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Travel hack 101: how to score the best economy class seats

Tired of always getting stuck in the dreaded middle seat? Flying in economy can be a drag – unless you have some travel hacks up your sleeve. Check out Skyscanner's tips and tricks for scoring the best economy class seats so you can arrive at your vacation destination as fresh as a daisy. You'll never settle for a bad seat again!

1. Know your travel needs

What’s the best seat in economy class? Well, the truth is that it really depends on what kind of passenger you are. If you like sleeping on long-haul flights, then you probably prefer window seats, whereas travellers who get restless or claustrophobic tend to pick an aisle seat. If you dislike turbulence, then your best bet is to choose a seat towards the front or the middle of the plane, where it’s less bumpy.

Figuring out which type of seat works best for you will make your experience in economy much more pleasant. However, there’s one thing that most travellers can agree on: the middle seat is always the worst.

2. Book early

When it comes to snagging a good seat in economy class, booking your flight early is key. Most airlines will let you choose a seat during the reservation process, so it’s best to make your selection right away instead of waiting until the last minute.

Travelling as a couple? Here’s a pro tip: book an aisle and a window seat to maximise your chances of keeping the middle seat free. Even if it does end up being occupied, it’s very likely that the passenger will be happy to switch seats with you, so this travel hack is definitely worth a shot.

Woman looking at her laptop and raising her arms in celebration.

You can celebrate after booking that perfect seat!

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3. Do your homework before you book

Not all economy class seats are created equal, which is why you should always check out a seat map before booking. Airlines usually show these maps on their website, but if not, Seat Guru is a great resource. Once you have your flight number, you can pull up the seat maps for every type of aircraft. Keep an eye out for the seats marked in red or yellow: those are the ones you want to avoid. Weeding out all the bad seats on the plane – from restricted legroom to limited recline – is already half the battle. As they say, knowledge is power.


Overhead view of the seats in an economy class cabin.

Don’t get stuck with a bad seat: use a seat map instead.

Compare & book cheap flights to Everywhere here

4. Consider upgrading to a premium seat

If you’re willing to pay a bit more, you can snag the most precious commodity in economy class: extra legroom. Sure, these premium seats come at a price – but you should definitely consider this option if you’re on a long-haul flight or travelling with kids. For instance, Singapore Airlines offers ‘Preferred Seats’ with more legroom (S$20–S$135), while Air Asia’s ‘Hot Seats’ are located at the forward cabin (S$10–S$13).

For families travelling with babies, front-row seats are the holy grail, since they afford ample space for bassinets and for tired parents to stretch their legs. These coveted seats are always snapped up quickly, so make sure you book them well ahead of your flight!

Mother sitting in an airplane with a sleeping baby on her lap.

Travelling with a baby? That front-row upgrade is worth every cent!

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5. Kindness matters

Gate agents often have to deal with rude or whiny passengers, so a little bit of kindness and courtesy can go a long way. If you happen to be stuck with a bad seat, don’t despair yet. Once you’ve checked in, approach the gate agent with a smile and ask politely if there are any exit row or aisle seats available. It never hurts to be nice, and who knows, you just might get a better seat in the process.

A friendly, smiling woman standing at a flight counter and holding out her passport.

Kindness is always the best policy, whether it’s on land or in the air.

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6. Be the last to board

If your flight isn’t full and you’ve exhausted all other options, wait until you’re the last person to board so you can have a quick walk around the plane without disturbing anyone. Once you’ve scoped out an available seat that you like, approach one of the flight attendants and ask – very politely – if you can swap seats. You may only be able to make the switch after takeoff, but it’s a small price to pay for scoring a good seat.

Professional woman sitting in an airport lounge, waiting to board.

A good economy class seat is worth waiting for.

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Ready to use all these handy tips for your next flight? Book cheap flights, hotels and car rental via Skyscanner today, or download our free mobile app for easy browsing and booking on the go.

Originally published on 14 September 2016 and updated in June 2017. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only at the time of publication and are subject to change and/or availability.

Adapted from an article originally written by Rebecca Males for Skyscanner