Every flyer has a preference when it comes to seat selection, especially on a long flight. But it’s often more than just a simple ‘window or aisle’ question.
For various reasons, we normally have a favourite place to sit but even if you don’t, there are a few things to consider when it comes to seat selection that can make a big difference.
Ask the right questions
While ’23A’ may be a great seat on one aircraft, it may be undesirable on the next.
Questions to consider when choosing a seat are around leg room, nearby galleys (where food is prepared), bathrooms or bulkheads, does the seat recline, how far, and will your desired window seat view be blocked by the wing? And of course, ‘how do I avoid the dreaded middle seat’?
More on aircraft types
Even with the same type of aircraft, layouts can change.
For example, if you’re flying on a Qantas Boeing 747, there are four different seat configurations based on the destination you are flying to. A high traffic business route will see more business class seats, versus a high leisure or holiday route which may feature more seats in economy.
If that all sounds complicated, don’t worry. When booking your flights, your travel consultant will be able to see which aircraft type and configuration is being used and assign an appropriate seat based on your request.
You can also research this yourself on websites such as Seat Guru where once you know your type of aircraft, you can view the seat options.
Naturally when flying, seats that offer more legroom are most desired. Airlines are of course well aware of this and will often charge a fee to reserve seats for the in-demand locations.
These could be in the exit rows, bulkhead seats at the front of the cabin, or in the front row of the aircraft. Often airlines will reserve these for top-tier frequent flyers. But booked in advance, they are usually available to all passengers and are generally the option that provides the most space.
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“Seat pitch” is the amount of space between the back of one seat and the seat back directly in front. Airlines use this term as a measurement of the available leg space.
Depending on the airline you are flying, 32 inches (81 centimetres) is the standard seat pitch found in most economy class cabins. For tall passengers, anything below this will probably feel cramped.
Generally speaking, low-cost-carriers may have anywhere between 29 to 32-inches. It’s always worth noting the seat pitch when making a flight booking. Sometimes those super cheap airfares may not be the most comfortable which is a consideration of the fare being offered.
Consider your location on the aircraft to minimise the noise. For example, a seat close to the galley or the lavatories onboard can be high traffic areas, hence noise may be an issue when trying to relax or sleep.
On longer international flights, another consideration will be where the baby bassinets are located on the aircraft. If noise is a consideration for you, reduce the risk of coping with the sound of a crying baby by avoiding these rows and those adjacent.
As mentioned, each aircraft type will have a different seating arrangement and cabin layout so again, ask your travel consultant about areas to avoid when making your booking.
Join the airline’s frequent flyer program
It sounds obvious but you may not know that by adding your frequent flyer number to your booking, it may open the seating chart to more options for you.
For example, if you are a Gold or Platinum frequent flyer with Virgin Australia, you will be able to reserve a seat anywhere on the aircraft of the cabin class you’ve booked. If you are Red or Silver, you may only be able to access certain rows.
Consider Premium Economy long-haul
When travelling long distances, consider upgrading to Premium Economy not only for more leg room but added conveniences such as dedicated check-in counters, extra baggage allowance, enhanced meal and beverage offerings and (often) a dedicated cabin space and crew.
Bridging the gap between traditional economy and business class, Premium Economy can be a cheaper alternative to flying business class for not much extra.
See our story on which airlines offer Premium Economy from Australia.
Paying for extra leg room seats
For a little more personal space, seriously consider paying the extra for an exit row seat, or any other extra leg room seat offered by airlines. The fees can vary depending on your route but even a short flight between Sydney and Melbourne could have seats available for purchase.
Most airlines offer these seats domestically between $20-$50 each way, per person, depending on the route.
If travelling to Los Angeles, consider flying Virgin Australia. A new economy cabin enhancement recently released called Space+ is located at the front of the economy cabin in the first five rows.
The seats are available for purchase only (even for top-tiered frequent flyers) for approximately $150 per person each way between Australia and the US. This fee allows for an extra 5-inches (13 cm) leg room on average, plus noise-cancelling head seats generally found in business class only, priority boarding and first meal choice guarantee.
On a 12-13 hour flight, the additional space and service is certainly welcomed even for an additional fee.
Although seats can be assigned, the airlines can never guarantee seats until the day of departure in case of an equipment swap or change of aircraft type on the day. But they typically do their best to honour most requests.
So to score the best seat …
Often passengers will wait until they are at the airport and hope that a good seat is still available. Don’t leave it to chance or you could be in for a “long” flight. Ensure at the time of booking you:
- Ask your travel consultant to check the aircraft type and configuration for your route or do your own homework
- Include your frequent flyer number in your booking
- Check if an exit row seat is available
- Check in early online if available, or arrive at the airport early
- Reserve a seat right away at time of booking
Are you ready to fly? Call our friendly travel consultants today for the best advice and price.