Sometimes economy feels like first class and sometimes it feels like the worst place on earth. For most travelers, those who don't even think about seating assignments, aircraft layouts or things of that nature, it's usually the latter, the worst place on earth. Whatever cabin you're sitting in, not all seats are created equal and there are a few brilliant ways to score better seats. Consider it a mini upgrade...

Check Your Airline Seat Map + SeatGuru...

Every plane is different. Even the same airplane on the same airline can be configured differently. The first step to being the happiest person in your cabin is to look at your flight's seat map availability, as well as any costs to select certain seats. The second step is to open another browser, point it to SeatGuru.com, which shows a map of your plane with red, yellow and green indicators, illustrating the best and worst seats. I always recommend bulkheads and exit rows for maximum legroom. You'll be able to see what other travelers are saying about the seats you're interested in and then figure out how to snag them before someone else does.

Figure Out How To Snag The Really Good Seats For Free...

This can be fairly easy or extremely frustrating. Some airlines charge extortionate amounts to reserve seats, while others will let you reserve for free, but charge a hefty premium to score the best seats in each cabin. If you're traveling with someone who has elite status you're in luck, they can almost always select the best seats for free for everyone on their booking, so let them book for everyone in your group on one reservation. Alternately, if you have an airline credit card or can take a status challenge (open to anyone), you can often reserve seats for free, even preferred seats. Some status challenges even grant instant status, allowing anyone reading this to take advantage of the status trick...

Exhaust Upgrade Opportunities...

Ok this is jumping a cabin, but no one minds that. Upgrades do not happen randomly just because someone thinks you're nice or pretty. Upgrades happen because of cash, miles or status. If you're traveling, presumably you have a little bit of at least one of those. When possible, book direct with your airline so that you can use miles or money to upgrade. Try to ask about upgrade space before you book so you can instantly upgrade with miles at booking. If that's not available ask every week before your flight, at check in and finally at the boarding gate. "Hey, I've got miles and I'd love to upgrade my flight, is that possible?" works quite often.

Like A Board Game, Work Your Way To The Best...

If your ideal seat isn't available, lock in the next best seat and don't give up. Seat availability comes and goes for a variety of reasons, so even if your number one choice isn't available when you book, it may become available as your flight approaches. Monitor the situation, especially in the days and hours before your flight. Every time you see a better seat take it and keep leapfrogging your way to the best. Some airlines will even let you change your seating assignment in their app, grabbing a new mobile boarding pass each time. You can play the game all the way through to final boarding!

Don't Fall For The No Seat Assignment Tip...

Every blue moon, someone forgets to assign their seat and ends up in the best seat in their cabin, which the airline hoped to sell and no one paid for. On all other non blue moon days, that person ends up wedged between two sweaty lumberjacks who just finished nine months in the woods. Don't be forced into lumberjack middle seat hell by playing against the odds. Pony up, do your research and fight for the best seat. 

Last Resort? Bring Bribes...

Understandably, people are very particular about their seating assignments. If you want to get someone to budge from those extra inches of comfort or rejoin your displaced travel partner a few rows away, grab some bribes. Anything from a free drink coupon to some chocolates from the terminal (or maybe just a $20) can help get the result you want. Just keep it discrete, once flight attendants get involved the whole game is over...