Airplane seat

If you’re like the average traveler, you’ve spent at least thirty million hours trying to perfect your travel plans. Perhaps half of those hours were spent trying to find a seat on your flight where you may have a modicum of comfort for the hours you’re trapped in the sky. But then you get to the gate and receive a nasty surprise! Your seat assignment has been changed by the airline. Why do airlines make it seemingly impossible to get the seat you desire? And what can we do, as passengers, to ensure that we get the seat we want? Read on for our guide to getting the best seat on your next flight.

What are your rights when it comes to seat assignments?

Honestly, as a passenger on an aircraft, your rights are pretty limited. Airlines can change which aircraft you are flying on, they can move your seat, they can bump you from flights and even change the itinerary all without your consent. Anything and everything is subject to change without notice making traveling with companions extra frustrating. But, strictly speaking, the airline is only promising that they’ll get you from your current location to your destination in one piece without regard to your comfort or companionship during your flight. So, if you receive a new boarding pass that shows your seat has been changed, there isn’t much you can do about it. If you’re traveling with young children or someone who needs assistance, you may be able to still stay seated together, but there are no promises that you’ll still have your original seat selection.

However, if you are asked by the flight attendant to switch seats and the airline isn’t demanding it, you may be able to politely decline, depending on the situation. Be advised, though, that should you accept and change seats, you’ll often get a perk thanking you for doing so from the crew. I’ve received free liquor, free in-flight entertainment, and even an upgrade to first class once for my trouble. If you’ve been downgraded with this switch, though, you are entitled to a refund for the difference with your new seating assignment. The airlines are not allowed to charge you for a perk without refunding the fee if you don’t receive said perk.

What is the best seat anyway?

Well, if you’ve ever flown before, you know that you absolutely do not want a middle seat. Not only will you severely lack any personal space, but you’ll be unable to glance out of the window or use the restroom without disturbing your aisle-mates. And not surprisingly, middle seats are usually the only spots available for good reason. Most airlines block out window seats for their elite customers or frequent travelers of that particular airline. Some airlines even charge extra for the window or aisle seats, making it difficult for economy travelers to get decent seats.

And if you book a last minute flight and all of the good seats are reserved already, it could be costly (or impossible) to upgrade to a window or aisle seat. Budget-conscious travelers will always want to book flights early for the best selection of seats. As far as finding the perfect placement on the plane, that’s more of a personal preference. If you love window seats and enjoy watching the scenery change as you fly, avoid getting a seat near the wing of the plane since that could obstruct your beautiful view. If you’d prefer an aisle seat because you like to stretch your legs, position yourself towards the front or rear of the plane so you’re near the restrooms.

Check out SeatGuru to get an in-depth guide to the best seats on the specific flight you’re considering. Another must-have app while planning is ExpertFlyer, which will help you find the best available seat and send you alerts when better seats are available based on your criteria.