How do you choose the best seat on a flight?
It’s a debate as old as civil aviation. Some people prefer the front seats, others the middle seats. But for me, the best seat is in the back row. And here’s why.
TIME once wrote an article analyzing 35 years of aviation accident data (the article was written in 2015) and concluded that the best seats are the middle seats in the back of the plane because they historically have the highest survival rates.
But let’s not be sad because the chances that you could be involved in an airplane accident are pretty low. Let’s talk about which seats are better for your comfort.
Why the back rows are the best?
It’s a back seat. But only on long-haul flights. Because you’ll have more room for your luggage, fewer people are there, and the people behind you won’t put their stuff in the seat above you. So it gives you an advantage in luggage arrangement that is hard to overestimate. It’s just more convenient; fewer people equals less hassle.
Another significant advantage is that the bathrooms are in the front on most long-haul flights. This means people go to the front to wash their hands or the restroom. So, unlike short flights, the back row is a quiet harbor with no annoying crowds of people walking towards you to go to the bathroom.
People have no reason to move to the back seat when you’re on a long-haul flight. Only a few people were on my Los Angeles to Paris flight on a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. People who reached the back seat just wanted to walk around to stretch their legs.
Of course, flight attendants, stewards, and stewardesses will still pass you by, but it won’t be very noticeable, especially since they will still pass you wherever you are sitting.
But choosing the last row allows you to stretch your legs without distracting other passengers. When I choose the front seat, it’s always uncomfortable to distract others with my “passing.” Sitting in the back row, I don’t worry about being too annoying to the other passengers.
Is it all so clear-cut?
No, and in many ways, I’m more of an exception, and many people ridicule my desire to sit in the back. Melinda, now a flight attendant, told me that “it’s not the best seat” because people often suffer from turbulence when choosing the back seat. Most people prefer seats closer to the gate, which offers no real advantage. Most of the time, you will either crowd in to have time to “take advantage of the first gate” or sit idly and wait for your time when the plane is free.
You’ll also be passing significantly more people, which can be inconvenient (and I don’t like to get in front to get off quickly). So, getting out of the back seat is not the worst option. At least you can listen to music or read a book, so you can get off in peace without having to jostle with other passengers. At least you don’t always have to try to get out faster; I think it’s more of an illusion than a real benefit.
Still, there are a lot of benefits
In an article for Business Insider, Monica Humphries talks about other benefits that I hadn’t even considered, like the fact that you can choose the best time to warm up. Since the best place to warm up is the back galley of an airplane, some people go there to relax a bit from sitting for long periods of time. But when you sit in the back, you can better control what’s happening around you.
For example, choose the best time to stretch when the flight attendants aren’t preparing to serve lunch or when the galley isn’t full. Maybe I’m not as detail-oriented as Monica, so I never considered these benefits. Still, I probably took advantage of them without realizing it, choosing the best time to do a little “leg workout” when the galley wasn’t crowded.
Another added benefit might be that people don’t honor back seats, so your chances of the seat next to you being empty increase. Isn’t that great? Not only do you get to choose a cool seat so you’re less likely to bump into other passengers, but you also get the chance, however small, that no one will be near you.
So it’s up to you. But at least try to choose the back seat, you might like it.