Here’s my strategy for securing the best seat on every flight

Emirates economy class comfort

I love travelling. But I hate flying. There are almost always delays, the seats on aeroplanes are cramped and uncomfortable, and the whole experience is often unpleasant.

Still, there are some ways to make the experience of flying more bearable — starting with selecting the right aeroplane seat. I never splurge on first class seats, but there are still ways to get the best seats in economy without having to pay extra.

Here’s how I make sure I get the best seat possible.

Book your flight far in advance

The earlier you book your flight, the more seats that are available. If you book a last-minute flight, there’s a good chance that you’ll end up with only middle seats available — which is the worst scenario.

Reserve directly with the airline

When you book directly with the airline, you’ll be entitled to select the seat you want. However, when you book through a third party site like Expedia or Orbitz, you may not be able to select your seat.

Consult SeatGuru to find the seat that has the most leg room

SeatGuru has interactive seating charts for every flight. iTunes keeps track of seating charts for every single flight.

Simply input your airline and flight number and an interactive seating map will pop up.

The site will give you insider information on the best seats, including tips on which rows have more leg room, which rows don’t recline, and which seats are closest to the bathroom.

Select your seat strategically

If you have a preference for a window or aisle seat, obviously you should book your preferred seat, but remember that the middle seats are always the last seats to be reserved.

If I’m flying with my husband and there are three seats in a row, we always book the window and aisle seat. The middle seats are almost always the last seats to get booked, so chances are that if the flight isn’t full, we’ll have the whole row to ourselves. And even if there is someone in the middle, they will likely be more than happy to switch with one of us as no one wants to sit in the middle seat.

Decide when it’s worth paying for more leg room

Some airlines charge more for premium seats in coach. Costs can vary, but if it’s only another $US50 for significantly more room and you’re taking a 5-hour flight, it’s probably worth paying the extra money for more space. But if it’s several hundred dollars more for a 2-hour flight, it may not be worth it.

Ask the gate agent if there’s a free seat in the exit row or bulkhead row

Airlines often hold the exit row seats — which have the most leg room — to make sure that only qualified fliers sit there. (You must be 16 or over, willing and able to help in an emergency, and speak the language of the flight attendants in order to sit in the exit row.) That means that if you get to the airport early enough, there’s a good chance that there may be open seats in the exit row.

The bulkhead row — the first row behind the cabin wall — also has a lot of leg room. And these seats may be held as well to accommodate families with small children who need more space.

Be polite to the gate agent and dress up

It helps if you’re a frequent flier who’s loyal to the airline, but if you dress the part and are polite to the gate agent, he or she may just upgrade you to first or business class. A little courtesy can go a long way.

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