a row of seats in an airplane

Does choosing a window seat make you a selfish person?

Like all great conflicts in history there is no middle ground. In this case, there’s only a middle seat- and it’s safe to say that no one (in their right mind) would ever want that. Window vs. Aisle is a question as old as flying time and people get surprisingly worked up about it. A recent Telegraph article even alleged that window seat people are selfish. Let’s take a closer look…

By The Numbers

An Expedia study found that 55% of passengers preferred window seats to aisle seats, whereas a Quartz survey found it was almost dead even, with just a 1% tip in the window seats favor- and data to suggest more frequent travelers prefer aisles, oddly. Airlines say it’s about even as well. Interestingly, the same Expedia study cited that 35% of passengers were willing to pay to reserve a window, whereas only 15% were willing to pay for an aisle seat.

an airplane window with a view of the city from the wingArguments For And Against Window Seating

As window seat fans ourselves, we’re biased here. We enjoy the window seat because.

  1. views make the experience feel less crowded, tranquil.
  2. the window and fuselage make a nice surface to rest against for sleeping.
  3. it’s not the middle seat.
  4. in control, no one climbing across you.

Against: have to climb over people, slower to get off the plane.

a row of seats in an airplaneArguments For And Against Aisle Seating

Aisle seating certainly has it’s advantages and we don’t hold a grudge, we just don’t agree.

  1. direct access to aisle and restrooms. Don’t need to step over people.
  2. quicker to get off the plane
  3. often served more promptly.
  4. not the middle seat.

Against: people climbing over you, not in control of your own sleep.

a seat in an airplane

Science Says Window Seat People Are Selfish

Behavioral Scientist Dr. Becky Spelman believes there’s far more to your seat choice than which side you prefer to sleep on. Spelman equates the choice on a deeper, psychological level to being passive or aggressive. She claims window seat people are more selfish, because they are happy to be the one disturbing someone, in control of their destiny. To which we say, ummm exactly. Aisle dwellers on the other hand are behaviorally less confident flyers. They would prefer to be disturbed than disturb someone else, and are less confident with the goings on in the air. Similar thoughts are echoed by another leading behavioral studies psychologist Jo Hemmings…

“Champions of the window seat tend to be more selfish,” she says. “As well as less anxious, seasoned flyers who are more confident in disturbing others. Aisle passengers are often more sociable and definitely more amenable as people. They are also more likely to be restless flyers and less adept at sleeping on planes.”

a row of seats on an airplaneNo One Wants The Middle Seat. So Here’s How To Avoid It.

Not getting the middle seat is a science in itself. Virtually all the data gathered in these studies and by psychologists suggest we want window or aisle- never middle. But someone always gets the middle. We wrote an extremely useful (if we don’t say so ourselves) post about a cool app that helps you hack your way to the best seats in the plane, notifying you when the next best seat opens up- tailored to your preferences. Check it out here. Selfish or not, we all just want to get some rest and make it to our destination.

HT: The Telegraph

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 could not disagree more with that article. Although I travel very often and have done a fear of flying course, I remain highly nervous about the whole process. One of the main things that helps me cope is being able to see out the window. I can see everything that is going on, and am able to get my bearings, particularly during the critical phases. It’s far more nerve-wracking to be on an aisle and not be able to see properly what is going on outside.

  2. Not buying the selfish label for window lovers…
    It’s an airplane. There’s lots to see out the window. And I wait until my seat mates get up before I do the same. If they don’t get up I stay put.
    Selfish? Hardly. Every flight attendant gets a box of peanut M + M’s and an invitation to trade them in a game of let’s make a deal. Lots of laughs and some fabulous one-of a-kind prizes.
    If it’s an airplane I’ll take the window. And if my seat mates get up I’ll be partying with the flight attendants. Every time.

  3. Where’s the point on wanting a window seat?

    Unless you are flying short-haul, for five minutes after take-off, and five minutes before landing you can see the surface (but not recognise where you are). But mostly you look at the clouds, unless you are on a night flight which makes a window seat even more useless.
    But happy to see not everyone is like the same. In a 3-4-3 cattle class row there are only two window seats anyway.

  4. I fully agree that “Window” passengers are “selfish”. I would add that, some are RUDE in addition selfishness.
    Certain window passengers keep the window closed during the entire flight. When they are asked, politely, to open the window, specially on arrival, the answer of some is, “No I like this way”. Something more important than “window passengers” are those who keep the light “ON” during the entire flight, especially on “night flights” when other passengers prefer to have a few minutes of sleep. These are the “More Selfish” and Rude.
    I wonder when the airlines will provide Frequent Flyers with periodic statements of the miles. The way it is done now, is not accepted by the majority of flyers who have to call the Customer Service for details.

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