Which Airplane Seat Do You Prefer?

hqdefaultI’m a middle-seat guy.

Apparently that’s a rare preference–so much so that airline experts are actively discussing ideas of how to encourage people to choose the middle seat. As this Fast Company article noted, “[The middle seat is] inherently less comfortable, and a third of people on a plane will be stuck with it.”

When I was young, I enjoyed the window seat. Back then, flying was still a small miracle, as was the view from the heavens. Now I just want to close the window the reduce the glare. Plus, the slant of the plane provides less leg room for the window passenger.

As I grew older, I started preferring the aisle seat. More leg room, better view of what was happening on the plane, direct lane to the bathroom. But that also means that people are always climbing over you to go to the bathroom, and you live in fear of the drink cart bashing an adrift knee or elbow.

So one day I looked around and realized that the seat I had been looking for my whole life was right there in the middle. It doesn’t have the negative qualities of the other two seats, and there’s ample leg room. Plus, when you’re okay with the middle seat, you often have your pick of any seat on the plane. Every time I walk onto a Southwest flight, ALL of my favorite seats are available. It’s awesome.

I’m curious where you stand (or sit) in terms of seating preference–there’s a poll below to see which seat is the most popular.

11 thoughts on “Which Airplane Seat Do You Prefer?”

    • Richard: Interesting, I can see how the length of the flight would impact where you’d want to sit, especially with the bathroom factor.

  1. I’m pretty torn on which seat I like best, and I tend to wing it (no pun intended) depending on my mood.

    On one hand, you’ve got the aisle seat. You’ve got the freedom to come and go as you please without disturbing anyone, but it leaves you vulnerable to attacks (from both people and from snakes on a plane). Even standing a measly 5’0 with legs stumpier than a dachshund/corgi mix, I’ve still gotten bashed with the drink cart plenty of times when my feet dared to move a few inches outside the end of the row, if even for a moment. It’s like the flight attendants wait for the chance to hit my feet as soon as they appear, like some kind of twisted version of Whack-a-Mole.

    You also have to deal with bags smacking you as people walk by when boarding, and the awkward times when you’re seated but someone is using the overhead compartment and you’re essentially face level with their crotch. It sounds like the beginning of a letter to Penthouse, but the reality is never as exciting.

    On the other hand, you’ve got the window seat. You’re all cosy and tucked in, but there’s the window dilemma. You’re basically deciding for the entire row whether the window shade will be up or down for the flight. It’s like you’re setting the mood for everyone – a window DJ if you will. That’s almost too much pressure for me. That kind of responsibility comes only second to the people in the emergency exit row who have to verbally affirm that they are up to the task of taking over the flight controls and saving everyone on board if the pilot suddenly collapses (I’ve never actually sat in the exit row, but I’m 99% sure this is part of the responsibility. I think they also have to take over drink service if the flight attendants need a break, but I’m not certain. There is no monetary compensation for this – only a slightly better chance that their luggage will not get lost). I feel like all window seat occupants need to take a similar vow to affirm their willingness to take on the window DJ’ing responsibility. This is not a task to be taken lightly.

    I also feel like a good window seater will take one for the team and stay put on any flight that’s less than 4 hours in length. If you’re constantly getting up to stretch or go to the bathroom, you have no business sitting by the window. I was super thirsty when I got on my last flight (I was in the desert in August) and drank a bunch of water without thinking when I sat down by the window. Three hours in, I was dying to go to the bathroom and had to get up. I could feel the disappointment in the eyes of my row mates; they’d put their trust in me and I’d let the team down.

    However, even with all of these worries, the aisle or window are always preferable to the middle, you masochist. I know I’ll have at least one arm rest to use, and the chances of getting a weird seatmate are cut in half. I don’t have two people boxing me in and breathing all over me. I feel like there is some kind of way to angle yourself on either end to at least have the illusion of some privacy. The middle seat is the stockade of the airplane. You’re locked into place against your will to the point where even itching your nose is virtually impossible.

    TL;DR: I overthink air travel immensely.

  2. Katie wins the comments! LOL, well done!
    I fly three or four cross-country round-trips a year for work, and three or four leisure trips as well, often cross-country. I’m Alaska MVP and I stick with them… this lets everyone in my party check two bags for free AND we also get to choose seats in the first 12 rows of coach. Once in awhile, it even gets me bumped to first class.
    I am a window gal all the way. I’m short enough (5’2″) and thin enough (140 lbs) that I’d FIT just about anywhere… I can stand up under the overhead compartment. I love people, and I’m an extravert, but I have one foible about airplane flight… I have to feel like I can BREATHE (this comes from five years of sleep apnea, when I was over 300 lbs., combined with lifelong asthma). Not only do I have to twizzle the air vent to full blast, never mind the dry skin, it turns out I need SHOULDER room. If I sit between two guys with big shoulders, I literally feel like I cannot catch my breath. It’s exhausting. Over in the window seat, even if there’s a quarterback in the middle, I can angle over next to the side of the jet and breathe freely. Yes, I know it’s weird.
    I do control my beverage intake so that on a 5-6 hour flight, I need only one restroom break. I also try to time that well, when my seatmates are also stirring around and therefore not inconvenienced. I’d have to be convinced I was going to die to actually wake someone up. 🙂
    Also, did you know that the people who have window seats next to the wing have a very important job? It’s their job to watch their wing and make sure that it doesn’t fall off. I am not a nervous flier in any way, but I do feel compelled to keep an eye on things when I sit near the wing, often going so far as to remind my peer on the other wing of their responsibility to us all. It’s fun being a little weird… it keeps people from droning on in three-hour conversations about their church.
    SO, Jamey, I salute you for your middle-seat preference. It’s brave. I also know that I try hard to be a good seatmate, and if we sat together, we probably would end up talking a little bit before I hid in my Bose and my iPod.

    • Julia: “I’d have to be convinced I was going to die to actually wake someone up.” That’s awesome. As someone who sleeps on planes, I wouldn’t mind if a fellow passenger wakes me up to go to the bathroom! 🙂

  3. I discovered on my last flight that the best seat is an aisle seat on the centre aisle. This doesn’t apply on the small 3×3 planes, but on 3x4x3, it’s perfect. You get all the benefits of the aisle seat, but there’s only one person (at most) who will want to climb over you, and if you pretend to be asleep, you’ve got a chance they’ll climb out the other way

    • Yes! I agree with you on that, RodeoClown. I need that aisle seat so I can get up and move around on long flights. Last time I flew was a 13 hour flight and I got up to go to the back of the plane to do some squats and lunges. And if some of those middle seat are empty, more space for me to sleep more comfortably.


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