The Worst Seats on a Plane in 2024 – How to Avoid Them
Your airplane seat can make or break your flight. A good seat and you have a great chance to arrive well-rested and ready to start your vacation. Unfortunately, a bad seat can ruin the start of your trip and create a ton of stress. It is even more important to get a good seat for long domestic and international flights. While it is not always possible to avoid bad plane seats, you can greatly minimize your chances of being placed in one of the worst seats.
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What Are the Worst Seats on a Plane?
Unfortunately, there are many bad seats on a plane. Some seats have multiple issues that may decrease your overall satisfaction with the flight. Here are our picks for some of the worst airplane seats.
The Middle Seat
The dreaded middle seat is our pick for the worst seat on a plane. Being sandwiched between two other people is not a fun experience. With the aisle seat, you can lean and stretch into the aisle. With the window seat, you can lean against the window. Unless you are traveling with family, the middle seat offers no direction to lean or stretch out.
The middle seat is even worse for tall and/or large people. The lack of space means you will have to stay upright and rigid for the entire flight. As a rule, you should be entitled to both armrests sitting in the middle, but that will not always be the case.
Sitting in the middle seat means you do not have direct access to the aisle. You will have to ask the person seated in the aisle to get up when you need to use the restroom.
Those Who May Like The Middle Seat: The middle seat may make sense for those who are afraid of flying. Sitting between two people may provide comfort to anxious flyers. The middle seat is also ideal for children sitting between two parents. Finally, the middle seat can be tolerable for smaller men and women who do not need a lot of space. Since the seat is cheaper, smaller adults may not find the lack of space to be a problem.
Towards The Back of The Plane
Seats towards the back of the plane tend to experience more turbulence than those towards the front. Those who experience motion sickness should avoid seats in the back at all costs. Additionally, those seated in the back are the last passengers to get off the plane. That means seats in the back are problematic if you need to catch a tight connecting flight.
Seats in the back are also more likely to be close to bathrooms. Lines can get long near the lavatories and other passengers may congregate. You may also be subject to foul odors. Food and beverage carts are also near the back, which may congest things even further.
Seats in the back get worse the further back you get. The last row does not recline, so you will be forced to sit upright for the entire flight. Seats in the last row are also closest to the lavatories.
Those Who May Like Seats in The Back of The Plane: There are not many advantages to sitting in the back of the plane. Those who need to sit near a bathroom may prefer back seats. Additionally, those who do not care about any of the drawbacks may find the cheaper price to be desirable.
Any Seat Located Near a Bathroom
An aisle seat located near a bathroom is one of the worst seats on the plane. You may be subject to poor odors for the duration of the flight. You are also likely to experience lines and crowds of people near your seat. That means you may be subject to loud conversations as well as people leaning on the top portion of your seat. Bathrooms are usually located near the back and middle of the plane.
Those Who May Like Seats Located Near The Bathroom: Passengers frequently needing to use the bathroom may prefer seats near a lavatory. Since exit-row seats may be close to bathrooms, some passengers may compromise and sit near a bathroom for the additional leg space that exit-row seats offer.
Bulkhead Row Seats
Bulkhead seats are seats behind a wall on the plane. These are generally in the first row of the main cabin, but they can be in other spots throughout the plane. While they do offer benefits such as being towards the front of the plane, they have some serious drawbacks.
Since there is a wall in front of bulkhead seats, there is no place in front of you to store personal items or bags. That means all of your bags and personal items must go in the overhead bin. On some planes, the overhead bin space above bulkhead seats is taken by the crew. That may mean you have to store your bags many rows behind your actual seat. If that happens, you could potentially have to wait for everyone else to deplane before you can retrieve your bags. That completely defeats the purpose of sitting in the first row!
Bulkhead row seats have immovable armrests that tray tables fold out from. That is because there is no seat in front of bulkhead sets for tray tables. These seats are usually narrower than normal seats. The tray tables are usually awkward and flimsy as well.
Seats in the bulkhead row may also have less legroom, but it depends on the plane.
Those Who May Like Seats Located in the Bulkhead Row: In economy, the bulkhead makes sense for those who do not want anyone reclining into their site. Additionally, bulkhead seats are far superior in first class and business class.
Seats in Front of Exit-row Seats
Seats in front of exit-row seats do not recline. That includes exit-row seats in front of other exit-row seats. This is to allow the exit row to remain clear in the event of an emergency.
Those Who May Like Seats Located in Front of Exit-Row Seats: This is an irrelevant issue if you never recline your seat. In some cases, exit-row seats in front of other exit-row seats may be cheaper. Consider them if you want an exit-row seat and do not care about reclining.
Further Reading: Airplane Seat Reclining Etiquette – Is it Rude or is it Your Right?
Seats With Abnormal Configurations
Some planes have rows with different configurations than the rest of the plane. For example, the plane will go from rows of 3 to a row of 2. The row of 2 may be tapered differently which may mean less legroom and an awkward experience. While the single row of 2 may be desirable if you are flying with only one other person, you should be aware the seating may atypical.
Those Who May Like Seats With Abnormal Configurations: Smaller individuals may not mind these seats. Those traveling light with only a personal item may also find these seats desirable. The potential for less storage under the seat is irrelevant if you only have a backpack.
Exit-Row Seats (For Those Who Get Cold Easy)
I always pay extra money for an exit-row seat. They are not for everyone, however. Exit-row seats tend to get colder than other seats on the plane. That is especially true for the window seat. They also sometimes have awkward tray tables that come out from the armrests. Additionally, exit-row seats are usually narrower than standard seats.
Those Who May Like Exit-Row Seats: Exit-row seats are perfect for tall people or those who need more legroom. Additionally, those who frequently use the bathroom and do not want to have to ask their seatmates to get up will find exit-row seats desirable. Some airlines also have special benefits, such as free alcohol and preferred boarding, for those seated in exit rows.
Seats Located in the Back of a Section
Seats in the back of a section do not recline. While that is fine for some people, others at least want the option to recline. These seats are also usually located near bathrooms.
Those Who May Like Seats Located in the Back of a Section: These seats are perfect if you have a fear of the passenger behind you kicking your seat. They also make sense for those who need to be near a bathroom.
Tips for Avoiding the Worst Airplane Seats
While there is no guarantee of avoiding one of the worst seats, there are a few steps you can take to reduce your odds.
Book a First Class or Business Class Seat
Paying extra for a first-class or business class seat almost ensures you will avoid many of the issues discussed above. The problem is these seats are usually very costly. Ideally, your airline status upgrades you to first-class or you have enough miles. If not, expect to pay hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in cash. Check out our top airline credit card picks for additional information on earning status easier.
Avoid Basic Economy and Other Cheap Fares
Purchasing a basic economy seat greatly increases your odds of having one of the worst seats. In many cases, you will not have the option to select your seat. While you may be randomly placed in a good seat, the odds are there will be something wrong with it. Pay a little extra for a ticket that allows seat selection.
Pay Extra to Pick Your Seat
Some airlines and fares do not allow you to select your seat unless you pay more. Frontier Airlines is one of the most common examples of an airline that makes you pay to pick your seat. Unless you want to be at the airline’s mercy, you should add the option to your ticket. That will ensure you are seated exactly where you want to be.
Book your ticket as far in advance as possible if your goal is to avoid a bad seat. The best plane seats fill up quickly, and there is a chance only middle seats remain when you book. A lot of airlines allow you to view the seat map before booking, so do that before selecting a flight.
Check SeatGuru and the Airline’s Seating Chart
I always check SeatGuru before picking a seat. It shows the exact seating chart for your plane and highlights the best and worst seats. It also includes reviews from people who have flown on the same plane. SeatGuru may even highlight bad seats that you otherwise would not think are bad. Before using SeatGuru, ensure you have found the exact plane from the airline that you will be flying on. In some cases, there are different layouts for the same plane.
You should also check the airline’s seating chart and layout for your flight. Look for where the bathrooms are located as well as abnormal seating rows.
Look for Planes with Rows of Two
While it is not always possible to pick your plane, you should do it if there are multiple flights available near your time. Plans that include rows of two are perfect if you want to avoid middle seats. They are also great if you are traveling with one other person and want the row to yourselves.
Buy Upgraded Boarding if Flying Southwest Airlines
Since there are no assigned seats, you want to board Southwest Airlines flights as early as possible. Consider buying upgraded boarding to guarantee a good seat. If you do not opt for priority boarding, you should line up as early as possible.
Do Not Trade Your Seat for a Lesser Seat
This may seem obvious, but do not trade your aisle or window seat for a middle row seat. Do not trade your seat towards the front of the plane for a seat in the back near the bathroom. Take everything into consideration before trading your seat with another flyer.
Further Reading: Airplane Seat Switch Etiquette
Fly an Airline That Offers Better Seats for Everyone
Airlines like American Airlines and United Airlines are known for offering limited legroom for most economy seats. I recommend aiming to fly airlines like Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways because they are known for more comfortable seats with more legroom. Two other airlines offering limited legroom include Frontier Airlines and Spirit Airlines.
Seat Selection is Not Guaranteed
While airlines will do their best to put you in the seat you selected, it is not guaranteed. I recently paid for an exit-row seat and was placed in a non-exit row seat. While I was able to get a flight credit, I was not happy losing the site I thought I had rightfully paid for. If the airline changes your seat, there is not always much you can do. I still recommend talking to the gate agent and requesting a comparable seat. While moving you from an aisle seat to a middle seat is not common, it does happen.
What Are the Best Ways to Book Cheap Flights?
Since buying a first-class seat or upgrading your current seat costs extra money, it is vital you get the cheapest fare. Start with our How to Find Cheap Flights guide. Then see our Google Flights guide or our Skyscanner guide for more advice on using those two booking platforms. Finally, check out our best websites for booking cheap flights guide for our complete list of recommendations. Out of the websites listed, Orbitz and Travelocity are our top two picks.
Here are the worst seats on a plane:
The middle seat
Seats towards the back of the plane
Seats near the bathrooms
Bulkhead row seats
Seats in front of exit-row seats
Seats With Abnormal Configurations
Exit-row seats for those who get cold easily
Any seats in the back of a section
Here are a few tips to avoid the worst seats on a plane.
Pay or use points to sit in first class
Avoid basic economy tickets
Pay extra to select your seat
Find planes with rows of two
Pay for upgraded boarding for Southwest Airlines flights
Do not trade your seat for a lesser seat
No. Unfortunately, airlines can put you in any seat they sit fit. Just because you select a perfect aisle exit-row seat at booking does not mean you will actually get to sit there.
Seats in the back are away from the wings, which causes a more turbulent ride. Seats in the back are also usually closer to the lavatory, which could mean foul odors. Finally, those sitting in the back are the last ones to off the plane, which is bad if you have a connecting flight.
The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts
For your own comfort, I highly recommend doing everything you can to avoid the worst seats on a plane. While it may cost a little more, you will likely thank yourself for picking a seat that is free of annoyances. I always pay extra for aisle exit-row seats and never regret the decision. For further reading, see our guide to the best seats on a plane and how to get them cheap.
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