Don't get stuck in a middle seat near a bathroom on your next flight. With a little time and effort, you can be sitting pretty.
Step 1: Figure out your priorities There is no single "best seat" on an airplane — all have their pros and cons — so decide what's important to you. Legroom? Peace and quiet? A quick exit? A smooth ride?
Step 2: Check out seats Don't assume anything about a seat without checking it out. Some bulkhead seats don't offer extra legroom, some "window" seats are between windows and therefore offer little view, and many exit seats, while providing more legroom, are narrower than other seats.
TIP: Find out what kind of plane you'll be on and then visit "seatexpert.com":http:// or "seatguru.com":http://. Click on any seat to see its pros and cons.
Step 3: Buy a better seat Pay a small fee to ensure you get a seat with the most legroom. Many airlines now identify their best seats on their websites and charge for them accordingly.
Step 4: Don't forget about reclining Take reclining into account. If you like to sit back, avoid the last rows in any section. If you hate people leaning into your lap, try to snare an exit seat; the seats in front of those rows usually don't recline.
TIP: Exit row seats are often not assigned until check-in. To snag one, get to the airport early.
Step 5: Consider the pitch Consider the pitch of the seat, which is the distance between your seat and the one in front of you. You'll find this information on airline seat websites.
Step 6: Take turbulence into account Take turbulence into account. If you're a white-knuckle flyer, sit over the front of the wing; that's where you're least likely to feel turbulence. Avoid the back, where you'll feel every bump.
Step 7: Consider the noise If you need peace and quiet, avoid sitting in the back, where the engines are the loudest. And steer clear of the bulkhead, where families with babies are usually seated.
Step 8: Book early When you buy your ticket, be sure to book your specific seat, either online or by calling the airline directly.
TIP: Increase your odds of sitting beside an empty middle seat by requesting a back row where either the aisle or window seat is already booked. The middle seats in back rows fill up last.
Step 9: Check back the day before Check back 24 hours before your flight; this is when prime seating often is released. Plus, airlines occasionally switch planes, possibly turning your chosen seat into an undesirable one!
Step 10: Join a good-seat program If you're a frequent flyer, consider joining an airline program that guarantees a good seat for an annual fee.
FACT: The average airline seat in coach is just 17.2 inches wide.