5 Tips on How to Select a Better Seat When Flying in Coach

Practically this entire year, I’ve been flying in the coach economy class cabin due to the fact that I was mostly on mileage award tickets and non-American Airlines operated revenue flights on oneworld partners. Over the past two months, I was mostly flying on LAN and TAM Airlines with both international long haul and short haul flights because of those cheap $440 flights to Foz do Iguacu, Brasil. I wrote about my experiences here, here, and here.

2 years ago, I wrote Why Flying International Economy Coach Is Not The End Of The World. Last year, I wrote about My Experience On A 14-Hour Flight In Economy Class From Los Angeles To Taipei. Here are 5 Tips on How to Select a Better Seat When Flying in Coach:

1. Add your frequent flyer number to your reservation – This is probably the most important step regardless of your elite status. Generally, the airline will favor you over ‘nonmembers’ even if you are just a regular ‘AAdvantage member’ with no elite status. This will come in handy when asking for a better seat. Of course, this step is vital for elite frequent flyers because they will have access to the best seats on the plane. Sometimes, having elite status does backfire on you. (See How I Ended Up In The Last Row Of Economy Class As An Executive Platinum)

2. Select your seat online – The most comfortable economy coach class cabin will depend on your seat. You’re going to want to select the coveted bulkhead aisle/window seats and the exit row seats for the best selections. These are the most coveted seats on the plane and check with seatguru.com to find out where they are. The best seats are usually reserved for elite members and for purchase, but you can get these for free closer to check-in (usually within 24 hours). Don’t fret if you can’t choose a better seat right away because sometimes the airport blocks them and then releases them closer to check in. For now, select the best aisle or window seat towards the front of the cabin.

3. Use social media to select your seats – 2 years ago, I wrote Why Twitter Is Important In The Miles And Points Game. Most major airlines have active Twitter accounts and will help you for whatever reason you need. If it’s a really long international coach flight, you’re definitely going to want an exit row or bulkhead seat with more legroom. It really doesn’t hurt to tweet a simple “@LANAirlinesUSA I need help selecting a better seat.” Even if you don’t have elite status, sometimes they can override it with a push of a button without having you pay for a better seat. It doesn’t hurt to try and you’ll come out ahead.

4. Check in online within 24 or 48 hours – With LAN and TAM Airlines, check-in starts 48 hours before your scheduled flights which can be a huge advantage if you do it early. For most airlines, it’s generally 24 hours before your scheduled flight time. The most important thing about checking in early online is the seat selection. I’ve previously mentioned that sometimes airlines release ‘blocked seats’ that were under airport control and they might be up for grabs at the check-in window. A win for me is selecting any seat that is not a middle seat towards the front of the coach economy class cabin.

5. Get to the airport early – Again, I’ve stressed that getting a better seat is probably the most important thing when making a coach flight much more comfortable. Getting to the airport 3 hours earlier than your scheduled flight is usually the best bet for better chances. The key thing when physically going up to the airport counter is to be nice, smile, and start your conversation off with some small talk. Try to build a rapport from the get-go because everything will be under the airport agent’s hands. He or she has every power to assign you a better seat (even previously blocked seats under airport control) without paying for one or even without having elite status, all with a push of a button on their keyboard. My usual line is “Hi, how are you doing? I would like to check-in please.” Usually they’ll ask where you’re headed to and then you can build some small talk here. As soon as the agent grabs your passport and starts looking up your information on the computer, I usually say, “I was wondering if there’s a better seat available like a bulkhead or exit row?”

Using these five above methods will give you a much better increased chance at scoring a better seat in the coach economy class cabin. I mean, who wants to be stuck in a middle seat or an undesirable seat in the back of the plane? Hopefully this helps!

Do you have any tips on making a coach flight more comfortable?


About the Author

Points Summary
My name is and I write the Points Summary travel blog.

4 Comments on "5 Tips on How to Select a Better Seat When Flying in Coach"

  1. Hi Jamison, I don’t have any personal experience using seat alerts but there are a number of services that you can set up to send you an alert when a specific type or seat opens up. I can think of ExpertFlyer, which I have the paid version for, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s the free version that has this feature?

  2. I like your suggestion about using Twitter. I use it frequently for customer service. I will have to try that as I never thought about asking an airline that I don’t travel. I have an upcoming flight on JAL. I wonder if they would help me get a better seat.

  3. Is your blog done forever? You haven’t blogged in six months!

  4. When are you going to post again?

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.