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How to Find Best Airline Seats

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It is hard to deny that getting the best seat available is essential when booking a flight, especially if it is an international long-haut flight. If you don’t want to end up sitting with knees at your chest, it is worth taking a few extra minutes to examine the following recommendations and with a little advance planning you can easily make your trip a rather enjoyable experience.

1. Gather information.

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Try to get the most detailed information about all the seats available by checking Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia which is the ultimate source for getting extensive details about almost every seat on six major US airlines, in-flight amenities, and airline information. For international flight you should research Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia. As a rule, exit rows, aisle or window seats, and seats close to the front of the plane are considered the best. But much also depends on the occasion. On a short business trip, you will probably want an aisle seat near the front of the plane. On an overnight flight, you may want a window seat so you can rest your head and have some sleep. Nervous fliers may prefer to sit over the wing, where there is less turbulence.

2. Compare seat pitch and width dimensions that airlines offer.

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There are tremendous differences even among the coach seats on a single plane and the differences between various jets operated by different carriers can be even greater. The problem is that different carriers configure their planes differently, though most offer 32 inches of legroom, some, like JetBlue, offer 34 inches for the same price. Why is that so important, you may ask. Well, one or two extra inches of pitch do make a huge difference in terms of comfort and productivity. Simply speaking, your knees won't be touching the seat back in front of you and you will be able to fully open your laptop screen.

3. Reserve a seat in an exit row.

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These seats usually offer six inches more legroom than the typical coach seat, and they are often sold the same price. Many airlines usually release these seats via online check-in 24 hours before departure; while others, like JetBlue, sell them for a modest premium. As for emergency exit seats they are usually held back to be assigned the day of a flight, so you should get to the ticket counter early to snag one of those seats for a long flight. Exit row seats do offer a bit more legroom, but they are not appropriate if you are traveling as a family. By federal law, no one under 15 may sit in an exit row, and infants are not permitted in the rows immediately behind or in front of an exit row either.

4. Take bulkhead seats in order to get the most legroom.

Bulkhead seats, the seats directly behind the physical barriers such as walls, curtains or screens that separate different parts of the plane, also offer extra legroom due to the position of the bulkhead and because there are no seats in front of you. But keep in mind that bulkheads are the places where airlines usually put baby bassinets, so you may be sitting next to an infant. And be careful: not all "bulkhead" rows are created equal. On some planes, the first bulkhead row may be cramped and uncomfortable.

5. Check-in online, especially if you want to secure a seat in the exit row or a bulkhead seat.

Most of the airlines only permit exit rows and bulkhead seats to be booked on the day of flight. By checking-in online, you can get a better seat without having to arrive at the airport early before your flight. You can even check-in online if you have bags to check.

6. If you want to get two seats for yourself in a three-seat row, try to secure an aisle seat in a center section toward the back of coach.

In case you are traveling with a companion, book an isle and a window seat to increase chances of having three seats for yourselves, as middle seats are usually the last to be booked. And even if the third passenger is assigned the middle seat, he or she will be willing to trade for a window or an aisle.

7. Avoid the last row of any section or the row in front of emergency exit

If you are going to have some sleep during the flight, avoid the last row of any section or the row in front of emergency exit as these seats are not likely to recline. Also avoid seats near highly trafficked toilet area as well as the seats at the back of the jet as they may be narrower than the ones in the rest of coach.

8. Compare in-flight amenities.

With a personal video screen or power port to plug in your laptop or DVD player you can have a more enjoyable flight. Such amenities will help you relax, entertain the kids, and help business travelers stay productive. Airline carriers offer very different types of amenities, especially for international travel. Some airlines on certain seats have power outlets and seatback televisions, but that is not always indicated on the Web site of the airline. So you should also check web sites like SeatExpert.com and SeatGuru.com which offer color-coded seat maps that reveal which seats have the best amenities. For example, JetBlue and start-up carrier Virgin America offer seatback televisions for every passenger on every flight. On other airlines like Allegiant and Southwest, video entertainment is rather hard to find.

9. Participate in a frequent-flier program.

The easiest strategy for obtaining an upgrade is to take advantage of frequent-flier programs, all of which are free to join. Once you have opened an account, try to obtain status within the program. Many carriers, like Delta, for example, offer tremendous perks to their most frequent fliers. Credit cards like the American Express Delta Reserve card will help you achieve status within the program in addition to earning travel miles. So fly one airline a lot and you will start getting a lot of upgrades.

10. Don’t buy the cheapest ticket.

Of course, the price of a plane ticket is really important. But if you consider only this factor when booking you may trade-off on convenience and miss out on a better travel experience. Think whether buying a cheaper ticket is worth refusing from a more enjoyable trip with a better entertainment system, a power port, or even a better seat.

11. Compare seat availability.

Before selecting your seat, be sure to view seat availability maps offered by most of the booking engines and compare them to corresponding seat map. If the only seats that are available are Red seats, think about booking a different flight.

12. Select a seat when booking.

If you want to get a preferred seat on a plane, the earlier you select your seat the better. Most booking engines and airlines offer opportunities to select your seat at time of purchase. Select the best available seat by comparing the airline or booking engine seat map to the corresponding seat map on SeatGuru. In case first choice seat is not available, you should select another option to ensure you have a seat assignment, so that you could change it later.

13. If it is impossible to select seats when booking online, call the airline directly.

Again timing is extremely important here, so call the airline immediately after you have completed your online booking to make your seat selection with a phone agent. And, if you fail to secure your first choice seat, select another one and try to change it at a later date.

14. Confirm your seat assignment the week you are flying.

Airlines happen to switch the aircraft type close to the departure date because of various reasons. When these changes are made, pre-reserved seats are re-assigned and you may lose the seat you have already selected. Besides, airlines regularly release seats that were previously not available for assignment. By going on checking back on your flight and aircraft type you will increase your chances of keeping the seat you want, and, if you are lucky, even secure a better seat when one becomes available.