Being a frequent traveler, I am always looking for creative ways to get the best seat on a plane.
Because of the extra leg room, the obvious selections are the exit rows. That is, IF your seat reclines. If there are two exit rows next to each other (e.g., rows 10 and 11), the first one (row 10) will typically not recline. This makes the next row (in this example, row 11) much more desirable because not only does your seat back recline, but the the person in front of you can’t, giving you even more leg room.
Less obvious is how to book the best seat. This is my favorite tip….
When booking my flight, I never select a seat in an empty row (assuming the plane is the standard 3/3 configuration). I always book a window seat in a row where the aisle is already filled, but the middle seat is empty. Why? Because if the entire row is empty, a couple traveling together will often fill the aisle and center seat. With the exception of one flight which was 100% booked solid, using this strategy has yielded an empty seat next to me on all flights…even on the most crowded planes.
I do prefer seats near the back of the plane. Yes, it takes a bit longer to get off the plane (literally only a few minutes), but I have a much better chance of getting my carry on luggage overhead meaning it is less likely that I will have to gate check it. Most planes board the back of the plane first getting you and your luggage on the plane earlier. I prefer window seats because then I do not have to get up every time others in my row want to use the lavatory.
I do, on occasion, upgrade myself to “economy plus” (and its equivalent). For as little as $25, you can get extra leg room. But more importantly, on crowded flights, these seats are often the last to get filled, since they hold them for customers who want to pay extra. So once again, you have a better chance of getting an aisle or window (if only center seats are available in regular economy) and you increase the odds of having an empty seat next to you.
Possibly the most important step is to check in online as close to 24 hours before your flight departs. In doing this, you can get seats that were not available when you booked your flight (the airline blocks the reservation of some seats, including some exit rows, until check in). And once again, you can select a row where the aisle is already booked and the middle seat is empty, nearly assuring you an empty seat next to you.