We have all been there. That horrible moment when you check in online, opt not to pay for a specific seat, and then you’re assigned the dreaded middle seat. Or, worse yet, you sit in the middle seat you didn’t ask for and wait nervously until the last passenger to board the plane takes the window seat, crushing your dreams of sliding in once the doors close.
But there are a handful of tips and tricks that can practically guarantee you a window or aisle seat, and they won’t cost you a dime. Here’s our guide to dodging the middle seat and what to do if you get stuck in the middle.
We all know the feeling of disappointment when discovering that we have been assigned the middle seat on a plane, trapped between two strangers.
LEAVE IT LATE
Low-cost airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air allocate you a “random seat” at check-in unless you pay a fee, usually between £4 and £52 per flight. Those who do not pay this fee are usually automatically assigned a middle seat. To avoid this, check in at the last minute (but no later than three hours before the flight) when all middle seats have already been assigned to passengers who checked in and did not pay for a specific seat. That way you will still be assigned a “random seat” but it will most likely be an aisle or window seat.
IF YOU DON’T ASK…
Never be afraid to ask staff at the check-in door if there are free window and aisle seats. They can very easily reassign your seat and print you a new boarding pass. Alternatively, if you find yourself sandwiched between two larger passengers, politely and discreetly ask a cabin crew member if there are aisle or window seats available. They will understand why you are asking and should agree if there is space and time before takeoff.
CHECK THE AIRCRAFT MODEL
On long-haul flights, check the aircraft model. If you can, opt for a Boeing 767, a plane that has a 2-3-2 layout, meaning there is only one middle seat in each row of seven passengers, or an Airbus A330 (one of the fuselage planes most popular width). in the world) that has a 2-4-2 configuration. On double-decker aircraft, such as the A380, select seats on the upper deck, as they are almost always in a 2-4-2 configuration.
CHOOSE SMALLER PLANES
When flying domestically, opt for an airline with a fleet of smaller planes. In the UK, these airlines include Aurigny, Loganair and Eastern. They typically have four rows of seats in a 2-2 configuration, meaning you’re guaranteed an aisle or a window.
While boarding, wait until the line begins to disappear at the gate and join the line. This way, you can choose from the remaining seats first.
GO FOR GOLD
Sign up to British Airways Executive Club and become a Gold member by spending and earning points on a BA Amex and the airline will block the seat next to you in economy, giving you room to stretch out. They will only release the seat if the flight is absolutely full.
BAG A FULL ROW
If you are traveling as a couple on a long-haul flight and the cabin is not full when you check-in, choose an aisle and window seat in the same row. Most long-haul airlines allow passengers to choose a seat for free, so it is very unlikely that anyone will choose to sit in the middle, which means you must have the entire row to yourself, which increases your comfort and your chances of getting some sleep. If someone sits in the middle, chances are they’ll be happy to move to the aisle or window seat so you can sit with your travel companion.
HOW TO STAY HEALTHY IF YOU’RE STUCK IN THE MIDDLE
- The label says you get both armrests, so claim them from the start. Window passengers can lean against the wall of the plane, while aisle passengers can lean toward the aisle. If in doubt, explain it calmly and ask the cabin crew for help if things get unpleasant.
- Go to the bathroom at the door to avoid having to interrupt your neighbor mid-movie or take a nap.
- Greet your neighbors as they sit down to break the ice and establish goodwill.
- Board as soon as possible. This will give you time to organize yourself and your belongings without attacking your neighbors.
- Carry a suitable neck pillow to support your head and prevent you from snoring on a stranger’s shoulder. Trtl has a good variety (trtltravel.com).