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United Airlines

The Horrors of “Deep Coach” (and How to Avoid It)

The Horrors of “Deep Coach” (and How to Avoid It)
Joe Cortez

For some travelers, the simple mention of riding in coach is enough to strike fear. But for the experienced, there’s an even deeper level where not even angels dare tread. This is called “Deep Coach,” and the experience is among the worst in the economy levels. How do you identify “Deep Coach,” and how do you prevent it?

Every airplane has a section of seats worse than others. These are the seats similar to what ultra-low cost carriers fly, and can be enough to make even the most seasoned flyers cringe. FlyerTalkers call this “Deep Coach” – and if you’re sitting in this section, prepare for a hard flight.

What is Deep Coach? More importantly, how can you avoid it? From our analysis, we present you a warning about the reality of Deep Coach.

Economy Deep Coach Where to Sit

Source: Flickr/Mike Fernwood

What is Deep Coach?

As its name suggests, Deep Coach is the part of the plane with the most uncomfortable seats and the unruliest of flyers. The Deep Coach section is where the “Worst Passengers of the Week” come from, with ignorance to their ways or what they are doing to their fellow passengers. And unlike other parts of the plane, Deep Coach has no escape: Once you are stuck in, you are in for the ride.

If you were to look at it on an airplane map, Deep Coach is towards the back of the airplane, where seat pitch is barely over 30 inches, and the middle aisle is as much as four seats across. If you were planning to enjoy your flight in the middle seat, you may be greatly mistaken – or over-optimistic, to say the least.


Image Source: Cathay Pacific

How Can I Avoid Deep Coach and Find the Best Seats on the Plane?

The good news is that most Deep Coach seats are avoidable. It all depends on your flight, your elite status and if you are willing to pay a little more to get out of this flying purgatory.

If you have elite status with your airline, Deep Coach is a little more avoidable than on other flights. Before check-in, you should be able to choose a “plus” seat in the economy section prior to departure, like American’s Main Cabin Extra or United Economy Plus. These give you a little more legroom and dedicated overhead bin space, so you can fly with some confidence.

If you aren’t a loyal flyer, these seats are often for sale before departure – but do add an additional cost to your flight. For slightly less extra cost, you can try flying in an economy seat near the exit row. They offer more legroom (but sometimes come with the drawback of not being able to recline your seat.

Related: Where to Sit on United: Advice From People Who’ve Sat There Before

If you don’t want to pay for an “upgraded” seat (term used loosely), there are also some alternatives. Flyers have been able to find outliers in the system, like the British Airways “Economy Throne,” and other tricks to make a flight more comfortable. Before you settle for your fate in Deep Coach:

  • Read trip reports: The wealth of experience on the FlyerTalk forums can help you better decide which seats are the best, and which give you a chance to enjoy your flight a little more.
  • Check FlyerTalk’s Where to Sit Series: Not all seats are created equal, and FlyerTalk knows that because FlyerTalkers, collectively, have probably sat in every seat that’s ever flown the friendly and even not-so-friendly skies. If you want to know what seat is too close to the bathroom, won’t recline, or puts you right in earshot of chatter from the galley, it’s the place to go (you can find a guide to finding out the type of seat you’re on here).
  • Check aircraft maps: Not all seats are created equal. Use an aircraft map to get a better handle on what seats are hot, and what seats are less than desirable.
  • Check the airline forums: FlyerTalkers often dish on the best seats across carriers. If you have a question about how to avoid Deep Coach, try reading what FlyerTalkers say about your airline of choice.

How do you avoid Deep Coach? Share your tips on the FlyerTalk forums!


[Image Source: Wikimedia Commons/Kārlis Dambrāns from Latvia]

View Comments (23)



    January 31, 2020 at 5:18 am

    As far as I am concerned, deep coach is any seat in the economy. A cabin thankfully I have been able to avoid for the last 17 years.

  2. cairns

    January 31, 2020 at 7:22 am

    must be a slow news day….another pointless article.

  3. DCAFly

    January 31, 2020 at 7:46 am

    I’ve never heard the term Deep Coach. Love it.

  4. ksandness

    January 31, 2020 at 8:18 am

    First of all, I refuse to fly any airline that has less than 32″ seat pitch throughout the cabin. I will not subject my bad knees to anything less. Spirit and its ilk could reduce their prices to $1 for a cross-country trip, and I still wouldn’t fly them.

    If there’s a buy-up option to a better coach seat, such as Delta’s Economy Comfort, I take it. The price is minimal compared to the base cost of the ticket.

    On a long-haul, wide-body plane, I have a method for ensuring that nobody sits next to me. And no, it does not involve garlic or anything else disagreeable. It is all about pre-selecting my seat, even if the airline charges for that option, and it works 80-90% of the time. (No, I’m not going to share it.) I find that I can sleep well on planes as long as nobody is next to me.

  5. rickg523

    January 31, 2020 at 10:39 am

    The article is a perfect example of the pricing theories of Jules Dupuit.

  6. Gynob001

    January 31, 2020 at 6:30 pm

    Deep coach is where you find an occasional roach
    Where very few crew members approach
    Often people stick out their legs in to the aisle
    Only to trip passengers, weak, meek, and frail
    If you are a male and wear a leather jacket
    And look like the one from a lower economic bracket
    Deep coach is where you will be surrounded
    Crying children, and the back of your seat pounded
    Meals and drinks hardly make it to this section
    I am serious, it is not a fiction
    If you are born in the eastern hemisphere
    You are often allotted to a middle seat in the rear

  7. more4less

    February 1, 2020 at 4:09 am

    Another vote for the term “Deep Coach”, brilliant

  8. camsean


    February 1, 2020 at 4:10 am

    How to construct around a story like an aero bar: it’s the bubbles of nothing that make it something. Or in this case, nothing.

  9. kc1174

    February 1, 2020 at 4:44 am

    I sat in the arse end of a BA 747 once – 57J. Was awesome, and I’d do it again. No it’s not J or F despite having plenty of Avios and could afford it, but take some sandwiches and drink on with you and you’ll have a pleasant flight. You’ll even get to see the elevators and contrails and since no one wants to be there, it’s likely you’ll have spare seats next to you. Worst part on that was it was windy so on the ground I was swaying all over the place.
    As for domestic – I agree but it’s what? A 4 hour flight at best. Deal with it.

  10. Mike Rivers

    February 1, 2020 at 4:45 am

    I don’t have someone else’s money to spend when I travel, so I always fly coach, or, when it’s an option, fly Southwest so I can sit wherever I want if I check in early enough. In my dotterage, I don’t fly enough to be anything but the lowest rank of frequent flyer so I don’t get a break there.

    More often these days, after checking seat availability on my flight of choice, I’ve sprung the extra $30 for a the privilege of choosing a seat if there’s a decent one available, but I havenn’t yet been able to bring myself to say “I’m worth it” and pay for a higher class. can give you a clue as to where to not sit if, like me, you don’t fly enough to get to know cabin layouts well.

  11. ConnieDee

    February 1, 2020 at 7:27 am

    This seems to be in the UA forum, and I rarely fly UA. But in general, sometimes you just have to force an Attitude Adjustment on yourself to get through a flight. I learned this once on Southwest on a segment from Tampa to New Orleans. (I was already exhausted from a family-reunion/party in NYC.) There was a bachelor party of middle-aged Good Ol Boys on the same flight and when I saw them all heading towards my section on the plane, I just put on my happy face and decided to bury all my prejudices about less-than-genteel behavior of drinking guys. I even went into a kind of cultural anthropologist mode. The flight was fine, they bought me a drink, we had polite conversation, I did indeed learn more about the culture of the region.

    Anyway, it’s possible. The more prep you can do before the flight, the better (ear plugs, food, good personal distraction, etc. etc. etc.)

  12. NonnaGoes

    February 1, 2020 at 9:18 am

    The last time I sat in deep coach was 2009. Coach seats,r/t, to Europe were going for about $600, I was starting a business, and we wanted to see our daughter who lives in Italy.

    I booked us into the exit row at the back on an NWA wide body. Which may have worked for Husband’s long legs. But the majority of the other occupants were members of a high school band.

    Throughout the night, one particular kid would, at random intervals, loudly proclaim, “DUDE! WE’RE GOING TO ITALY!”

    So no sleep for us. The only saving grace was that we’d built in a long layover at AMS to go into the city, so they went on without us.

    That was my last flight trans oceanic in the back of the plane. Husband tried once more, when I was already at Daughter’s house. He was miserable.

    When we flew back together, we were up front.

  13. edgewood49

    February 1, 2020 at 9:38 am

    Happy for AJNEDC for his ability to fly above us ! All kidding aside Joe that is the first time I have heard “deep coach” very good. I do remember days when as as student no one cared. but the there was room now being tall I am not sure

  14. BC Shelby

    February 1, 2020 at 10:26 am

    …I’ve been referring to it as “Steerage Class” for a while.

  15. snidely

    February 1, 2020 at 11:44 am

    There are probably a number of us that use method “Ksandness” mentioned above. I don’t want to give details, either. All I can say is – if the flight is 100% full it obviously can’t work.

  16. SamirD

    February 1, 2020 at 2:03 pm

    Deep Coach…sounds like the similarly titled x rated movie title–coincidence?

  17. Motek

    February 1, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    It’s fine that you want to push your own site first but I am surprised that this story did not mention either or, whose sole purpose is to help flyers avoid bad seats.

  18. zarkov505

    February 1, 2020 at 8:05 pm

    I finally gave up and found the simpler answer, for AA at least.

    Most of my flying these days is transPacific hops, to and from Bangkok, by way of Tokyo or Hong Kong.

    Book the long hop on Japan Airlines or Cathay Pacific, as an AA codeshare. JL and CX know who pays their salary, even indirectly, and they take care of their passengers, even in Coach. AA doesn’t, not any more.

    Yes, you give up the possibility of upgrading to Business Class. These days, if you’re just a lowly Platinum, you can basically kiss that hope goodbye. I actually went so far as to let my Platinum status drop back to (Lifetime) Gold for this year: It WASN’T worth the $1600 they wanted me to pay to keep it.

  19. simpleflyer

    February 3, 2020 at 7:04 pm

    Oh my.

    Come on back and join us hoi polloi in the back of the bus, it’s not that bad. I agree about tight seating – on a flight YUL-CDG I was in the last third of the plane in a middle seat in a 3 -4-3 Boeing 777. Drop something and you have to get really creative to figure out how to retrieve it.

    But the people? I can’t be flying on the same plane. People in the back can be good natured and cooperative. Like Connie Dee, look for good people, you usually find them.

  20. myisland

    February 6, 2020 at 1:04 pm

    How are these seats?
    United Economy (HN)
    Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner
    Seat 44J
    Seat 33J

  21. MarkOK

    February 6, 2020 at 2:37 pm

    What nonsense. If I am in ordinary coach, on most planes I always pick the last few rows — closer to the bathroom, better chances of having an empty seat next to you (though more unlikely lately), and closer to the gallery to get another drink on longer haul flights. The regular economy rows behind the ‘+” seats are usually where the neurotic passengers are who just can’t stand being 1 row further back than they have to be.

  22. ed_satx

    February 9, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    if i fly coach, i always request the very last row and use my status fior early boarding. the flight attendants are cool to talk to, it’s way less crowded and bathroom is like 3 feet away. only draw back is deplaning, but I just chill out and wait until everyone is off which is actually less stressful than waiting mid-plane.

  23. mhrb

    March 2, 2020 at 12:47 pm

    What a thick article. You usually find more flight noobs struggling to find their seat or extract luggage from the overhead bins at the front of the economy cabins.

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