How to score the dream seating arrangement on a plane

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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?


Want a happy, comfy flight? Then avoid these seats

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In Travel SOS, Pam has asked Leon if there is a safest seat on the plane.

What does your plane seat say about you?

Choosing a window seat or an aisle seat says a lot about your personality.

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



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