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The Travel Column 2002-10-3

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We are pleased to bring you The Travel Column, written fortnightly for "The Trinidad Guardian"


Where do you think is really the best place to sit on an airplane? Do you have a particular preference? Row upon row of seats - they all look the same - but with subtle differences that can become very important on a long journey. Different parts of the same plane can certainly give you a very different flying experience. This week, we’ll explore the differences between seats, including the little known 'best place' to sit! Our travel colleague, David Rowell, has traveled extensively, and he has shared with me some excellent suggestions when it comes to choosing the ‘best’ seat.

Are Seats in the Front or Back Better?

Generally, most people prefer to sit further forward on the plane, probably because they'll save a few minutes when disembarking, and those who suffer from a little claustrophobia, also tend to find the front less confining. However, there is an advantage to being seated at the back. People at the back of the plane have to board first, which means less time waiting in the boarding line at the gate, and also you're much more likely to be able to find plenty of overhead space for your carry-ons. But there are also some reasons to avoid the rear of the plane. It can be quite a bit noisier if you're behind the engines. If you're in a plane that has engines mounted to the rear (rather than on the wings) it is definitely noisier when you are seated alongside or behind them. The back of the plane also moves about a bit more in turbulence than the front, with the most stable part of the plane being closest to the wings.

Where is the Safest?

It’s a common belief that it is safer in the back of the plane than in the front, in terms of surviving a crash. However, detailed studies suggest that there is very little difference, wherever you are located. The strongest part of the plane is where the wings join the body, but there are often fuel tanks around that area which can be an obvious disadvantage in a crash. Realistically, there is so little difference in survivability rates that where you sit is not really a relevant factor!

Exit Row Seating?

The rows alongside the emergency exits are more widely spaced apart, to make it easier to move from the aisle to the exit in an emergency. A limited number of airlines may pre-assign the exit row seats, but most only assign them at the airport (due to the requirement that only people who are physically-able to open the emergency exit can be seated in the exit rows).

Bulkhead Rows

These are typically the first rows in any cabin. The good news is that there is no seat in front of you that might recline and limit your personal space. The bad news is that sometimes you can't stretch your legs quite as far in front as regular seats, and you have nowhere other than the overheads to stow carry-on items. Some airlines have infant bassinets hung off the bulkheads, so this could mean that you're sharing a row with very young children - for some people, this adds to the appeal, for others, ahem, it definitely does not! If you're in a bulkhead row, you're either horribly close to the movie screen, or on such an extreme angle that you can't see it. If you're a movie-buff, on a flight which doesn't have personal seat-back screens, then you might want to ensure that your seat is neither too close nor too far from a screen, and with a reasonable angle of vision.

Where are the Bathrooms and Galleys?

If you're close to a bathroom or galley, then you will probably have a lot more people passing your seat, stopping nearby, talking and laughing, than otherwise. This may not be a problem on a short day flight, but it can be a nuisance on a long overnight flight when you're trying to sleep. On the other hand, if you're a long way from the bathrooms, on some flights it can seem that for the duration of the flight it is impossible to get to them due to the presence of serving carts in the aisles.

Window or Aisle?

You probably already know which you prefer, and I'm not going to try and persuade you otherwise! Window seats have a view, and may have a convenient 'side' that you can lean on when sleeping; aisle seats allow you to "spill-over" into the aisle a bit. Aisle seats are more convenient if you expect to want to get up during the flight, and are a plus once again for anyone who feels claustrophobic. One thing to be aware of, if you want a window seat to enjoy the view, make sure you don't get a seat that is over the wing!

Danger - Seat Back Restrictions

Some seats do not allow their seat back to recline fully, they may allow a small measure of recline and sometimes no recline at all. These are typically seats in the rows immediately in front of emergency exit rows, and sometimes at the back of a cabin where there is a bulkhead behind them. Try and avoid these seats at all costs!

The Secret 'Best' Seats

Towards the back of some planes, you'll find that the blocks of seats may have one less seat in them. These rows are often considered to be the best seats in coach class because you have more room, side to side, and sometimes more room in front of you as well. You are way at the back of the plane - not otherwise the best part of the plane to be in - but if you're on a long flight, the extra comfort is probably worth the several extra minutes to get off the plane at the other end.

Remember, your professional and experienced travel agent is your best bet in pre-booking what is personally your ‘best’ seat.. They can usually pull up a ‘seat-map’ in their reservations system, so you can easily choose your seat!

Melanie Waddell, Director
October 3, 2002


Previous Travel Columns

bulletThe Travel Column 2002-9-19
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-9-5
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-8-22
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-8-8
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-7-25
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-7-11
bulletThe Travel Column 2002-6-27

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