How to choose the best seats on a plane

Whether you’re seeking the safest seat in the house, the best spot for sleeping or an extra-spacious allocation, we’ve found 10 of the best seats on a plane for a fantastic in-flight experience.

Choosing the best seats on a plane needn’t be a difficult task. While seating and aisle structure may vary between aircraft and ticket classes, all you really need to know is where the wings are. Whether you’re an experienced traveller or a first-time flier, we’ve found a specific seat to solve every onboard concern, from the safest spots and extra legroom to catching Zs, not germs.

The safest seats on a plane 

A 2015 review into 35 years of the Federal Aviation Administration’s CSRTG Aircraft Accident Database conducted by TIME found that the best seats on a plane for safety are the middle seats towards the rear of an aircraft – behind the trailing edge of the wing, in the last third – as they have the highest survival rate in crashes. Aisle seats are best in case of evacuation. However, it’s important to remember that flying is one of the safest modes of transport, and the odds of perishing in a plane crash are one to 11 million. 

The smoothest seats on a plane 

Travellers troubled by turbulence should take note of the wing position on the aircraft in which they’re flying. The best seats on a plane for mitigating the effects of in-flight irregularities are right on top of the wings, as the wings are designed to keep the flight smooth and balanced. The aircraft’s centre of lift and gravity is at the wing point, so these seats tend to enjoy a smoother ride. If such a seat selection isn’t possible, aim towards the front of the aircraft. Turbulence is the worst in the rearmost rows as the tail feels more bounce in bumpy conditions. 

Rear of plane seat; tv in plane seat
© Unsplash/ Nathan Dumlao & Alev Takil

The quietest seats on a plane 

While almost any position within an aircraft is exposed to the incessant droning of the engines, aviation experts believe the best seats on a plane for an ear-friendly flight are towards the front of the cabin (as far forward as your budget allows) and on the aisle. Seats over the wing or towards the rear of the aircraft, and next to windows, are thought to be marginally louder 

The best seats on a plane for sleep

Passengers prioritising their beauty sleep should book a ticket in the middle of the aircraft, as far from galleys and bathrooms as possible. A window seat will make drifting off a little easier as it provides a solid wall against which to rest a weary head. Avoid sitting in the very last row or the seats in front of the exit row, as these seats often don’t recline as much – or at all. 

The seats with the best view 

Fliers who are desperate to catch an aerial glimpse of their next destination should secure a window seat in front of the wing for uninterrupted views of the land below. 

looking out plane window; woman in empty row of plane seats
© Unsplash/ Connor Jalbert & Robert Penaloza

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The most spacious seats on a plane

The best seats on a plane for tall individuals requiring a little more legroom are exit rows, aisle and bulkhead seats. Another tidbit worth researching prior to a flight is the pitch of your proposed seat. The pitch of a seat refers to the measurable space between one seat and the one immediately behind or in front of it. The higher the number, the more room one will have. 

The best seats for flying with kids

Taking flight with an infant, toddler, tween or teen needn’t be a chore. Make the experience more enjoyable for all by selecting seats that meet the following criteria: a bulkhead seat, a window seat, and near the toilets. If you have a tiny tot and manage to snag a bulkhead boon, request a bassinet that attaches to the cabin’s front wall.

laptop on tray table; bot looking out plane window
© Unsplash/ Fallon Michael & Hanson Lu

The first seats to exit the plane 

Should you happen to be flying light and burning with a desperate need to escape the steel tube in which you are imprisoned, secure a seat as far towards the front of the aircraft as possible. Opt for the left side of the aircraft if it’s dual-aisle. 

The best seats on a plane to avoid getting sick 

Health-conscious passengers should settle themselves in a window seat towards the middle of the cabin, away from the galley, bathroom and passers-by. The worst place to sit is in the aisle, within three rows of an already-sick passenger, or by the restrooms. 

The seat you should always avoid

The worst seats on a plane are those right at the back. Closest to bathrooms and the galley, these seats are not only noisy, they also rarely recline. 

inside economy class plane cabin
© Unsplash/ Gerrie van der Walt

How to book the best seats on a plane

Book your flights and make your seat selection as early as possible, and check-in for your flight as soon as it opens. If you’re keen to identify specific seats and locations, be sure to check out SeatGuru by Tripadvisor. This website features aircraft seat maps, seat reviews, and a colour-coded system that identifies superior and substandard airline seats. All you need to get information on your flight is the airline name, flight number and date of travel.

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