4 Tools for Finding the Perfect Airplane Seat

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Which seat do you prefer?

Window, aisle or middle? Countless fliers have faced that age-old question, the answer to which could have serious implications for the enjoyment of any flight. A collection of online tools and apps is now helping passengers settle the issue once and for all.

The question of seating is actually quite complicated. Aside from the three classic options, there are exit–row seats, bulkhead seats, seats located in the proximity of restrooms, plus physical differences in the seats themselves.

If you’re a seasoned flier, you may well have all these variables committed to memory already. Unfortunately, what you can’t control is your fellow passengers, and by the time you scour an airline’s online seating chart for your beloved aft/aisle/exit row throne, some rube may have snagged that very seat without even knowing that he’s in possession of the gold standard. What’s a discerning flier to do?

With ExpertFlyer's new Seat Alerts, you might still have a chance at reclaiming your rightful place. ExpertFlyer allows you to search the seating map for an upcoming flight and set up a Seat Alert for any seat (or range of seats) you wish. If that seat opens up before the flight, ExpertFlyer will send you an email notification of the vacancy so that you can contact the airline and change your seating arrangement. (Beware of additional airline fees for doing so.)

With a free ExpertFlyer account, travelers can set up one Seat Alert at a time. Additional Alerts cost $.99 each, or users can purchase monthly Basic ($4.99) or Premium ($9.99) accounts that allow up to thirty alerts plus lots of other features.

But what if you don’t know a bulkhead from a bassinet seat? There are tools for that, too. Paid ExpertFlyer accounts come complete with reviews and ratings from SeatGuru, permitting even beginners to the cutthroat world of airline seating to figure out which seats are best for a given flight. SeatGuru not only provides free color-coded seating maps, but also detailed comments on leg room and degrees of recline.

SeatGuru is the venerable king of the airline–seating industry—it launched back in 2001—but there are newcomers challenging the crown. Seat Authority, a $2.99 iPhone app, gives fliers similar information in a handy portable package. Aside from over a hundred seat maps, Seat Authority provides photos of the seats in question and all the necessary comfort metrics: width, seat pitch, and recline.

For ease of use, the recently launched Jets iPhone app is hard to beat. Jets displays crisp seating maps from its database of flights, and lets users select specific seats to get the pros and cons of each. Even the most inexperienced flier can develop an understanding of seating dynamics from Jets’ clean graphical interface, and at $2.99, the app costs the same as Seat Authority. Both are a cheap price to pay for the assurance that you won’t end up wedged against a bulkhead or suffering from the foot traffic—and aromatics—of a nearby restroom.

Are you that uncommon flier who prefers the middle seat, or does the aisle or window win you over? Vote in our poll and explain your answers in the comments below.

—Ryan Murphy


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