Oh, the dreaded middle seat. You aren’t the only one that hates getting stuck between two strangers. When checking in for my flights, I use a few trusted tricks to give myself the best possible coach seat. Since I’ve never divulged these tricks in a single post, here’s how you can get a mini upgrade. Just don’t use them on a flight that I’m on!
1. Get elite status
Acquiring elite status is the easiest way to secure the best possible coach seat(s). That’s because most airlines allow their frequent fliers to sit in the highly sought-after rows for free. Attaining elite status is not that difficult, especially for business travelers. Usually you just need to fly 25,000 actual air miles in a calendar year on one particular airline or its partners.
Tip: To maximize elite status stick to one airline and its partners. And be sure not to throw out your boarding passes until the miles have posted.
2. Keep checking
If you book a ticket last-minute (like I usually do)—even if you’re a frequent flyer—chances are that the golden seats will be gone already. But don’t fret because the good seats will still open up. I can almost guarantee it. The trick is just to keep checking your reservation and seat chart every hour or so because the best seats are usually being reserved by frequent flyers. In most cases, one or some of them will either be upgraded to business class or or cancel, and the seats will open up.
I usually begin checking a few days before departure and continue until I get the seat I want. For example, I was able to get an exit row window seat a few days before my flight—but I prefer an aisle. I know beggars can’t be choosers, but I know how this works. So instead of checking-in 24 hours in advance, I waited until just a few hours before. On many airlines once you check-in you can’t change your seat until you get to the airport, and I had a feeling that on this flight the aisle might open up. And you know what? It did. How do you like them apples?!
3. Set a seat alert
If you don’t have time to keep checking your reservation, then set a seat alert with ExpertFlyer.com. They don’t charge for a single seat alert, but if you want to set more at once, you can buy more seat alerts for only $0.99 cents each or sign up for a Basic or Premium account, which start at $4.99 per month.
4. Pay extra
Most airlines will sell you a better coach seat. But if you’re going to pay, just make sure you’re getting something for your money (like more legroom) because some airlines (ahem, American) charge for being toward the front of the cabin with no extra anything. Don’t be fooled.
5. Get the bulkhead/emergency row
Get an emergency row or bulkhead seat. Emergency row and bulkhead seats usually have a lot more legroom than the other seats do, and that’s why airlines charge more for them. Whenever I’m in one and have a long flight, after takeoff I bring down my rolling briefcase from the overhead bin and put a blanket, pillow or sweatshirt on it and turn it into a leg rest. Sometimes, I even have more legroom than first class passengers. Just be sure to put the bag up before landing.
6. Be friendly
One of the best ways to get a great coach seat for free is, simply enough, to be super friendly to the gate agents (I usually bring them a bag of chocolates) and kindly request if they upgrade any of the frequent flyers to give you their plush coach seat. These flyers will usually booked in an exit row or bulkhead seat.
7. Use SeatGuru/SeatExpert
To find out which seats are the best on a particular aircraft, go to SeatGuru.com or SeatExpert.com. They highlight the best seats in green and list exactly how much legroom and pitch each one has. They also inform you if there are power ports or personal TVs. Keep in mind that airlines can change aircraft types at the last minute so there are no guarantees. Still, more information will help!
As you can see, it sometimes does take time to get the best seat on the plane, but having extra space or legroom can make or break your trip.
Let me know in the comments below if these tips helped or if you have any tricks up your sleeve that I missed!
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.