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Opinion

Is Picking the Worst Seat on an Airplane the Best Strategy?

Is Picking the Worst Seat on an Airplane the Best Strategy?
Ariana Arghandewal

We’ve all been there: Crammed in a tiny economy class seat with no legroom and a kid playing trampoline with our seat backs. For some, an uncomfortable flight experience may have been so awful that we decided we’d rather spend our weekends at Walmart than ever repeat the experience again. Well, one guy decided to take the opposite approach. Instead of avoiding the worst seat on the plane, he embraced it. And claimed to have a better travel experience as a result.

The worst seat on the plane, according to John Burfitt, is the window seat in the very last row. It’s the window seat on the last row of the airplane. What makes it the best seat on the plane (or more accurately, economy class)? Below is a breakdown of his argument along with my thoughts on it:

“It’s impossible for anyone to kick the back of your seat.”

Seat back kicking is hands down the most obnoxious nuisance on a plane. I will take slightly less leg legroom over a flight-long kicker any time. But am I going to give up the ability to recline? Not a chance. I’ve had that seat in the last row and it’s not as quaint as this article might suggest. I’ll take a kicking child over a lack of recline any day. In fact, instead of relegating myself to the back row, I’ll switch seats with the offending child and enjoy being able to lean back and relax.

“You are tucked away, so you will also never get king hit by a flight attendant wielding a trolley, be bumped by passing passengers or have them grab your seat as they pass.”

Being hit by a cart or having people invade your space on their way down the aisle is an annoyance. But does it happen often enough to warrant switching to an uncomfortable seat that doesn’t recline but is “tucked away”? I don’t think so. While sitting in the back corner ensures you won’t be bumped by a cart, you can also avoid this fate by simply leaning away from the aisle. In a row where your seat actually reclines.

More importantly, sitting in the back window seat doesn’t guarantee you won’t have passengers grabbing your seat or bumping into you. Your neighbor could very well topple over in their seat and make the rest of your flight uncomfortable. Or move around a lot and invade your space. being “tucked away” in the back row does not guarantee comfort or privacy.

“When you want to sleep, lean into the corner against the wall and doze off.”

Sleeping in economy class isn’t ideal and it’s never going to be 100% comfortable. The key, I have found, is angling your feet correctly. I once survived a 16-hour flight in economy class by placing a laptop bag under my seat. Then I sunk slightly in my seat and placed my feet on top of the bag. It created a perfect sleeping position and I was able to doze off for 7 hours.

If you’re hoping to sleep well on a plane, you need to get as close to a sleeping position as possible. Leaning into a corner is not going to mimic a natural sleeping position and you’ll probably wake up with a neck cramp. If you do have to sit sleeping upright, it’s probably better to lean your head back, not against the window. For sleeping purposes alone, I don’t think the last-row window seat is the “best seat on the plane.”

Final Thoughts

Trying to get comfortable in economy class is tough and everyone has their own preferences. While the author of the article may have found the best seat on the plane to be the window seat in the last row, I can’t imagine the worst seat for myself. I’m generally happy with any aisle seat and if I can score a bulkhead, that’s even better. But based on all the points outlined by the author, I don’t think the last row is for me.

I’d love to get your perspective. Which seat do you think is the best on the plane? (Outside of the premium cabins. 😉 )

[Source: Pixabay]

View Comments (28)

28 Comments

  1. zarkov505

    March 7, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    It depends on the airline.

    A few weeks ago, I did the 16-hour DFW-HKG hop in Y on one of the new “densified” 777-300ERs. (I’ve sanitized my language considerably.) The airplane was 100% full. That seat is now OFFICIALLY the worst airline seat I’ve ever ridden.

    The good news is that the next leg of the trip was with Cathay Pacific, and they haven’t yet figured out that the passengers are supposed to be tortured and the airplanes have to fly full every time. I was in a middle seat, on an Airbus A330, 4-seat row (inboard) with the other middle seat empty. To make it better, the aisle seat passenger moved shortly after takeoff, so I had three seats to myself and was VERY comfortable. Add that to the outstanding customer service provided by the CX cabin crew (contrast with the “do the absolute minimum required” from AA), and it was not a bad hop at all.

  2. sfo

    March 7, 2019 at 8:37 pm

    Aisle exit row in the row that reclines

  3. fotographer

    March 8, 2019 at 2:44 am

    when I used to fly Y, would check with the gate agent, look at the seating chart, most times I was able to score a row all to myself towards the back of the plane.
    (these days I fly J and or F}

  4. xiphoid76

    March 8, 2019 at 5:32 am

    This has been my seat for years…don’t advertise my secret. Back corner is the best seat on the plane guaranteed!

  5. Scott Kiwi

    March 8, 2019 at 7:28 am

    Once I boarded a regional jet to discover my seat was the window in the last row. The aisle was quite narrow, and an obese man halfway down blocked half of the aisle. I realized that I couldn’t sit there, especially being claustrophobic. Lucky for me, a passenger heard my discussion with the flight attendant and offered to change seats. Otherwise I would have to have left the plane.

  6. ddutil

    March 8, 2019 at 7:33 am

    I think it’s pretty clear that the worst seat on the plane is the middle seat next to what this person claims is the worst seat on the plane.

  7. PapaJack

    March 8, 2019 at 7:56 am

    I had it once, or close to is, for a China Air from LAX-PKG. I was at the back, limited recline (1″), and in the aisle. What people forget is that at the back of the plane you get the, ” we are out of ___, we only have ____ remaining” for you food choice.

  8. crwander

    March 8, 2019 at 8:05 am

    ANY window seat is a decent seat, in my opinion. You usually have more “personal” space, and nobody is climbing over/around you. Also, towards the back of the plane, you often get a little extra space due to the curve of the fuselage. Last Row Window Seat is not my favorite, but in my opinion it’s not the worst seat, either.

  9. nycexpat

    March 8, 2019 at 8:18 am

    Folks,
    This hardly bears discussion. Economy seating has become so all-round miserable, it is comparing rock one and rock two for softness. In addition, so much depends on other passengers around you and their conduct in this abusive situation, the paying public has almost no control over comfort.
    In fact, flying now — with little government control — is largely an airline induced nightmare of passenger abuse.

  10. spikegall

    March 8, 2019 at 8:21 am

    Reclining is highly overrated. Leg room is my goal, and the window seat in an exit row is my first choice.

  11. Disneymkvii

    March 8, 2019 at 8:24 am

    What crab apple wrote this article? Can’t you agree with anything the person has to say? What a negative Nancy….

  12. Tino

    March 8, 2019 at 8:25 am

    May you never have an obese person or a lap child in the middle seat when you are jammed into the corner. In that scenario, I would probably get off the plane and take my chances on the next flight. At least in any aisle seat, you get more room to occasionally stretch out.

  13. flyerron16

    March 8, 2019 at 8:28 am

    That was my goto seat before I started reading these forums:-)

  14. Mtothe M

    March 8, 2019 at 8:33 am

    @fotographer How do you find empty rows? Are you just flying some off-peak-times on off-peak airlines? Do share!

  15. krallison

    March 8, 2019 at 8:35 am

    Best for me is any seat without a recliner in front. I have long legs and my knees usually reach the seat in front,

  16. pabrocb

    March 8, 2019 at 9:02 am

    My son just flew from BOS to HKG in a middle seat on Cathay.

  17. John Aldeborgh

    March 8, 2019 at 11:36 am

    It’s a coach seat, economy travel today is about low cost and safety. The result has been an explosion in the popularity of air travel, because it’s stunningly affordable. Anyone who looks back on the days of travel as glamorous or luxurious and who doesn’t look at the relative cost, today versus 20, 30 or 40 years ago, isn’t being intellectually honest in their comparison. Also, comparing a US carrier to a foreign carrier is to ignore both the labor cost differences as well as the cultural differences. I fly a lot of long haul coach, on many different airlines. The crews on the US carriers are a little rough around the edges and the food isn’t good but to be honest, in reality, the differences aren’t all that great.

  18. socalcanuck

    March 8, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Agree with Spikergall, all about leg room. As a guy who’s 6’5” I never recline a seat and find it’s usually the short people who do that move not realizing what they are doing

  19. jetflyer727

    March 8, 2019 at 11:38 am

    Delta’s 737-9 row 21 A and F. Go to seat every time, although only available to Medallion members at booking. Cheers

  20. BC Shelby

    March 8, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    …which seat is the most comfortable to me, any in First Class on domestic US flights, as I have serious arthritis as well as circulation issues that make riding in steerage not only extremely uncomfortable but potentially unhealthy on a long flight. “Premium” is not much better as for the significant increase in cost, you still have that middle seat as well as are required to pay luggage fees (which have been increasing as of late). I have found on several trips that going first isn’t all that much more than premium in the end as your first two pieces of luggage are free (which can amount to upwards of an additional 140$ to the round trip ticket cost). Also there is only one other seat between me and the aisle, I have far more leg and hip room, I get priority boarding, and can access the airline’s lounge at designated airports.

  21. BC Shelby

    March 8, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    …I forgot to add that domestic First Class is is often half the cost of travelling overland by train with sleeper accommodations.

  22. Gilthoniel4

    March 8, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    I prefer the Aisle exit row in the row that reclines. But I also like an aisle row right behind the first row in economy, particularly if the aisle-side armrest can be raised. I don’t like the bulkhead, because there is usually no place to put luggage “under the seat in front of you” and the tray table situation is usually weird. With the next row back, on the aisle, I have lots of options. If the person in the middle seat is ill or very large, I can favor the aisle (when the FAs are finished). I can get up as much as I want, and with space under the seat in front of me I can use my bag there as a footrest for a good sleeping position. I don’t mind getting up for row-mates who need to rise. I get to stretch and unless they are up and down every few minutes, it doesn’t happen often enough to be a bother. And if the aisle-side armrest can be raised, on a long flight you can get a tiny extra bit of space and comfort that can make all the difference!

  23. LostAntipod

    March 8, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    Back row often equals closest to toilet. You want people standing next to you queuing, maybe chatting while you’re trying to sleep, the banging of the door, go right ahead. Oh, and the way some cabins curve in at the rear of the plane, the fuselage will be too far for you to lean against or see out the window much. But it often yields some handy floorspace to put your laptop bag , not impeding on your legs, and so you can easily grab anything In it. Like your eyemask, when you get fed up with the light from the toilet waking you up every time someone opens that door.
    And I swear I’m gonna punch the next idiot who bangs their seat into recline while I am still eating, or nearly destroying my iPad resting on the tray table (yes you, baldy, row 23 on BA238 this week). Have some consideration, people.

  24. gwynedd_gal

    March 8, 2019 at 3:53 pm

    Leg room over recline any day yes Socalcanuck. I don’t recline out of consideration for the person in back of me. The person in front always complains that my knees impede their converting their coach seat into a first class lay down. Sorry, pal. I’m tall. I had one man actually say “you’re not tall” and try to hit me in my seat. When we deplaned, I towered over the squirt. But I don’t hit people. Because I dislike lawyering up.

  25. estotz

    March 8, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    I NEVER RECLINE. I hate it when people do it in front of me, so I don’t do it to anyone else. Even in business ….

    Key is to get an exit row and then nobody can ever recline into your space. You’ll have more leg room and actually have the ability to open your laptop.

  26. dixieboy

    March 8, 2019 at 10:55 pm

    If ever you find yourself in Saudi Arabia avoid the back row on FLYADEAL A320 aircraft. There are NO windows. I block booked that row last year and had to endure 4 flights with no windows. A very different flying experience.

  27. Dublin_rfk

    March 9, 2019 at 6:00 am

    The last row window then aisle were my boots for many years prior to FF programs and gaining status. You are near both the galley and the lavs.
    Also the tail section is the most recognized section left after. . .

  28. frieswiththat

    March 9, 2019 at 7:52 am

    On B6, A321, 10D is my seat so often they should put a brass plaque on it. Loads of leg room and I never recline anyway. And solid seat dividers prevents spill-over in the event of a big person next to me.

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