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Here are some carefully-curated tips and advice for seating aboard a flight to ensure an enjoyable flight experience.
Choose the perfect seat
I am the kind of person that likes the aisle seat; I feel comfortable being able to stand up and walk to the restroom at my leisure. However, this is not always the perfect case, not even for people like me. The aisle seat often makes it necessary to stand up for your inside neighbors when they need to use the restroom. When choosing a seat, determine the flight length and times you’d like to use the lavatory. If you’re on a long or overnight trip, and/or your bladder is not similar to that of a miniature poodle’s, then perhaps you’d be more comfortable sitting by the window; you can sleep without disruption. On short hops, or if you’ve a tendency to require trips to the bathroom or up and down the aisle to stretch or get your blood circulating, the aisle seat might be better for you.
Choose the perfect seat #2
To choose a seat with more ample legroom, consider getting a bulkhead seat (one directly behind one of the bulkheads, or walls) or a seat in an emergency exit row. These seats tend to have more than the average amount of space for your legs. Beware however: the emergency exit row seats tend not to recline, and the bulkhead seats often don’t have any extra storage, since there is not a seat in front of you which you can store your purse or computer bag under. Check out sites like SeatGuru for all the various specs on seats for each particular plane.
Proper overhead compartment protocol
The overhead bin is made to hold your carry-on luggage, but there are certain rules to be followed, whether spoken or unspoken. First, when boarding the aircraft, don’t stow your luggage more than a seat or two in front of the seat in which you are sitting; this has a ripple effect down the line, and helps to cause boarding delays. Also, if you are in towards the front of the plane-boarding wave, don’t just store all your crap, like your suitcase, purse, camera bag, and jacket up in the overhead compartment; the space up there is meant for one of your items. Store your largest bag up there first, and once you see that the plane is almost fully-boarded, then go ahead and relieve the rest of your belongings into the bin; putting everything up there selfishly might not leave room for your fellow passengers to store their luggage, and a jacket can easily be held on your person or conformed to fit any leftover available space in the overhead compartment – but the luggage cannot.
Back or front?
Should you choose the back of the plane, or the front? Each area has its own virtues; the back of the plane is usually more peaceful, while the front of the plane allows you to exit first. But these are not hard and fast rules; sometimes the back of the plane can be hectic, if the galley or restrooms are located there, and in some cases the exit doors may be located somewhere other than the very front.
Watch your fingers, toes, and head
If you’re in an aisle seat, you need to remain extra vigilant: any extremity that sticks out into the aisle may be subject to a painful smash: toes could get run over by the drink cart, knees may be rendered useless, elbows may be battered by your fellow passengers needing to relieve themselves. My worst fear is that if I’m sleeping in my aisle seat, my head might loll to the side and get walloped by the meal service cart. Make sure no part of your body that you care about crosses that line into the aisle. If you’re thinking of sleeping, try to position your head so that it’ll roll towards the inside; often, seats have that adjustable headrest which I bend in all the way to keep my head from lolling to the side.
Don’t be an asshole when boarding
Boarding is a time when time is limited already; hundreds of passengers must get on the plane, have their luggage stowed overhead, and be in their seats with their hands folded and seatbelts on, all in about 40 minutes, before the plane can back away from the gate. This might seems like a plenty of time, but if you think about it, whether the plane has 200 or 400 passengers, it’s much less than a minute per person. There are a few simple things to keep in mind: don’t block the aisle; when you get to your seat, move over into the row; don’t take your sweet time taking off your jacket in the aisle; don’t store that jacket overhead until everyone else is on board, you’re not taking up any more than your allocated space. See this article for more: Proper Plane-Boarding Etiquette
Reclining the seat
If you are given a seat aboard the plane that reclines, it is your right to recline as you wish, other than when the plane is taking off or descending. However, mind the person behind you; don’t recline during a meal service, and at any other time, make sure to recline or put your seat up from a reclining position in a manner that isn’t abrupt, lest you cause some calamity or catapult items from their tray table somewhere else.
When traveling in pairs…
If you are traveling with a partner or a friend, perhaps have one of you select an aisle seat, while the other one takes the window. This is a strategy based on the fact that almost nobody selects the middle seat, so you may get away with having a row of 3 or even 4 to yourselves. However, this can backfire if the flight is full.
Don’t settle for the middle seat
Let’s say you bought your ticket and you are choosing your seat, and it seems that there is nothing but the dreaded middle seats available. Using the knowledge in the above tip (how couples may try choosing a window and aisle seat in hope of having the row to themselves), you can try calling the airline or talking to the agent at the desk and asking if they’ll tell you if they see any middle seats in rows where on either side are people with the same last name; if they place you in one of these, the logic is that two people traveling together will want to sit together, allowing you to gain the upper hand in negotiations. If all goes well, you can have your choice of the aisle or window seat so that your two fellow row-mates will be able to sit next to each other.
Refrain from pressing the call button
Sure, it’s up there for a reason, and it is your prerogative to press it, but there’s an unspoken code that says that you simply don’t use that call button above your head located next to the reading lamp and the air duct. Flight attendants get annoyed with this (unless you are adorably ancient, in which case you are given a pass), and they pass by regularly anyway – flag them down as they pass.