Ask Clayton Conway for the worst seat on a plane – and he will tell you about the time he flew from Denver to Seattle on Frontier Airlines.
“It was the worst flight experience I’ve ever had,” says Conway, who runs a digital marketing agency in Camano Island, Washington. “I was sitting in a bulkhead place that not only didn’t lie down, but it was also a kitten corner in a bathroom. So every visitor to the bathroom would inadvertently detonate the stench in the bathroom that hurt his nose directly to me. It was horrible – and there was no way out. “
Which air seat is the worst? It is a difficult question to answer with any specificity. For example, on a Boeing 737-800 of American Airlines, the SeatGuru seat classification site warns of numerous “bad” seats, indicated in red. They include all seats in row 30 on the back of the aircraft. The reasons are obvious: like those of Conway, the seats in row 30 are next to the toilets and do not completely recline.
But all the seats in row 30 are not equally bad. The middle ones – 30B and 30E – are particularly tortuous. You are unable to recline, subject to the smell of an airline’s toilet and confined on both sides by other passengers. It is not much worse than that.
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If you’re worried about getting a bad airline seat, it’s worth checking multiple sources before booking. Consult SeatGuru or another site, such as SeatMaestro, or speak with a travel consultant. Here is a short list of “things not to do”:
* Don’t buy the cheapest ticket. “Get away from the computer and thirst for the lowest fare,” says Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir. Instead, he says, make a must-have list when choosing a flight. Do you need an assigned seat? Do you need a window or a corridor? Extra legroom? Make sure the booked flight has all your must-haves. Of course, you will have to pay extra. “But you’ll be glad you did on your trip,” says Klee.
Years ago, when my family lived in Austria, my parents found the cheapest fares from New York to Vienna on Tarom, the Romanian flag carrier. Our seats were in the rear of the plane, near the toilets, with a reclining zero – and in the smoking section.
* Don’t wait until the last minute to book. If you buy a cheap ticket at the last minute, you’re practically asking to end up in 30B. Exception: if you reserve a seat in economy class or business class without restrictions, you are in luck. Most airlines set aside some places chosen for big spending.
* Don’t forget to check your operator. Not all airlines are created equal, says Tim Leffel, author of The cheapest destinations in the world. For example, U.S. domestic airlines such as JetBlue and Southwest have a reputation for offering more legroom. For some trips, Leffel also suggests looking at a low-cost airline like Mexico’s Interjet which is “known for not stopping in so many places”.
* Sometimes it’s not about avoiding a particular place, but an entire airline. Conway’s experience is an example. Frontier Airlines – part of a group of very low cost carriers that includes Allegiant Air and Spirit Airlines – is not known for the comfort of the seats or the amenities.
* If you don’t have an assigned seat, remember your manners. “Don’t dress badly, be rude, loud or otherwise important,” says frequent flyer Matt Woodley, who writes a blog on international moves. According to Woodley, nothing says, “I belong to the middle seat”, like “traveling in your jammies, being loud and hateful or incessantly annoying gate agents about how important you are, how long you have been waiting or how important your appointment is on the other end it is “. Ticket agents can and judge you based on your appearance or behavior. They are only human.
It is worth exploring why air travel somehow feels worse these days. My family’s flight on a Romanian communist airline was, in many ways, less degrading than today’s air travel. Nobody asked that we pay extra to be together. The seats, despite their unwanted position, arrived with a human amount of legroom, even in economy class. Flight attendants served two meals and drinks at no extra cost.
Airlines use our collective fear of the worst seat to trick us into paying extra for seats that have the same legroom we had on that Tarom flight. They know that we will invest more money to avoid the world’s 30 billion dollars or to avoid being separated from our children. In short, our fear of getting stuck in the worst seat on the plane is a powerful tool for increasing profits. But now you know how to avoid it.