How to get the best seats without paying more

Experts reveal tricks of the trade from scoring cheap tickets to having a whole row to yourself

Source: Mail Online/Associated Press

  • Flights are cheapest to buy 53 days before departure day
  • Book the aisle and window seat, as a couple, as the middle seat sells last
  • Most people prefer the right hand side of the plane, and window seats 

The thought of getting a cramped seat with no legroom on a long haul flight can fill travellers with dread before they even leave home.

But there are certain tricks of the trade that can be applied to ensure you have the best chance at sitting in your ideal seat – whether that’s by the window or perhaps with no one next to you. Or simply the cheapest.

MailOnline consulted experts to determine how to help make the odds go in your favour.

Sign up for alerts from ExpertFlyer.com which notify you when a window seat becomes available

Sign up for alerts from ExpertFlyer.com which notify you when a window seat becomes available

Which day is cheapest to fly?

Flight comparison website momondo‘s free tool Flight Insight tracks when it’s cheapest to fly by analysing millions of prices on flight routes leaving the UK.

The tracker found that on average, the cheapest flight prices can be booked 53 days before departure, and statistically can lead to an average saving of 29 per cent.

On the other hand, tickets are most expensive three days before departure, with the most expensive day of the week being a Friday.

The cheapest day to book a flight is on a Tuesday and regardless of the day, opt for between the hours of 6pm and midnight to get the best deals.

Get the window seat by signing up for alerts

ExpertFlyer.com offers free notifications when a window or aisle seat becomes vacant for up to one flight at a time. For 99 cents, it sends an email if two adjacent seats become available.

The service is available for Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines and Virgin America but not for Delta Air Lines and some smaller carriers.

Elite fliers are upgraded to first class typically five days before your trip, freeing up their seat for you to select

Elite fliers are upgraded to first class typically five days before your trip, freeing up their seat for you to select

Take the seats freed up by upgrades

Check your airline’s website five days before the trip.

That’s when some elite fliers are upgraded to first class, freeing up their coach seats. Another wave of upgrades occurs every 24 to 48 hours.

Book early and pick a seat assignment at the time of booking

According to TripAdvisor Flights, fights open typically 335 days before departure, however it can often take six or seven months before any activity.

It may sound simple but the earlier you get in and book your seat, the more seat option you’ll have.

On top of this you will probably pay less for your flight, and can put the money you save towards an upgrade to a more luxurious seat.

Set an alert so you check in early

A lot of airlines open their check ins up for 24 hours prior to departure, so set an alert so you are among the first to select your ideal seat.

If faced with a three-seat configuration book the window and aisle seat as the middle seat tend to sell last, meaning you and your partner could have your own row

If faced with a three-seat configuration book the window and aisle seat as the middle seat tend to sell last, meaning you and your partner could have your own row

How to sit together in a pair on your own row

It can be beneficial to tactically book, when travelling as a couple.

This can be achieved by realising the middle seat is the least desirable, and selecting accordingly.

George Hobica of AirfareWatchdog.com explained to Yahoo: ‘People are less likely to book the middle, often making them the last to go.’

When faced with a three-seat configuration, select an aisle and a window seat, in the hope that the middle is not taken, as they tend to sell last.

If it is taken by a passenger, most people would prefer to switch to an aisle or a window seat in exchange for letting you sit next to your partner.

If you are travelling with children (between two and 11 years), British Airways will allocate you seats five days before departure

If you are travelling with children (between two and 11 years), British Airways will allocate you seats five days before departure

How to sit together as a family

British Airways confirmed that when travelling with an infant (under two years) who won’t be travelling in a seat of their own, fliers can reserve a seat for themselves and everyone in their booking, free of charge, from the time of booking.

If fliers don’t choose their seats in advance, where possible British Airways will reserve suitable seats for you three days before the flight.

If you are travelling with children (between two and 11 years), the airline will allocate you seats five days before departure.

If you can’t be seated together, the airline endeavour to ensure each child is seated with an adult from your group.

At airports, agents can sometimes put families in seats held just prior to departure for disabled passengers.

Furthermore, if you also try asking at the gate check in will be closed and so crew are aware which seats are unassigned, or have become vacant from last-minute upgrades.

According to statistics by EasyJet last year, the seat most highly sought after seat is 7F

According to statistics by EasyJet last year, the seat most highly sought after seat is 7F

Which seat is most popular?

The best seat on the plane can be a subjective thing for each passenger, but certain companies have tried to analyse which were the most popular.

According to statistics by easyJet last year, the seat most highly sought after seat is 7F.

The airline also revealed the right side of a plane is more popular than the left, window seats are the most coveted.

British Airways conducted research last month into which seat was the most popular.

Twin seats 51/52B, 51/52C, 51/52H and 51/52J were the most sought-after economy seats (on a Boeing 747) with more than half of our customers travelling as a pair opting to have a row to themselves.

Sara Dunham, British Airways’ head of marketing, retail and direct channels, said: ‘Most people like the idea of turning left when they get on a plane, but it looks like the majority favour the right hand side when it comes to choosing their seat.

‘There are lots of theories why people favour the right hand side: there are more right handed people, we automatically tend to turn right, but the truth is we don’t know for sure.’

British Airways also receives six per cent more bookings for window seats than aisle.

In a 2012 Skyscanner found that 46 per cent of people wanting to be seated in the front of the plane, with 62 per cent preferring an even-numbered aisle.

Research seats to on SeatGuru to seat which seat is best for you on the flight. For large leg room opt for an exit row or bulkhead seat

Research seats on SeatGuru to see which seat is best for you on the flight. For large leg room opt for an exit row or bulkhead seat

Which seats have the most leg room?

Research the plane you are going on before you choose your seat to find out the exactly how much leg room you will have, where the toilets are situated, and which rows to avoid if you want your chair to recline.

This information can be found at websites such as SeatExpert.com and SeatGuru.com.

It usually stands that the bulkhead seats (between partitions in the plane such as class or toilet) or exit row seats have the most leg room, but this can often come at a price of storage space and chair width.

THE PROS AND CONS OF THE BULKHEAD ROW

Pros Cons

More legroom than average seats

Easier to access the toilet

More room for people to go round you

No reclining seats in front of you

No glare from reading lights of passengers ahead

Your table will most likely be in your armrest, taking up seat width

You often cannot store bags under the chair in front

You may not be able to see out the window

There is no pocket to store items in front


Don’t give up

Keep looking for new seats. Even after checking in, seats can be changed at airport kiosks and on some airlines’ mobile applications.

Barter with passengers

Last July, U.S. airlines sold a record 87.8 percent of seats on domestic flights, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statics.

And that figure doesn’t include seats occupied by airline employees flying for free. In other words: virtually every seat was taken.

Airlines are predicting that even more passengers will step aboard planes this year: 222 million passengers between June 1 and Aug. 31. That’s 2.4 million passengers a day or 4.5 percent more than last summer.

When competition is steep and if all else fails, offer nearby passengers food or a drink to switch seats.

When competition is steep and if all else fails, offer nearby passengers food or a drink to switch seats

When competition is steep and if all else fails, offer nearby passengers food or a drink to switch seats

 

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