least 50% more room but you don't, so it's cattle class and put up with it, or go business?
    1st Sep 2018
    Herbie49 you can usually book your seat when you book your flight. I nearly always do this unless it is just a short flight when it doesn't much matter. If you don't do it then, as you say you are stuck doing it at check-in when most have already been pre-booked.
    4th Mar 2017
    Why do airlines NOT first call aboard window seat passengers to ensure those aleady seated do not have to move to allow in the wndowseaters, ...thus taking far longer for the plane to be ready for take off?????
    4th Mar 2017
    I agree I just returned on Jetstar and they are calling for boarding seats from front to back, as you say should be all windows from rear frontwards would make far more sense. But then they don't have much sense.
    1st Sep 2018
    Really wouldn't make that much difference given that most people take no notice of boarding order at all!
    4th Mar 2017
    how do you know where the entertainment box is located. It's too late once you get there!
    Diamond Jim
    4th Mar 2017
    Go to Seat Guru and put in your flight details and it will tell you where the seats with video boxes are located. It gives the best and worst and those in-between.
    4th Mar 2017
    There is no such thing as a comfortable flight. You are always much too high in the air for it to be comfortable.
    4th Mar 2017
    There are no good seats in economy unless the plane is half empty and does that happen any more ?
    4th Mar 2017
    Yes. Depends on the airline, the route and when flying. In the last months our second leg to get into Europe was only a quarter full. Heaven!
    4th Mar 2017
    Well you have just about covered the entire Economy section. I suggest that if you cant afford to upgrade - stay home. At least your home is probably comfortable to your liking. Maybe you just need to improve the view.
    4th Mar 2017
    Ah BElle............ you miss the point of travel. It is never about the discomfort and effort of the flight and has everything to do about the destination.
    4th Mar 2017
    Wow Leon. Quite a list.
    We fly for longer than the 8 hours you mentioned. Recently spent 15+ hours on first leg to Europe. Painful!
    I might summarise your list a bit by suggesting the seats to go for rather than what to avoid:

    1. pick your aircraft carefully! Having flown on Virgin's Boeing 777 to the US several times, which I swear had wooden unpadded seats as well as no side or legroom we now fly on Airbus A380s. It's like moving up to (almost) first class. Comfy seats, elbow room and most of all high cut seats in front of you so that you can stretch out the legs.
    2. BOOK EARLY to get a good selection of seats. If you couldn't be bothered until a week before departure then you get the dregs.
    3. we always pick the windows aisles and choose as far forward as possible. Toilets? AT least 4 rows back. Galley? At least 2 seats from these, not that this is normally an issue. SeatGuru? What a wonderful tool and highly recommended.
    Like most things in life leon picking decent seats is a matter of planning ahead. Those who do are rewarded. Those who don't pay the piper. Welcome to like.

    Oh, one other thing......if the flight is not fully booked then look for a bank of 3 seats before take off. This is a bed but you need to be quick and grab as soon as the seat belt sign goes off. It cam make the difference between getting to your destination with a hangover which lasts for a week or being raring to go. There is absolutely nothing worse than sitting upright for 15 hours. We got caught on our recent trip to Europe but were fortunate enough to get a row of 3 on the second leg.
    19th Aug 2017
    I flew from L.A. back to Bris, on a 747 and we were way back from the galley, so having chosen chicken for our main, by the time the food cart arrived , all the chicken had gone, also when the croissants arrived at breakfast they were so cold, it was like they had just come out of an extremely cold fridge. My son and I both complained about that and asked for them to be microwaved to an enjoyable temperature, which the Virgin stewardess did.
    5th Mar 2017
    We flew from America to France a quite a few years ago and the experience was a nightmare...The seats were like sitting in a cardboard box surrounded by 20 noisy unruly ill mannered french children, banging the back of the seats, screeching like banshees and totally running amok...Where were the teachers you may well ask?...Way up the front sampling the beverages from the bar fridge..and the steward attendants were helpless...I lost it, and the cabin was resumed to a somewhat normal state for the last part of the journey...Female grannies from Australia are quite loud too when annoyed to the point of detraction..lol
    5th Mar 2017
    Yea, I booked the good seat with Qantas but when i went to board, unbeknownst to me they had changed the seat to an entirely different seat. I was furious. I had a knee injury and needed to stand up occasionally so I booked an isle seat only a couple of rows back from the loos so I could see how many people are lined up at any given time, but they changed it to the middle seat no where near the toilet. They told me that they don't guarantee that the seat I book is the one that I'll have when I arrive for the flight.
    12th Jul 2017
    Just another reason why I don't travel cattle class. Unless it's from home to Sydney, but very rarely. There's no business class on the regional airlines, so you've got no choice.
    Thai Traveller
    12th Aug 2017
    Since when did planes have 'bathrooms'? There's absolutely no need to stoop to using US "English", when Aussie English such as 'loo', 'Toilet', 'lavatory' is more than adequate.
    19th Aug 2017
    21st Jul 2018
    Well yes many seat issues but I found that the seats near the toilets at the back of the plain are most of the time the lucky ones because no many people seat at the back and near the toiled .... I score 1 and 2 free seats next to me specially if you chose a very late fly or very early because people do not like to fly these times ...??? why ??? I am not sure so I take chances and 2 out of 3 I get an extra seat also chose the 2 seat row on the side and at the back aisle side that is what I book and most of the time I get the next seat free ......

    But this days I fly First class in my dreams he he he he
    10th Dec 2018
    I have just returned from NZ to Perth.Qantas booked my wife in the row in front of me, not once but twice. Booking clerk could not change and had to see the supervisor. One supervisor gave me a lecture on the computer that selects the seats next to each other. Next to each other is the seat in front or rear, each side or each other and diagonally in the row in front and the row at the rear. I advised the supervisor" Rubbish in Rubbish out.
    Out of NZ booked again the seat in front. Changed the seat to be next to each other. Changed in Melb for Perth the aisle seat was taken up with a male MORBID obese, some 160-170kg who took up 1/2 of the middle seat plus his own. On top of that he went to sleep so we were stuck in our seats unable to visit the WC. Qantas poor management at the GFate to the plane. This person should have been stopped and advised to buy another seat. Great trip home for 3.5hrs. What will Qantas do for compensation????? So what is the good seat??
    31st Aug 2019
    Is there any wonder why I prefer at least Premium Economy, or better still Business Class?

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