How to score the dream seating arrangement on a plane

Tips to increase your chance of having an empty seat next to you on your next flight.

How to score the dream seating arrangement on a plane

Not so long ago I was on my way back from the States, and I boarded the plane in premium economy to find that I had the seats on either side of me empty.

Could it be that I had the dream? No passengers next to me on a long-haul flight?

I waited for the rest of the passengers to board. Twenty minutes went by, still no one next to me. After 30 minutes, those seats were still empty. I thought I’d found the Holy Grail.

After two hours on the runway passengers were told to disembark. Our plane would not be taking off that night. My dream was shattered – I was so close!

While my dream turned into a nightmare (which actually turned out to be a real adventure, read about that here) the ideal situation could still be a reality for you, with these simple tips for scoring an empty seat next to you. I can’t guarantee they’ll work, but your odds of having at least one seat free next to you will certainly increase.

 

 

Book a seat near the back of the plane
As a rule, most passengers will choose seats closer to the front of the plane. So, if yours isn’t booked out, the chance of having an empty seat next to you will increase. Keep in mind that the last seats to be chosen are middle seats near the back of the plane.

Don’t touch the sides
Passengers are also more likely to choose seats on either side of a widebody plane, so choose a seat in the centre section.

Sit behind the ‘extra-legroom’ seats
Most airlines offer seats with extra legroom near exits or at the front of each section. These will fill quickly, even though they’re often sold for an added fee or reserved for passengers with frequent flyer status. However, extra-legroom seats at the rear of the plane are typically ignored, so if you’re willing to pay a little extra, you may find the seat in between the aisle and the window – or aisle and aisle on a widebody plane – empty upon take-off.

Couples have the edge
When booking as a couple, reserve the seats on either side of the middle and you’ll have a shot at that seat staying empty. If you find it is not on take-off, you’ll most likely be able to switch with that passenger, with the permission of flight attendants, of course.

Check at the gate
If your airline has an app, use it to check the seating arrangement of your plane when you arrive at the gate. If there’s a couple of seats still empty, switch your seat to that area, or ask the gate agent to do it for you.

Do you have any tips for getting an empty seat next to you? Why not share them with our members?

RELATED ARTICLES





    COMMENTS

    To make a comment, please register or login
    SuziJ
    21st Jul 2018
    10:03am
    I don't travel economy in the first place. So it doesn't worry me.
    KSS
    21st Jul 2018
    1:45pm
    Well lucky you!
    Aussie
    21st Jul 2018
    2:28pm
    Good SuziJ same here I only fly first class ...never economy you fly like a sardine he he he he so yeahh good for you that is the way to fly Business or First .... I went to Europe for 3 month round trip in first ....great fly good sleep and got there really fresh to start my dream tour Yeahhhhhh
    udo1103
    22nd Jul 2018
    9:58am
    doesn't worry me either...i own the aircraft...

    23rd Jul 2018
    2:55pm
    Once found myself jammed between two very large men. Hostess noticed how uncomfortable I looked and invited me to follow her. She took me to the rear of the plane, dropped the armrests between the seats, and made a lovely bed across three empty seats. Brought extra pillows and blankets. 17 hour flight, so it was heaven!
    notelle
    17th Dec 2019
    1:50pm
    Lucky you ! I also found myself squashed between 2 (lovely and friendly) males who must have been in training to become sumo wrestlers on a flight from LA to Melbourne ! My discomfort was obvious but the plane was full ....... I finished up being admitted to hospital the day after I landed due to SEVERE cramping in my back. For me it turned out to be the flight from 'hell'.
    Cat
    26th Dec 2019
    11:08am
    I suffered the same fate as you notelle on a flight from LA to Sydney with part of my seat taken up by a large person next to me. That is why I no longer fly AT ALL, and only travel to places I can drive to.
    johninmelb
    26th Dec 2019
    3:16pm
    We don't have "hostesses" on planes any more. They are called Flight Atendants and the job can be done more than adequately by males or females.

    Hostess is a very outdated and sexist term. It is also demeaning to women in this day and age. Goes back to an age when women were expected to be subservient to men and it is time we got over that nonsense.
    Tanker
    26th Dec 2019
    10:58am
    Good advice there. When I book a long haul flight for my wife and me I choose, if possible, in the rear section at least half way between the wing and the rear of the aircraft, a window seat and the aisle seat of the left of the aircraft facing forward. My wife is left handed and likes a window seat and I prefer an aisle seat. We hope that the middle seat will be empty.
    We have been lucky more that often than not and it makes a difference to the comfort level. I am not tall but am broad across the shoulders and it works best if I can lean into the empty middle seat space rather than get hit with trolleys and people walking past.
    Tanker
    26th Dec 2019
    10:58am
    Good advice there. When I book a long haul flight for my wife and me I choose, if possible, in the rear section at least half way between the wing and the rear of the aircraft, a window seat and the aisle seat of the left of the aircraft facing forward. My wife is left handed and likes a window seat and I prefer an aisle seat. We hope that the middle seat will be empty.
    We have been lucky more that often than not and it makes a difference to the comfort level. I am not tall but am broad across the shoulders and it works best if I can lean into the empty middle seat space rather than get hit with trolleys and people walking past.
    cupoftea
    26th Dec 2019
    12:24pm
    I always go for the isle seat but I will be going for the window seat next time for that little bit of extra room the middle seat would be ok if people adhered to the unwritten rule the middle seat gets the armrests but those days are gone
    Virginia
    26th Dec 2019
    3:46pm
    I pay for two seats in economy
    Once I was lucky to get 3 seats
    On way back sat in middle and left window seat for stretching and leaning much to the annoyance of the man in aisle seat he wanted to share my paid extra seat
    cupoftea
    26th Dec 2019
    10:29pm
    I like it


    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles