Ways to Find the Best Economy Airplane Seat

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Ever wonder why you're always stuck in the middle seat, at the back of the plane or near the bathroom? Not all economy airplane seats are alike. Here are 10 steps passengers can take to find the best seat possible for your money:

Use online seating sites
Sites like SeatGuru.com can be your best friend when trying to find the best economy seat. The site uses three colors (red, yellow and green) based on the quality of seat. You will never have a window seat without a window, be stuck in a seat that won't recline or end up sitting right next to the lavatory if you do your research first.

Take a window and aisle seat
If you are traveling with someone, reserve a window and aisle seat, leaving the middle seat empty. The middle seats will be the last to go. You may end up with extra space or, if someone ends up sitting in your middle seat, chances are they will be more than happy to swap seats. Either way, you are still sitting next to your companion.

Keep checking the online seating chart
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. By the time you get your seat reservation, you might only have middle seats to choose from. Most airlines let you manage your reservation online, where you can check often to see if any better seats open up. Some airlines release seats closer to the actual flight and passengers might cancel or move seats.

Check the seats at the airport
Even if you have your boarding pass from home, check in again at a kiosk at the airport or with a ticketing agent. If there is nothing new, inquire at the gate about upgrading to a premium seat. Many airlines offer deals for upgrades at the gate.

Pay for it
The cost between economy and business or first class can be too much for most people. Some airlines offer another option: premium economy seats with more room and perks. United Airlines has Economy Plus, Frontier has Stretch and Delta will be starting Economy Comfort. All these options will cost you a little extra money, but can pay off during that long flight.

Sit near the back of the plane
When there are only middle seats left, most people will start at the front of the plane and work their way back. You will increase your chances of having a middle seat next to you be empty the farther back you sit.

The exit and bulkhead row might not be the best choice
Most passengers see the exit and bulkhead rows as the best seats on the plane, but that might not always be the case. If you only care about legroom, then those rows might be a good fit for you. However, if you care more about width, you might want to look elsewhere. Some exit row seats also do not fully recline.

Look around after boarding
After the plane has boarded, stand up and take a look around. Many times not all the seats will be filled and there might be a better seat left unoccupied. If you want to nab another seat it is best to ask a flight attendant before moving to make sure they have completed their count of passengers and moving won't throw off the weight distribution.

Fly the same airline – a lot
The more you fly, the more you are rewarded on most airlines. With most frequent flier programs you can earn free tickets, upgrades and elite status. If you fly an airline enough, you can get first dibs on access to premium seats.

Know the airline you are flying
Keep in mind not all airlines are created equally. Depending on your needs, it might be worth paying a few more bucks to fly on an airline that has free TV or Wi-Fi Internet available. Many low-cost airlines might offer less leg room or fewer amenities. Most airlines allow you to choose your seats during check-in, but others, like Southwest, have open seating, which requires you to prepare for a bit of a free-for-all as you board the plane.
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