A window seat, middle, aisle? Front of the plane or back? Over the wing or next to the exit? Unless you are travelling first or business class, it can be tricky to know which seat to choose to make yourself as comfortable as possible in economy.

Of course, everyone has a different travel style. Some want to get as much sleep as possible, some want to make a quick exit on landing, and some want the most legroom they can get without a huge additional spend. Whatever your preferences, here are the best seats to choose:

For extra legroom

This is one of the questions that everyone asks. What are the best seats on a plane if you want extra legroom? Try the exit rows. Beware though, you will have to be ready to spring into action in an emergency! Plus, you will have to balance out extra legroom with the inconvenience of not being able to store your bags under the seat, and of having your tray and entertainment system in your armrest rather than in front of you. Many airlines have now started charging extra for exit rows.

Legroom! © Cathay Pacific

Another option is to look at the bulkhead seats – the seats which have a divider in front of them.

To get some rest

Particularly if you are on a longer flight, you may just want to close your eyes and try to get as much sleep as you can. While this is not always easy in economy, a window seat will be your best choice. That way, you won’t have people waking your up so they can go to the toilet, and the flight attendants won’t be reaching across you to serve other passengers. Plus, talking about toilets, make sure your seat isn’t too close to one, or you will be disturbed by passengers queuing to get to the bathroom.

For less turbulence

If one of your party isn’t the most confident of flyers, or you just want the smoothest ride possible, then it’s best to either sit over one of the wings or towards the front of the plane. If you imagine the plane as a seesaw with the wings as the pivot point, you can see why that area feels more stable when you enter turbulence.

If you need to get off quickly

Do you have a connecting flight to catch? Or perhaps patience simply isn’t your virtue. In that case, it makes sense to choose a seat closet to the front of the aircraft. If you have a choice, opt for the left-hand side as that is where the door will be, so you will usually find the queue on the left moves faster than the one on the right.

Safety first

The accident rates for commercial airlines really is tiny when you compare air travel with road travel, for example. But, if you want to be extra safe, sitting in the middle at back of the plane has statistically been found to be the safest spot. Back in 2012, researchers took a Boeing 727 into the Mexican desert, filled it with crash-test dummies and crashed it as if it was making an emergency landing. The dummies in the middle at the back fared better than their counterparts at the front.

If you are travelling with children

Travelling with children © Emirates

When you are travelling with little ones, it can be hard enough to keep them occupied and comfort them if their ears start to feel the change in air pressure, without worrying about disapproving looks from other passengers. Try to get a bulkhead seat if you can. That way, you should be able to get a bassinet if you need one. You’ll also have more legroom, and you won’t have to worry about passengers in front of you. Of course, if you are travelling without children, you may want to avoid the bulkhead if you would like a quieter spot.

Seats to avoid as a solo traveller

Of course, everyone is different. But, if you are travelling on a craft with rows of three or four, you will generally want to avoid the middle seat, which can feel cramped and gives you neither the benefits of being able to lean against the window, nor being able to stretch out a little into the aisle.

Your seat preference will really depend on your size, how long you will be in the air for, whether you want to go to sleep and whether you prefer a quieter or more stable spot on the plane. Hopefully, you now have some food for thought for the next time you look at an aircraft seating plan. So choose carefully and early as possible when you make your booking–remembering that many airlines will now charge you for selecting anything except the aisle seats

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