Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight
Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Know Your Airplane Layouts
Knowing the layout of the airplane you'll be flying on can make a huge difference in choosing the best seat for your needs. With dozens of aircraft types crisscrossing the globe every day, it pays to do your homework before booking a seat.
The most important factor is the number of aisles on your aircraft. Narrowbody planes like the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320 generally have only a single aisle and 3-6 seats per row. Widebody aircraft such as the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380 have two aisles and can pack in 9 seats or more per row.
Within each row, the center seats will often have slightly less legroom than aisle or window seats. However, bulkhead rows and exit rows typically offer extra legroom due to the positioning of walls and doors. These prime seats are usually reserved for elite frequent flyer members or can be purchased for an additional fee.
The recline range of seats also varies significantly by aircraft. For example, some budget carriers have removed reclining capabilities altogether in certain rows. And lie-flat business class seats on long-haul flights offer virtually unlimited recline. So if the ability to recline is important to you, be sure to check seat specs in advance.
Overhead bin space is another key factor when selecting seats. Bulkhead rows and rows near lavatories or galleys often have little or no overhead bin space since that area is used for operational needs. Opt for standard row seats in the middle of the cabin if having space to store a rollerboard bag above your seat is a priority.
Also pay attention to where lavatories and galleys are located on the aircraft schematics when choosing a seat. Sitting near these high-traffic areas can mean interrupted sleep on red-eyes due to flushing noises, passengers waiting in line, and flight attendants preparing food and beverage service.
Power outlets for charging devices are now common on most planes, but their location and availability varies. Do your homework to see if your desired seat has a power outlet or USB port so you can stay charged up. Newer planes typically have outlets at every seat.
While airplane layouts within the same model are generally consistent, there can be minor variations. So don't assume that all 737s or A320s have the same exact seating. Check the specific aircraft tail number against the airline's seat maps to be 100% sure.
What else is in this post?
- Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Know Your Airplane Layouts
- Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Focus on Legroom and Recline
- Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Check for Misaligned Windows or Bulkheads
- Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Pick Seats Near Lavatories and Gallies Wisely
- Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Consider Noise and Engine Vibration
- Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Look Out for Limited Recline and Missing Windows
- Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Beware of Seats Without Underseat Storage
- Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Use SeatGuru to Decode Seat Numbers and Letters
Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Focus on Legroom and Recline
When selecting an airplane seat, two of the most important factors for comfort are legroom and recline range. Having ample legroom allows you to stretch out without your knees hitting the seat in front of you, while reclining enables you to relax or even catch some sleep during a long flight. So be sure to pay close attention to these specs when booking your seat.
Legroom, which refers to the distance from your seat to the one in front of you, can vary widely depending on the specific aircraft and seating configuration. Standard legroom in economy class often ranges from about 30-32 inches on many major US airlines. However, newer planes like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or Airbus A350 typically provide an extra inch or two of legroom in coach.
Bulkhead rows and exit rows usually offer the most legroom on any given aircraft, with 35 inches or more of stretch out space in many cases. That's because there are no seats directly in front of these rows due to the positioning of walls, doors, and galley areas. Airlines will often charge extra for these prime legroom seats, but they're worth considering if having maximum personal space is your top priority.
When it comes to recline, not all seats are created equal either. Most standard economy class seats have a relatively modest recline range of just 4-5 inches. However, premium economy seats may recline up to 8 inches, while lie-flat business class seats can go completely horizontal at the touch of a button.
Newer slimline seats installed on many aircraft also recline less than older, bulkier models. And ultra low-cost carriers like Spirit have removed the recline function altogether on some seats to cram in extra rows. So if the ability to recline is important to you, carefully examine the specs before choosing your seat.
To maximize both legroom and recline, consensus among frequent flyers is that exit row seats are prized real estate. The combination of ample legroom and enhanced recline makes it easier to work on a laptop, enjoy inflight entertainment, and sleep. Sites like SeatGuru offer detailed info on the exact distance and degree of recline for individual seats on virtually any aircraft.
Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Check for Misaligned Windows or Bulkheads
When selecting a window seat, be aware that not all windows align perfectly with the rows of seats. This misalignment can mean the difference between gazing at panoramic views from cruising altitude or staring at the wall or bulkhead for your entire flight. Make sure to carefully examine the aircraft seating chart to avoid this scenario.
Bulkheads, located at the front of airplane cabins, often throw off the window alignment in the first few rows. For example, the bulkhead wall may start halfway into row 5 on a Boeing 737, meaning there is no window for the aisle and middle seats. Picking a supposed “window seat” in row 4 could leave you windowless once onboard.
Even without a bulkhead, minor misalignments happen on certain aircraft models. On some 737s, the first window is a few inches forward of row 1, so again those aisle seats end up without a real view. And the curvature of the fuselage can cause alignment quirks further back in the cabin as well.
These kinds of alignment issues are most pronounced on single-aisle jets like the 737 and A320 family. But you may also encounter them on twin-aisle planes, where the complex curvature of the fuselage leads to windows positioned between seat rows rather than lining up perfectly.
To avoid picking a ‘fake’ window seat, carefully examine the airline’s seating chart before booking, counting how many windows are shown for each row. Crosscheck against SeatGuru’s layout diagrams. And read comments from other travelers about their experiences in that row and aircraft.
Also, beware of misalignments caused by last-minute aircraft swaps. Airlines frequently substitute planes at the last minute, so even an accurately-aligned seat could go windowless if you end up on a different aircraft. Not much you can do about bad luck, but reviewing seat maps right up until departure gives you the best shot at that dream window vista.
For avgeeks and aviation photographers, getting a real window with an unobstructed exterior view is crucial. But even casual flyers will likely feel disappointed when their ‘window’ is just a wall or misplaced pane. Following these alignment tips will let you relax and enjoy the view rather than getting stuck next to sheet metal for hours on end.
Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Pick Seats Near Lavatories and Gallies Wisely
When selecting your ideal airplane seat, don’t forget to consider the location of lavatories and galleys. Sitting too close to these high-traffic zones can seriously disrupt your inflight experience, especially on long overnight flights. So make sure to check out bathroom and galley placement before locking in your seat assignment.
First, let’s talk lavatories. These tiny airplane bathrooms see constant foot traffic from passengers and crew. Sitting in a middle seat right outside the lav means you’ll be forced into involuntary yoga poses every time someone needs to squeeze past your knees on bathroom runs. And expect bright light to flood your row each time the bathroom door swings open, making it tough to sleep.
You’ll also have to bear the sounds of flushing, running water, and toilet paper rolls spinning violently. Newer airliner bathrooms are getting quieter, but those noises can still be jarring when you’re right outside the door. And ever catch a whiff of nasty odors emanating from the bathrooms? Sitting too close magnifies those smells exponentially.
For overnight long-haul flights, avoid bathroom rows at all costs. The perpetual activity will nuke any chance of quality shut-eye. On shorter hops, the bathroom hustle may be tolerable, but try to stay at least a few rows away if serenity is a priority.
Now let’s discuss galleys. These cramped kitchens are where flight attendants store, prepare, and serve food and drinks. Sitting near the galley means you’ll hear continuous clanking of bottles, glasses, coffee pots, ovens, trash bins, and carts being rolled up and down the aisle.
Meal and beverage services also lead to congregations of flight attendants chatting loudly just feet away from you. And galleys are bright 24/7, making it impossible to sleep. Windows near galleys usually have shades permanently shut too.
However, one advantage of galley rows is that flight attendants offer expedited service there. So if having first dibs on meals and drinks matters most, don’t shy away from sitting near the airplane kitchen. Just bring earplugs and an eyemask for uninterrupted rest.
Studying the aircraft layout before booking is the only way to detect lav and galley placement. They’re usually located at the front and rear of the cabin, but positions vary significantly between plane models. Sites like SeatGuru provide detailed lavatory and galley schematics for virtually any aircraft.
Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Consider Noise and Engine Vibration
When cruising at 30,000 feet, the last thing you want is to be rattled out of sleep every few minutes by deafening noise or vibrations from the engines. Although air travel has certainly gotten quieter over the decades, where you sit can still make a huge difference in terms of inflight noise and discomfort.
Jet noise originates from two main sources - the engines and turbulence airflow over the fuselage. Clearly, sitting closer to the engines amplifies noise exponentially. The difference in sound levels between the back and front of the plane is massive. One study measured a range between 77 decibels near the engines to just 62 decibels in the rear cabin. That's a huge 15 decibel difference, which equates to the engines sounding twice as loud in those forward rows.
Noise also enters the cabin every time the plane's wings slice through turbulent air, creating that eerie droning or rumbling sound. Sitting over or near the wings means taking the brunt of that turbulence-related noise. Opting for a seat aft (rear) of the wings provides noticeable relief from turbulent airflow noise.
When it comes to physical vibrations and rattling, once again the rear cabin provides the smoothest ride. As with noise, the engines are the main instigators, causing tactile vibrations that resonate through the structure and seats. Sitting farther away dampens those shakes and rattles. Changes in engine power settings during climb and descent cause the most intense vibrations, which is why choosing the back seats provides the gentlest ride.
In general, noise and vibration complaints are highest among passengers in forward economy class seats, simply due to proximity to the engines. Rear cabin seats in economy class are vastly quieter and smoother. Of course, if money is no object, your best bet is to fly first or business class, where physical separation from the engines creates an oasis of quiet and comfort.
Premium economy is also significantly quieter than standard economy thanks to special noise dampening materials built into the seat structures. But expect to pay hundreds more for the sound reductions premium economy provides. If sticking to coach, do your homework to snag those cherished back cabin seats using tips from sites like SeatGuru.
Other factors like aircraft model play a role too. The 787 Dreamliner's composite fuselage actively reduces cabin noise versus conventional aluminum planes. And the 777's engines produce less noise thanks to sweptback design and noise-absorbing chevrons built into the rear casing. But for any given plane, the back still beats the front for smooth sailing.
Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Look Out for Limited Recline and Missing Windows
One of the biggest bummers when settling into your economy class seat is discovering your recline range barely budges or worse - finding out your window is actually a misaligned porthole or missing altogether. Nothing bursts your happy place bubble faster than limited leaning or no view. So let's explore how to avoid these gotchas that can turn dreamy flights into enduring nightmares.
First up, the dreaded limited or non-recline situation. Airlines are cramming more and more rows into planes nowadays, meaning less elbow room and tinier seat pitch. And to make room for extra rows, some have nixed reclining capabilities altogether in certain areas. Generally it's the last three to five rows where recline is either restricted to just an inch or two or removed completely.
This phenomenon is especially common among ultra low-cost carriers like Spirit, Allegiant and Frontier Airlines, which often have no recline for at least a third of all seats. Even full-service carriers are limiting recline on their economy class seats. For instance, Delta's entire Comfort+ cabin has only 2 inches of recline.
So before you book, scrutinize the airline's seat map carefully for notes about limited or blocked recline zones. Cross-reference against SeatGuru's handy color-coded recline charts which flag problem areas on virtually every aircraft. And definitely read comments from other travelers about their actual recline experiences so there are no surprises once airborne.
Now onto the heartbreak of booking a window seat and ending up next to a wall or misaligned pane. This usually happens on single-aisle jets, especially in the first few rows. The curved fuselage shape pushes windows out of alignment with some seats. You may end up staring at seat tracks or plastic panels inches from your face rather than peering out at majestic cloud formations.
Sometimes even the middle seats get faked out - with windows only lining up with the aisles. So you'll see rows with just a single off-center window rather than the usual two or three per row. Bulkheads are notorious for misaligned or fully blocked windows too.
To avoid airplane design conspiring against your window wishes, inspect the airline's seat maps very closely before booking. Count the actual windows shown for a given row on the diagram. Cross-check SeatGuru's layouts. And definitely read other travelers' window views (or lack thereof) from that row and plane type in the comments.
Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Beware of Seats Without Underseat Storage
Stashing your personal item underneath the seat in front of you is a basic expectation for air travelers. After all, airlines strictly limit carry-on bags, so that precious space between your feet is your only option on crowded flights. But what if you score a window seat and discover there's no underseat storage due to the aircraft configuration? This nightmare scenario plays out on countless flights every day.
AvGeeks and frequent flyers advise vigilance when selecting seats to avoid getting stuck with useless underseat zones. On narrowbody jets, the crime is usually committed by overzealous airlines cramming one too many rows into the cabin. To make room for more paying customers, they steal legroom and storage space from that last row.
So beware of the final few rows on planes like the 737 or A320 where underseat room has been cannibalized or removed completely to eke out a few extra inches of precious real estate for an extra row or two. This phenomenon is especially common on ultra low-cost carriers like Spirit that are masters of maximizing capacity and squeezing in consumers like sardines in a tin can.
But other more insidious design choices can also render underseat storage obsolete. Rows situated in front of emergency exit doors are a common culprit, since evacuation slides and doors eat up the space where your bag would normally reside. Unless you can magically compress your personal item into a pancake stack, these rows are no go zones.
Bulkhead rows can also be storage bait-and-switches, thanks to walls replacing the typical seatbacks. So before you excitedly reserve that coveted first row, double check if it has actual underseat capacity or if you'll end up playing awkward Tetris in the overhead bin instead.
Even the dreaded middle seat can have bag storage issues, as awkwardly-positioned fixtures gobble up real estate. We're looking at you, inflight entertainment boxes. These cumbersome devices housing screens, cables, and electronics can spill under the middle seat and swallow bags whole in certain configurations.
Triplet row layouts, usually found on twin-aisle widebodies, also play storage tricks with their staggered seating. That coveted window perch may align with the backside of staircase, a sidewall, or some other aircraft structure eating up storage space.
Choose Your Cruising Altitude: How SeatGuru Helps You Find the Most Comfortable Seat on Any Flight - Use SeatGuru to Decode Seat Numbers and Letters
Deciphering those cryptic strings of numbers, letters, and symbols that airlines use for seat assignments can be downright baffling for travelers. I mean what the heck does “12F” or “34J” even signify anyway? Well folks, allow me to let you in on a little industry secret - airline seating codes do actually follow a method to the madness. Once you crack the code using invaluable tools like SeatGuru, you’ll be reading those airline hieroglyphics like a pro in no time.
See, seat numbers and letters are far from being assigned randomly. There’s meaning in every digit and character. Let me walk you through the basic conventions. First, numbers indicate the row, starting with 1 or 2 at the front of the cabin, and ascending sequentially towards the rear. Standard coach cabins on single aisle planes like the 737 max out around row 35, while big double decker jets like the A380 stretch to 70+ rows.
Next up are those pesky letters coming after the row number. This alphabet denotes the seat position across the row. On almost all aircraft, A and F signify window seats, B, E and J are middles, while C and D indicate aisles. Yes, it really is that consistent! The letters just incrementally fill the row layout from windows inward to aisles. Once you memorize the letter pattern, decoding becomes second nature.
Sometimes airlines add extra elements like subclass letters or number suffixes. For instance 12HZ or 24KX. This simply conveys seat attributes like extra legroom, restricted recline, closet proximity or misaligned windows. The core row and letter position still reveals the primary location details though.
For business and first class cabins, the numbering scheme usually starts over from 1 rather than continuing the coach sequence. After all, airlines want to maintain the illusion of exclusivity. And seats are often lettered starting with A and K as the aisles on widebodies. The specific conventions vary more widely among global carriers, especially when it comes to premium seating numbering and codes.
Of course, the acid test is matching the airline’s code with the actual seat maps. That’s where SeatGuru comes in clutch, offering detailed interactive charts showing the exact layout of seating on every cabin. Once you visually line up the alphanumeric with the precise diagram, all becomes clear. Pro tip: Print your airline’s seating map along with your boarding pass for easy onboard decoding!