A practical guest post by Scott from Trekeo for AlmostFearless.com. I’m myself a heavy user of these tips when flying between Paris and Vienna… and they really work! Please feel free to add your tips in the comments.
My nightmare finds myself stuck in the center seat on a 4-hour flight. To my right is a guy twice my size who decides that both armrests belong to him. He spends most of the flight fidgeting and complaining under his breath. Turns out he is a heavy breather; with a head cold. On my left is a middle-aged woman who is flying for the first time in years. The look on her face tells me that she would rather be going in for major surgery than sitting on the plane. She expresses her nervousness by talking; incessantly. For four hours I experience hell in stereo. There has to be a better way.
These are not guarantees, but here are some tips I have used with success in getting an empty seat next to me.
Book near the back of the plane. Usually tickets are first booked at the front and then fill toward the back. I always book near the back, where there is an empty seat next to the seat I want. Some travelers hate the back because it takes more time to get off the plane. For me, an additional 5 minutes deplaning is worth the possibility of an empty seat.
Book an aisle seat. This puts you in prime position to make the shuffle. What is “The Shuffle?” Read on.
The Shuffle. Once you are in your assigned aisle seat, look around for an open seat. As soon as you hear the flight attendants say that the doors have been locked and you sense that there are no more passengers boarding, unbuckle your seat belt and move. Do not wait to ask the flight attendants (they don’t care). Wait too long and someone else will take the empty. Strike as fast as you can.
Book non-reclining seats. Many travelers try to stay away from non-reclining seats. I would rather have an empty seat next to me than 4 inches of reclining seat.
Book an aisle and a window. If you are traveling with another person, book one aisle seat and one window (again, near the back of the plane). Do this only if there is an empty seat in between the seats you book. It is possible that someone will fill that seat, but the chances are slim. Most people who travel solo will look to take any seat except the one between you and your traveling partner. When you check in for your flight, double-check your seating. If your center seat is filled, find another with an empty and change your seat assignments. I have used this with success numerous times.
Be the last to board the plane. If you fly on a carrier that doesn’t have assigned seats, try to be the last person to board the plane. That way you can pick out a seat with nobody next to you without having to wait until the entire plane is full and then look around to see if there are open seats.
What have you used to make more room for you on a flight?