Flying in comfort ranks high up on your list of priorities as a traveler. Even a short flight can be a better experience if your seat assignment suits your requirements. In this story, UNIGLOBE Experts talk about setting up your preferences and making choices at the right time to increase your chances of getting the seat you want and sometimes not having to pay extra to get it!

Let’s start by evaluating things a bit, shall we? Is there really a best seat in the house? Not really – the “best” seat is a flight-by-flight choice based on flight length, aircraft type, time of day, services offered and, of course, client preference. “We track our clients preferences through a secure “preferences profiling system” so we can help ensure preferred seat assignments. Many of our clients prefer a bulkhead aisle seat, usually 1B or 1C. This puts them near the bulkhead galley which means they get served first, there is generally more leg room, no seat in front to recline into their lap and they save time by being first off the plane”, explains one UNIGLOBE Travel expert.

Clients who regularly take early morning or late evening flights swear by window seats to so they can enjoy an undisturbed nap  - “nobody crawling over you to get to the aisle and the window provides a place to rest your head!”. As another UNIGLOBE expert points out, “Veteran window-sitters even pay attention to the flight plan, deciding which side of the plane to sit on according to where the sun will be. Our tall clients prefer exit row seats for more leg room or aisle seats so they can stretch their legs out or stand and stretch without disturbing their seatmates”. Nervous fliers appreciate the greater stability of seats near the middle of the aircraft over the wings. And it is useful to know that seats may be narrower in the back of the plane while some seats may have more “pitch” — the space between your seat and the seat in front of you – than others. All this information is available today through sites like Seat Guru and Seat Expert so identifying the potentially “best seats” is now easier than ever. Then the question is…how to get the one you want!

How to get what you want?

What most people don’t realize is that seat inventories are in constant flux. Ticket cancellations and upgrades affect seat availability. So does airline policy; airlines can reserve or release a portion of their inventory to meet their own needs and to provide promised services to their frequent fliers. Seat configurations are changing as new aircraft come online – a 35 inch recline may be reduced to a 31 inch recline so more seats can be put on the plane – and that 4 inches makes quite a difference to comfort – especially on long haul flights. With all these changes in play, the key to getting the seat you want is vigilance and persistence – and that’s where your travel professional comes in.  Here’s what our experts recommend to get the seat you want:

Update your personal travel profile: The more your travel consultant knows about your preferences the easier it is to match preferences to seat options at the point of initial purchase.  “Each time we actually book a trip – specific preferences like a preferred seat type are automatically accessed and made central to the traveler’s experience” concludes a UNIGLOBE expert.

Book early. That will give you more selection to choose from among the seats not set aside for the elite customers and those willing to pay more. This is also a great way to get a lower fare!

Join airline frequent-flier programs. Many airlines set aside their best coach seats for their premium or elite members. If you frequently travel on the same airline, be sure to sign up for the frequent-flier program and add the number to your UNIGLOBE traveller profile so it is added to every booking.  Once you’ve earned premium status, you’ll have free access to better seats.

Get a better seat later. If your first choice isn’t available at the time of purchase, your UNIGLOBE consultant can use sophisticated travel management technology tools like “Seat Finder” to continually work through airline inventory as it changes and grab the seat you want in case that it comes available. Note: depending on the fare you paid for your booking there may be a cost to change seat assignments.

Plan ahead with fellow travelers. If you’re flying with another colleague, consider booking a window seat and an aisle seat in the same row. Since the middle seats are unpopular, you may be fortunate enough to have an ‘empty” middle seat beside you. Your UNIGLOBE consultant can look at the status of the sold inventory to see how full the flight is at a particular point in time to help you decide if this strategy might work. But don’t count on it- many changes can also occur on the day of departure and that middle seat could be assigned at the list minute.

Budget to pay the price. If all else fails, you can always pay for a better seat in coach. Expect to pay anywhere from INR 50 to more than INR 5000 depending on the airline. (There’s a reason the airlines made more than $708 billion in ancillary fee revenue in 2013!)

Last-minute options. If you’re down to the wire and facing a cramped middle seat for a long cross-country flight, you may still be able to turn things around. When check-in starts, any unreserved seats go up for grabs, your UNIGLOBE professional can check you in and look for a better, unclaimed seat. Timing is everything here – those unclaimed preferred seats go fast!  

Check at check-in or onboard: If all else fails, a smile and a nice conversation with the gate agent, flight attendant or even another passenger might get you a better seat. If you listen to the seat change requests of other travellers on board, you might just be able to trade a middle for an aisle so someone can sit beside their friend or partner.  Give it a shot!

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