Airlines don’t struggle to get bums on seats. It’s us that fight tooth and nail — virtually, at least — to score a primo spot on any short- or long-haul journey. And by primo, I mean two or three extra inches of legroom, the window wall to lean on for precious snooze minutes, or the aisle if you’re like me and prefer not to give your neighbour a mini-lap dance as you climb across to visit the loo.
Choosing your seat on board can be a stressful process. I’m going to put it right up there alongside marriage, divorce and buying a house. You know, the big four. I’ve mentioned my personal obsession with the subject before, and it’s something I expect I’ll obsess over for many years to come. As long as I’m slumming it in economy, anyway.
The truth is, everyone’s got their own idea of the seating sweet spot — front of the plane or back, left, right or middle section. But now, thanks to a recent poll conducted by Skyscanner surveying over 1,000 airline passengers on their seat preferences, we have a few clear winners. And losers.
Excluding the obvious extra-legroom seats (bulkhead, for example), the most sought-after seat on a standard aircraft is … drumroll … 6A. According to the poll, the first six rows of the plane are where most passengers choose to be. Is this because when you’re further up the plane you can pretend you’re in first class? Apparently many believe it’s less noisy up front, plus you have the bonus of leaving the plane first. And, I’m sure we’ve all felt the pain of being seated near the back and finding out those greedy buggers ahead have nabbed all the chicken alfredos, leaving only fish pie for dinner.
But the back has its perks, too. You can get on the plane first, which has the major advantage of allowing you to score premium overhead bin space for your carry-on. (With the amount of crap people haul onto the plane these days, that space is golden.) And it’s at the rear of the plane that you’re most likely to find a spare seat — a rarity, I’ll admit — thanks to everyone else choosing to sit further up.
Taking home the title of worst seat is 31E — a middle seat (surprise, surprise) near the back. I’m sure in reality it’s interchangeable with a number of others in the same area, but I know that next time I’m strolling down the aisles to stretch my legs, I won’t be able to help but sneak a pitying glance at the poor soul doomed to that special number.
For most of us, we’re stuck with our seating choice whether made online or at check-in, so it makes sense to at least try and pick well. Unless you’re one of those seat-swapping types. You know what I’m talking about. They’ll wander up and down the plane eyeing up any spots that look more desirable than their own, possibly carrying a small child or elderly grandma as a weapon for persuasion.
But I’m not falling for that. Oh no. I chose my seat specifically and I’m not budging. The most important key to avoiding getting caught in a seat-swapping situation is to avoid eye contact altogether. You can try looking determinedly out the window, or at your crossword, or having a deeply serious conversation with your neighbour.
Or, my new favourite, try pretending to be asleep. Don’t worry about the fact that you only boarded the plane five minutes ago. You’ve had a busy holiday and you’re exhausted! Slump heavily onto the person next to you (someone you actually know is ideal, but not a necessity) and maybe add in a snore or two for effect. Works like a charm, I promise.