Where to Sit in Economy Class: Aisle or Window?

by Melissa on June 6, 2011 · 6 comments

A common question that comes up in economy plane travel is “where to sit in economy class?”  Now we’re not talking business class or even the amazing luxury of being seated up in first class- as I had the luxury of doing on a flight to Hong Kong – no.  We’re talking full on steerage, cattle class, good ol’ economy with the normal folks.

Notice how in my post title I didn’t even make mention of the dreaded middle seat?  Well that’s simply because nobody in their right mind ever wants a middle seat – and with good reason.  You’re sardined in there, don’t have the freedom to rest your head against the wall and don’t have the ability to outstretch your leg into the aisle.  So let’s just jump right into the nitty gritty.

window seat

Personally, I am all for the aisle.  When I was younger you’d have to fight me to get the window, but as I’ve grown older, I truly appreciate the freedom that sitting in the aisle brings – like the ability to easily get up and use the toilet, or simply walk up and down the aisle.  Another reason I like aisles, is that you are able to get your overhead baggage first and exit the plane more quickly – which comes in handy when you are making those close-call connecting flights.  Aisles are great for these reasons, but there are a few downfalls that come with it.  Such as always having to get up for those sitting next to you when they need to use the toilet – this especially sucks if you’re sleeping!  Also, if you have a tendency to lean out into the aisle, the flight attendants almost always end up knocking you with the beverage and snack carts.

Windows on the other hand, yes, they give you a great view which can be a good way to pass the time.  Sometimes I like to try to figure out where exactly I am (without using the assistance of the onboard navigation screen).  If you want to sleep, you can rest your head against the wall, which I tend to find a bit more comfortable when sleeping in an upright position (although you generally wake up with a stiff neck).  When you sit in a window seat, you don’t tend to feel any jostling or breezes from people walking by the aisle.  However, there’s the ever annoying factor of not having the freedom to get up.  If you’re easily clausterphobic, window seats are probably not for you cause you’d probably feel like you’re trapped.  At the end of the flight, the person sitting in the aisle generally goes to stand up, gets stopped due to the long line of other passengers in the aisle, and has to do the awkward neck bend/crouch until it is his or her aisle’s turn to exit the plane.

airplane layout

The only time that I don’t mind having a window seat is if I’m a lucky person and have nobody sitting next to me in the middle seat – such as on my flight home from Sydney.  I was really lucky, as the guy sitting in the aisle seat pretty much gave me the middle seat, so I put up the arm rest, curled up in a ball and attempted (with no avail) to get some sleep.  In the last year, I’ve actually been very privileged to have almost every flight I’ve been on not have anyone assigned to the middle seat next to me.

Tell me, readers, what do you prefer and why?  Aisle? Middle? Window?

photo by: kevin dooley
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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Melissa - Suitcase and Heels October 26, 2012 at 12:24 am

It all depends on how long the flight is. If it’s a long flight where I’m going to want to sleep, I want the window for the same reason you mentioned: I can lean on the window/wall and not on a stranger. The downfall here is that I don’t have easy access to my stowed carry-on bag. On a recent long flight (12hrs!) I took advantage of the opportunity when my rowmates got up and used the washroom then.

If it’s a shorter flight or I think I might want more frequent access to my bag I’ll take the aisle. For instance, when flying Porter Airlines between Newfoundland and Toronto I need an aisle seat since they have free beer and wine and after a couple pints those airplane bathrooms are a must.

One thing I learned recently though is that just because you’re the first one off a plane doesn’t meant that you’ll get to the terminal first. A few airports I was at recently park the plane away from the terminal and bus passengers over so you’ve got to wait for the whole plane anyway. And then you have to go through security again! Pain in the arse.
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Melissa November 5, 2012 at 10:47 pm

Very true – just cause you’re the first off doesnt mean you’ll get to or through the terminal first.

Im just not too fond of feeling clausterphobic at the window… but that being said, I do enjoy looking out the window – especially when coming into a city I’ve never been to before. Hence I prefer the aisle.

Thanks for your comment 🙂

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Heather October 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm

The ONLY good thing about the middle seat, is that the person there is allowed to have BOTH armrests. Whether the rest of the world knows this or not is another matter. Help spread the word! Middle seat=both arm rests!
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Melissa November 4, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Hahaha… but unfortunately it still SUCKS. And you totally know regardless of the unwritten rule, you’re always gonna get some ass who never got the memo on it and steals your bloody arm rest!

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Siddhartha Joshi June 16, 2014 at 10:53 pm

I would go for the aisle anyway!
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CK July 12, 2014 at 12:33 pm

I am all about the window– I like using the space between the seat in front of me and the window in front of me for putting a foot or a knee up once swelling sets in on a long-haul flight. The aisle is a false luxury for me– just as I get comfy with outstretched legs, a cart goes by and stubs my toe! Doh!
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