Guide to Booking the Best Airline Seats

update:2007-09-03

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SeatGuru.com was created to help fliers recognize and understand the differences between airline seats and in-flight amenities. The below guide provides tips to help you secure the best seat on your flight.


Research the options before you book.

These days, many tools are available to help the airline traveler make informed booking decisions. In addition to providing a list of flight options, most booking engines also tell you what type of aircraft each airline will be flying and what seats are still available for your flight. If you take a few extra minutes to examine all this information, it can have a significant impact on your travel.

  • Look beyond price. While the cost of a plane ticket is certainly important, if you only consider this single factor when booking, you could be missing out on a better travel experience. While buying a cheaper ticket will save you money, it might cost you a more enjoyable journey with a better entertainment system, a power port, or even a better seat.

  • Compare seat pitch and width dimensions. Seat pitch and width can vary greatly between airline carriers and aircraft type. While one or two extra inches of pitch may not seem significant, it can make a huge difference in terms of comfort and productivity. Two more inches of pitch usually means your knees won't be touching the seat back in front of you and you'll be able to fully open your laptop screen. When you're comparing flights, be sure to check out SeatGuru's sortable Comparison Charts to help you identify the differences between seat pitch and width. Select the Comparison Charts section from the left-hand menu system and choose the chart that corresponds to the class of service you'll be flying. If you don't know how to determine your airplane type, read our guide to identifying your aircraft.

  • Compare in-flight amenities. Having a personal video screen or power port to plug in your laptop or DVD player can make any trip more enjoyable. It can be more relaxing for the leisure traveler, help kids stay entertained during longer flights, and help business travelers stay productive while traveling. Airline carriers offer very different types of amenities, especially for international travel. When you're comparing flights, be sure to check out SeatGuru's sortable Comparison Charts to help you identify the differences in in-flight amenities. Select the Comparison Charts section from the left-hand menu system and choose the chart that corresponds to the class of service you'll be flying. If you don't know how to determine your airplane type, read our guide to identifying your aircraft.

  • Compare seat availability. Most major booking engines allow you to view Seat Availability for flights before you even select them for your itinerary. Be sure to look at these availability maps and compare them to corresponding seat map for that airline and aircraft on SeatGuru.com. If the only seats that are available are Red seats, in may be worth booking on an alternate flight.

Select a seat at time of booking.

To get a preferred seat on a plane, it is extremely important to select your seat as early as possible. Most booking engines and airlines allow you to select your seat at time of purchase. Select the best available seat by comparing the airline or booking engine seat map to the corresponding seat map on SeatGuru. Even if your first choice seat is not available, select another option to ensure you have a seat assignment; it can usually be changed later.

If seat selection is not available when booking online, call the airline directly.

If seat selection is not available through the airline's website or booking engine, call the airline immediately after you have completed your online booking to make your seat selection with a phone agent.

Confirm your seat assignment the week you are flying.

Airlines sometimes switch the aircraft type close to the departure date due to load factors and maintenance. When these changes are made, pre-reserved seats are re-assigned and you could lose the seat you so carefully selected. In addition, airlines will often release seats that were previously not available for assignment. If you continue to check back on your flight and aircraft type you'll increase your chances of keeping the seat you want and perhaps even grabbing a better seat when one becomes available.

Check-in online.

Many airlines do not allow exit rows and bulkhead seats to be booked in advance and only allow passengers to select these seats on the day of flight. As online check-in is now widely available, you can secure a better seat without having to arrive at the airport hours and hours before your flight. You can even check-in online if you have bags to check! For more information about online check-in, select the Check-In tab at the top of the Airline's General Information page on SeatGuru.com.

Request a seat when upgrades are being processed at the gate.

If the Business and First Class cabins are not full on your flight, the gate agents will upgrade passengers who are on the upgrade list. Often, the passengers who are upgrading have elite status or are full fare passengers. In both cases, the seats these passengers are leaving behind in the Economy section are often preferred seats. If you communicate with the gate agent you might have the opportunity to change your seat assignment to one of these newly available seats.

Consider obtaining elite status on an airline.

Airlines often allow their customers with elite status to pre-book preferred seats, enabling exit row and bulkhead seating to be secured well in advance of day of flight. If you think you'll be flying enough miles in a given year to qualify for elite status, it may be worthwhile to only book with one airline. Follow the Mileage Program links on each General Plane page to find out the status requirements for each airline.

 

SOURCE: By SeatGuru.com