I take dozens of flights a year as an airline reporter. I always go for the aisle seat — even if it costs extra money

A view of the Finnair A350 cabin with blue mood lighting.
I flew on Finnair's A350 from New York to Helsinki and loved the experience.Taylor Rains/Business Insider
  • I used to not care about where I sat on an airplane, but I'll pay extra for the aisle these days.

  • I want the freedom to move around and the openness helps with claustrophobia on long flights.

  • I've been asked before to give up a seat I paid for to accommodate other people, but I rarely do.

I've spent years traversing the world trying out different airline economy cabins, from premium carriers like Delta Air Lines and All Nippon Airways to budget ones like Norse Atlantic Airways and Spirit Airlines.

As an aviation enthusiast with an itch to just be on a plane, I rarely went out of my way to book a specific seat. Plus, my younger self was extremely frugal, so I didn't really care so long as it was cheap — even if meant sitting in the middle.

Now that I'm only a year away from 30 with a little more fun money, however, I've gotten picky about where I sit.

Many times, to the shock of friends and family who assume I'd prefer the window for the view (I used to), my preference these days is actually the aisle seat, especially on long-haul journeys.

For example, earlier this year, I paid about $100 to snag aisle seats on Finnair flights between New York and Helsinki. I also shelled out $50 to reserve an aisle seat on Air India in January and a cheaper $20 for a transatlantic flight on Norse Atlantic Airways coming up in August.

There are times when I won't pay for a seat. Review purposes for my job as an aviation reporter testing my luck with basic economy, for example, or flights shorter than two hours.

Still, it's worth it to me to splurge in most cases.

I want the freedom to move about the cabin whenever

The reason I'll pay extra for the aisle seat is two-fold. One, I don't like not having immediate access to things.

I'll admit I'm a little bit of a control freak, for better or for worse. So, being unable to get up and stretch my legs or use the bathroom whenever I want — when there isn't turbulence, of course — is not my idea of a stress-free journey.

The second issue snuck up on me in the past year.

After a decade of adventuring without fear of most things, I've developed a little bit of claustrophobia when flying. I realized this after opting for the window on a few ultra-long-haul journeys last year, thinking I'd maybe sleep easier.

Air India economy cabin.
I opted for a center-section aisle seat on an Air India flight in January, paying an extra $50 for it.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

However, the tightness made it more difficult. The aisle seat lets me stretch an arm or leg out when needed, giving me just enough wiggle room.

Being self-aware of all this, it just makes sense to pay extra for an aisle rather than make my personal needs anybody else's problem.

I'm also a people pleaser, so there's no way I'm disrupting my neighbors to let me out from the window seat unless it's an absolute emergency.

I know my preference is debatable. Some people complain about the aisle because of things like the galley cart hitting the seat, a lack of privacy, and difficulty sleeping because they prefer to lean against the fuselage wall.

Personally, none of this bothers me. I can sleep as long as I have a headrest, and I'm a heavy sleeper who doesn't wake up to noise or a sudden jolt.

There are times when I wish I had a window seat, like when my Air India flight was flying over the Himalayas, and I couldn't see out from the center section. Fortunately, a fellow traveler let me lean over for a photo. Win-win.

I'll almost only switch seats if it's an aisle for an aisle

There is ongoing debate about whether people should switch their seats for a party that wants to sit together on a flight, like families or couples.

I've always been in the camp that if you didn't plan ahead and got assigned separate seats and then need the one I paid for, then that isn't my problem.

I paid for my aisle seat for a reason, so I'm within my right to say no. However, I will consider switching if I'm offered another aisle or if it's an exit row seat where I can get up without disrupting anyone.

The view from seat 26A.
I was assigned an exit row window seat for a review flight on British Airways in March and kept it because there was plenty of room to get up at will.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

But that typically isn't the case. I recently flew Ryanair, and a couple wanted to sit together, asking me to switch my aisle for a middle seat — no thanks.

But I'm not a total monster. If it's a medical reason, then I'll switch, or an actual child scared to sit away from their parents.

For instance, I had a situation in which a woman who didn't select seats in advance was separated from her young son. It was an aisle for an aisle, but I ended up in the very back of the plane.

Another time, a plane swap changed the seating of an entire family, and I switched out my aisle for the dad's window. I wasn't thrilled in either case, but I figured it could send some good karma my way.

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