Travel SOS: Which is the best seat on a plane?

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Phillip is going on his first international flight and wants to know which seat is best.


Q. Phillip
After decades on the cruise circuit my wife has finally convinced me to take her on a trip to Europe. We have never flown internationally before and, as this will be our first long-haul flight, we are both somewhat nervous flyers. Are there any pointers you can give us when we are selecting our seats, ones that we may not know about as inexperienced flyers?

A. The best seat on a plane usually has more to do with personal preference than being a one size fits all proposition.

There are a few things to look out for, however. Assuming the plane is arranged in a three-seat, four-seat, three-seat formation you will want to avoid travelling in the two middle seats in the middle row. These seats offer the least comfortable sleeping option, especially if you are in economy, although you won’t have the hassle of people disturbing you when they need to get up and down. However, if that is your preference, you are better off opting for a window seat, which will offer one of you decent head support while you sleep.

One of the big changes in recent times has been the introduction of the A380 superjumbo. If you are travelling on one of these planes you will be offered a choice between the upper or lower decks. If you are having trouble deciding, the upper deck is usually better as it is much quieter and is also less densely populated during the flight.

As you are both nervous flyers, you may want to try and sit in the spot which delivers the smoothest ride.

According to Ask the Pilot, “The smoothest place to sit is over the wings, which is nearest to the plane’s centre of lift and gravity.” This is because as the plane flies through the sky with wind, airflow, torque and gravity all exerting force, it ‘rotates’ around its centre of gravity. 

The centre of gravity for planes is typically located toward the front of the wing, with the wing being what helps to lift the plane or – as aeronautical engineers refer to it – the ‘centre of lift’.

The result is that sitting at this point where the plane’s centre of gravity and lift meet should ensure the smoothest possible flight.

What seats do you prefer to sit in when you fly? Why? 

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Written by Ben


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