My Flight Seat Preference

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Today I found an interesting discussion on Lonely Planet on which side of the plane was preferable. While the article itself is more about the views (and to the “level” of plane geek-ness that they’re on, one person mentioned that they didn’t know SeatGuru existed), it left me thinking about my own seat preferences – where and on what side of the plane.

DSCF9339Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Hong Kong Airport

It wasn’t my first time thinking why my seat preference is. I flew to London with my friend Chareese in Virgin Atlantic economy in July, and her seat preference was frank: on the left side, as far forward as possible, for deplaning purposes, near the window. That’s the logic of 99% of airplane-flyers on the planet.

My seat choice logic is a little different, which I’ve eventually come to notice over the few years I’ve been on the blog.

DSCF9126Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 Economy Class

So, what is my seat preference?

A window seat

While I get why other flyers would like the aisle seat, I find clambering over my neighbour much less of a pain than not being able to sleep at night. I find myself sleeping much easier in privacy, which is something I’ve only been seeing this year – when half of your body is in the aisle, it’s harder to do that.This is true even in economy – I find that the person in the aisle acts as a “shield” for all the foot traffic, even if there’s two of them. There’s less motion, and I eventually find the person in the aisle to be more of an object I need to avoid when getting to the washroom, unless I’m travelling with them. Even if I have

This is true even in economy – I find that the person in the aisle acts as a “shield” for all the foot traffic, even if there’s two of them. There’s less motion, and I eventually find the person in the aisle to be more of an object I need to avoid when getting to the washroom, unless I’m travelling with them.

img_1981My alcove, despite not having direct aisle access, in Swiss 777-300ER business class

In 1-2-1 configurations, I go for the sides no matter what. Unless you’re in Singapore Airlines Suites or China Eastern’s first class, you won’t be able to snuggle up to your travel buddy, which makes sitting in the middle pointless (jeez, if you need to talk to your seatmate, do it off the plane). Not only is there more privacy, but there’s also a window view, which you won’t be able to find in the center seats.

a row of seats on an airplane
This view, which I got in Cathay Pacific’s A340 economy class, wouldn’t be savoured were I in a middle seat (even in business class)

I find that pretty straightforward, so I’ll move on.

Near the back of the plane

This one’s a little harder to explain. One of the things I like to do on planes is taking pictures (as if that weren’t obvious enough already). It’s so easy to sweep down the aisle as the first one on the plane, taking pictures of empty seats, especially on novelty flights – by the time I put my stuff down and go back, either the flight attendants get super suspicious and ask if there’s anything wrong (which eats into my time of taking pictures as people get seated), or the seats are filled up, so I can’t take pictures anymore.

One of the sweeps I’m fondest of is in Cathay Pacific’s A350, where I managed to get empty pictures of all three cabin classes before any seats filled up, despite being in business class

If I take cabin pictures from the back, I get nice pictures, like this:

DSCF6037Sitting in the bottom right corner of Cathay Pacific’s 777-300 business class

Meanwhile, all I’m left with is this if I’m sitting at the front of the cabin (I can leave my seat if I want, but meh):


a man sitting on an airplane with a laptop
My experience taking pictures in Cathay Pacific A330 economy class

Another thing that I like is an empty seat next to me. People always prefer deplaning early, so they like choosing seats on the left side, near the door.

My strategy choosing seats is to avoid the seats on the left side in the forward cabin. So I keep choosing seats on the right side, in the back of the cabin. I’ve found best luck with empty seats there, and will continue to choose seats there in the future.

IMG_6530I lucked out with an empty seat next to me in Thai Airways A330 economy class

Finally, I like taking pictures of the wing, being the aviation geek that I am. I normally find that I like sitting either right in front of, or behind the wing (as much as I like being atop the wing, it limits landing pictures).

DSCF9100Sunrise on the wing in Virgin Atlantic 787 economy class

It’s harder to get a wing view in the second row of business class…

IMG_0173Notice the slant of the picture in Swiss 777-300ER business class

…than in the last row (admittedly Korean Air’s business class cabin is small, so the view really isn’t much better).

Some better views in Korean Air 777-200 business class

Some of you might be asking, “why sit in business class if you want a view of, or behind the wing? Pay half the price and you’ll get an even better view of the back of the wing.” Well, I’m may be an aviation geek, but not to that level… 😉

On the right side

While I’ve hinted at this, it’s actually the hardest point to prove. I’ve found myself trying to sit near the right side of the plane these days. While I try to balance out the tendency (it’s not like I’m stretching my leg in the aisle or anything, as my left side’s my dominant side), somehow I just feel more comfortable on the right side. I’ve hinted at one of the reasons above, but I like sitting with people I travel with, and I’ve only been completely alone on a plane once (as much as I liked it, I didn’t even end up with an empty seat next to me…and sure enough, clumsily, I kind of gave the guy a hard time).

DSCF9224Sure enough, I picked my beloved right window seat travelling alone in Virgin Atlantic premium economy

One of the reasons I’ve found myself liking the right side is because there’s less foot traffic during boarding if you’re behind door 2L. I know that sounds weird, but hear me out – even if there’s a full load on both sides of the aircraft, most longhaul flights have three seats in the middle block, be they 777s, A350s or 787s.

3-3-3 configuration in Cathay Pacific economy class (sorry for the lack of variety – I don’t remember taking pictures on any other 3-3-3 economy cabins apart from Korean Air’s 777)

When flight attendants board planes, they always tell the people in the middle to board through the left side, leaving the right side with only four people per row boarding, while the left side boards five people per row. Given there can be up to 40 rows in economy, that’s up to 40 less people crossing your seat during boarding. (Of course, there are also A330s, 3-4-3 777s, etc. where an equal number of people board each side, but I just get accustomed to it…)

The same logic applies to catering, if I’m in 2-3-2 business class/premium economy or 3-3-3 economy (I haven’t been on a 767 ever in my entire life, which is something I’m planning to change, but the same logic would apply too).

IMG_7275Korean Air is one of the airlines that serves four people on the left side and three people on the right in 2-3-2 business class

A final reason doesn’t apply to most people – I used to be booked on the left side all the time, so every time on the right side it just feels different, in a good way.

Bottom Line

I generally just think you should sit where you want to, but that’s my thought process when choosing where to sit on a flight.

Where do you like to sit on a plane?


      1. I’ve been following this site for a while now and I particularly like the fact that has a travel focus from a Hong Kong perspective – too many blogs out there are from a US perspective!

        However, perhaps due to the young (well, not really anymore!) age of its writers, it understandably has not placed as much focus on strategies to employ from a Hong kong credit card perspective. Would you know of any blogs which do this?

      2. @ Tim – I mean, we’re still young, and really lucky that we’re able to do this at all.

        One reason Jason and I do what we do is because there are virtually no other Hong Kong-based English travel blogs that focus and review travel. While there probably are blogs in Chinese that may help that I don’t follow, I’m sorry I won’t be of much help in this regard.

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