If you’re looking for some sneaky ways to get the best seats in economy without paying extra, here are my tips:
Plan A: Check in online if the airline offers it. I came up against this recently when I checked in 3 hours before my long haul flight on Singapore Airlines only to find that ALL the windows and aisles had been taken by the internet bookers.
Plan B: At check-in ask, in your sweetest voice (with a plastic smile) how full the flight is. If the reply is, “it’s chocka, we’re 10 people overbooked,” then go straight to Plan C.
If the reply is, “not too bad,” then try this:
Plan B1: if there’s two of you travelling together, ask for a window and an aisle (in a row of 3). The chances of a solo traveller booking the seat between you is remote. In some cases, depending on the authenticity of that plastic smile, the check-in person might even block that seat off for you. If they don’t and the worse case scenario happens as you wait, eagle-eyed watching the passengers inching down the aisle to see if they’re looking for your number and they say, “excuse me that’s my seat,” you can always kindly offer them either the window or aisle if you want to sit next to your flying companion. If you don’t want to give up your seats, you can just spend the flight talking across the stranger.
Plan B2: Ask for a bulk head seats or exit row seat. This gives you ample leg room (on most planes*) although no foot rest. You can, of course, get your bag out of the overhead locker after take off and use it as a foot rest.
Plan C: The last 3 rows on Air New Zealand’s 777 (the one that flies to Los Angeles) is a 2-3-2 configuration (instead of the usual 3-3-3). Go for the back of the plane to a 2 seat row where there is a little more room. Admittedly you’re right beside the toilets, but I’ve never found people to be terribly noisy here. (That might be because of my sleeping tablet and red wine routine). Another upside to booking the back is that if there is an overflow of empty seats you’ll find them down there and you may, if you’re as lucky as me on my Singapore Airlines flight to Istanbul, get a whole row to yourself to lie on.
*If you want a seat map of your flight, jump to Seat Guru and input your airline and flight details so you can make an informed decision.