Posted: April 10, 2014

4 Tips for Scoring the Best Airplane Seat
Whatever the reason for your trip, a flight is much more enjoyable when you have the seat of your choice.

Whether you're traveling for business or leisure, a flight is much more pleasant when you have a good seat. A spot in the middle section is perhaps the most dreaded among passengers – one along the aisle makes it much easier to get up to stretch or use the bathroom while in the air. But the seat that's right for you depends on your specific needs. Those flying with kids might prefer a seat right by the bathroom, while business travelers in a hurry to catch a meeting after their flight may benefit from sitting at the front (these passengers are typically allowed to deplane first). No matter where you prefer to set up camp for your flight, try these tricks for snagging the best seat:

1. Request a Specific Spot

It may seem obvious to simply ask for the seat you want when purchasing your tickets, but many people – especially infrequent flyers – don't even realize that passengers are allowed to be picky about their seats. When booking your flight online, use the advanced features to select the seat that's right for you, and pick spots next to each other if you're traveling with a group. Sometimes, online applications won't let you choose adjacent seats exceeding a certain number or won't allow you to reserve certain seats usually held for elite flyers. In these cases, call the airline right away and ask a representative for help – they're generally more accommodating to flyers in person or over the phone.

2. Book Early

Another basic solution to getting the right seat is to plan in advance. All those people you see scrunched together in the center column of the plane – there's a good chance many of them bought their tickets at the last minute. If possible, aim to reserve your tickets at least a few months in advance. Those redeeming award tickets may need to book a spot on the plane up to 10 months in advance to avoid extra fees and work around seat limitations. For business travelers, buying tickets well in advance isn't always an option. If sitting in a choice seat isn't something you're willing to compromise on, it may be time to just pay up for a spot reserved for those willing to spend more on airfare.

3. Use Your Smartphone

Technology has completely changed the way air travel works, and one of its most convenient features is being able to know when a seat opens up the moment it happens. Apps such as Expert Flyer send you real-time alerts for free when someone cancels or changes their seat on your flight. Then, if its one that better suits your needs, you can switch your ticket online or by calling the airline directly. Some carriers charge a small fee, but many people are willing to pay the extra $10 or $15 for a better seat, particularly if it's a long flight or an employer is fronting the bill.

4. Join a Frequent Flyer Program

Since many airlines set aside a certain number of spots for their most devoted customers, joining a frequent flyer program opens you up to a larger number of ticket options. Those who use air travel often enough can take advantage of preferred seating and the occasional complimentary upgrade when a better spot is available. There's also a plethora of other benefits, from expedited security screening to waived luggage fees.

While it's not always a guarantee that you'll get the seat you want, a little advanced planning and persistence can help ensure that your flight is as comfortable as possible.

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