First, business, premium or economy, it doesn’t matter — I have a quirky lists of wants and needs out of my seating assignment, which many may not consider. File this under articles that aren’t in my best interest, because they create extra demand for the seats I want.

From proximity to the airplane door used to exit, to tricks for reclining from wheels up to wheels down without worrying about pissing off other guests, here are a few things I factor into my seating decisions. Sometimes, the first row of any cabin isn’t the best.


Recline Without Shame

If I’m flying economy or premium, and my recline might impact someone else, I seek out the last row of the premium cabin, or the last row before an exit or partition, so that I can recline without approval or disturbing anyone.

In premium economy, the last row of the cabin is the only one that doesn’t recline into someone else, and since people use this cabin to eat and often to work, this is huge on overnight flights.

If I’m in premium or economy, I want zzz’s from the moment the wheels are up. I really don’t want to wait until the person behind me is done with their meal, or PDF. This also allows you to avoid anyone constantly kneeing or bumping you.

As economy cabins have grown, I aim for the last row before one of the partitions in the cabin where crew would prepare food, or where lavatories might be. Ideally, as close to the front of the cabin as possible, because of another factor I’ll get into.

ek 380 bar

First Off The Plane

Hate long immigration queues? So does everyone. What do you think happens when you’re number 375 off the plane, on a 375 person flight?

In absolute terms, this applies to first or business, but the importance of seating assignment rings true across all cabins. If you fly frequently enough on any route, or type of aircraft, you get an idea of which door is used to deplane the aircraft.

It might even be the front and the back!

For larger planes, this can be multiple doors, but even many large flights still use just one door for entry and exit at the gate. More often than not, on planes like an Airbus A350, or Boeing 787, the door used will be the “L2” door, which is the second door on the left hand side, if counting from the flight deck.

In many cabin setups, the first row of premium economy or the last row of business class will be closest to L2, and that’s why when I sit in business class, I often sit in the last row.

Not only does it allow for a speedy exit from the plane, but it also has more privacy than seats in the front. When someone in front of you stands up, you see them. But when someone stands up behind you, you often don’t.

Whether you want to be a bit incognito or just care about speed, the last row of the business class cabin can be a genius play. In first class, there’s almost always a priority given to get first passengers off first, but even then I’ll aim for the back of the cabin.

At many leisure destinations, particularly hot ones where steps are used instead of proper jet bridges and gates, the last rows of economy can be better than the front. At these stations, stairs are brought to the front and the back, so sitting in the far rear of the aircraft means you’ll be off almost the same time as business class.

a table with plates of food on it

Meal Time

I am not a huge fan of airplane food, and I’ve written extensively on why if you must eat it, you should be savvier about what you’re eating. But for many people on long haul flights, food is not only comfort, but a passer of time.

If you’re trying to balance sleep time with meal time, having an idea of how your airline does service in your cabin can be a big help. In most cases, food services start front to back in every cabin, so if you care most about eating but want rest too, you’ll need to balance these concerns.

Finding The Right Seat For The Journey

I totally realize all of these notions can be contradictory, but they’re important points of comparison in choosing the right seat for that specific journey.

Since I’ll have eaten at home, or in the lounge before a flight, I’m happy in the last row of any cabin. I’m not waiting to be served. If I hadn’t, and was starving, I might need to weigh pros and cons.

Basically, just do what’s right for the specific journey. There are times when it makes sense to trade one of these quirky concerns for another.

Noisy Environments

Hate constant noise disturbance? Another factor is worth considering. After years off of work for some flight crews, catching up is a big thing right now. If you happen to sit in a row closest to the galley, where crews are sitting in between services or preparing food, you might hear quite a bit of noise.

It might be forks clanking as things are put away, or just a good ole’ complaint about their employer. If you sit there long enough, probably all the above.

Noise is a factor on any public mode of transport, but if it is particularly impactful to you, investing in some good noise cancelling earbuds, or reconsidering your seating assignments may be wise.

a city and a body of water

Best Views And Which Hand?

There’s nothing like the view from the window during flight, as a beautiful sunrise or sunset soaks into the clouds. Depending on which side of the plane you sit on, you may catch the dreamiest city views on approach and landing, or you may see a never ending trash heap.

GSTP has a guide on where to sit for some of the most iconic views in the sky.

And finally, if you’ve gotten that sorted, one extra niche consideration.

I may be truly alone here, which is fine, but if all else has been considered and I have a choice of left side or right side, I typically sit on the right side of the plane for a very silly reason. And I really only do this if I’m up front, where service plays a part.

I’m left handed, and I like receiving things with my left hand. For 90% of the world, this would mean preference to the left hand side of the plane, to receive with the right. It doesn’t get more niche than this, but if you’re in a premium cabin on a long flight and the choice is yours, the little bit of personalization can be fun.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. I also choose left or right based on where the sun will be on my flight i.e., if I want to see a sunrise or sunset, choose that side of the plane, or if flying just in the daytime, avoiding the side where the sun is, so that I can actually open the window shade without getting blinded!

  2. Fantastic points!
    I usually avoid the bassinet rows, unless travelling with my infants, as I prefer to leave them (and the noise!) For other parents who need it more.

  3. whats the name of the app that you featured on here a few months back which allows you to see what point redemptions are available on different routes and airlines ?

  4. Morning Gilbert , my husband and I have booked premium seats on Thompson flight there has been a technical problem booking seats but was assured it would be up and running 18-10-22 , I went into my P&O cruise /flights at midnight still not able, checked again at 2.30 no Joy again 4 AM ALL window seats had been booked , I am a paraplegic once in my seat I am there for the whole 8 hours , only seats available to book are the last row of premium but I am not sure if they will recline ? Please could you advise, thank you .

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