Where should I sit on a plane

By Kristi DePaul

Window, middle, or aisle seat? At the front by the bulkhead, near the center of the plane, or back by the restrooms?

If you’ve ever taken a flight in your lifetime, you’ve faced this decision. And even for those who haven’t yet, they’ve undoubtedly had this conversation with others who were planning to travel. People have been debating the best place to sit on a plane for years. And they have strong opinions about it.

For fearful flyers, however, this is about more than convenience or personal preferences. They often want to know:

  • Which seats will have the most stable/calm flight?
  • Where is the safest place to be in the unlikely event of an accident?
  • Where will I be most comfortable?
  • What seats offer me the best value for the price?

Finally, we have answers. 

Turbulence

Occasional travelers and frequent flyers alike have many differing opinions related to the question of stability. Some assert that the front of the aircraft is ideal, while others prefer a seat looking out over the wing, and still more will claim the back is the best place.

This hasn’t been scientifically explored to our team’s knowledge, but our veteran pilots believe that all sections of the plane move simultaneously when confronted with choppy weather or adverse events. This means that our minds are actually deceiving us.

The source of the issue? Our spatial perception mostly relies on our sight, and so when we see a fixed cabin and feel movement in our equilibrium system, our brains interpret it as if the entire cabin is moving. So if we sit in the back of the plane, we falsely feel that the entire aircraft is swinging up and down because we’re staring down a long corridor extending in front of us. But if we sit in the front by the bulkhead, facing a wall tends to make us feel steadier.

Safety

Statistically speaking, flying remains the safest form of travel out there. You are infinitely more likely to get into an accident or life-threatening situation driving a car or riding on public transportation, such as a bus or train, than you are as a passenger on a plane. (The risk of dying in a car crash for the average American is about 1 in 5,000.)

Despite extensive media coverage of past plane crashes—which can influence our thinking regarding safety—there have been comparatively very few casualties on flights. (This is why they make the news, as out of roughly 100,000 flights every day, there were a total of 137 deaths due to aircraft crashes in 2020.)

However, analysis from some fatal accidents has shown that survivors were slightly more likely to be seated in the back of the plane; however, this had more to do with the circumstances of the crashes themselves rather than where passengers chose to sit.

Comfort

Of course, it goes without saying that those seeking the ultimate comfort and convenience will have their needs met in luxury classes. Both business and first class on commercial flights typically offer more space and legroom, improved service, and greater privacy.

With regard to comfort in premium economy and economy, there are a number of factors to consider. Those with a fear of flying, for example, will likely prefer aisle seats as they would rather not look out of a window. In some aircraft, the air quality is better in the front, and those with chronic breathing conditions or other sensitivities such as asthma may find it to be more comfortable. Emergency exit rows will offer better legroom, but the seats may not recline. Those who need to change little ones or anticipate needing to use the restroom frequently will find a seat closer to the toilets to be more convenient. Last but not least, anyone who wishes to deplane first will want to be seated closer to the door.

When planning your next flight, perhaps now you’ll have a better idea of what seating arrangement will work best for you. And if you find yourself hesitating to choose a seat—or even book a flight—consider checking out SimpliFly.

Thousands of people have found peace of mind in the mobile app’s informative modules, which were developed by veteran airline captains and pilots. For those who wish they had an expert on speed dial, there is even a Chat with a Pilot feature available for premium subscribers, where you can receive 1:1 encouragement and advice via text from an off-duty pilot.