The Holy Grail of airplane seating? Increase your chances of getting a row to yourself

2018-10-25 12:00 - Marisa Crous
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Airplane seats. (PHOTO: iStock)

On a recent flight to Dubai I was confronted by savages.

This was the situation: The long-haul flight from Cape Town to Dubai was pretty empty.

Passengers realised this mere minutes before the cabin doors shut. Then, it all changed, forever. 

Survival of the fittest mode: Activated.

Gunning for empty rows once the cabin doors shut became an almost instant and exclusive on-board competitive sport. People were giving each other rude looks, like, "Don't you dare. That row is mine, bro."

Many assumed the position Usain Bolt takes right before that gun goes off. Ready, set, mine! 


It was ugly.

But according to Travel and Leisure, there are actually ways to increase your chances of getting a row completely to yourself even before boarding the flight.


Like with many things in life, you won't get anything unless you ask for it.

When checking in ask the desk agent whether there are any rows with more than one available seat, or be extra pushy and ask the gate agents whether seats have opened up and if there are any passengers who've asked to switch seats. 


Of course, it's all very much about when you fly. Flights that are jam-packed won't offer you many options. It's full, deal with it.

But when booking, do some research or ask your travel agent when flights are less full. 

READ: 8 Ways to fight your fear of flight 

For example, when I flew to Athens via Dubai in mid-September, a less popular time for tourists to head to Europe, the flight was way less congested than it would've been in peak season, say June to August. 

Be strategic when travelling with others

When travelling with a friend, partner or family member, it could play to your advantage to book an aisle and window seat instead of two seats next to each other. No one likes sitting in the middle, so this ups the chances of getting an empty seat between the two of you. Ta-da!


There is, literally, an app for everything. 

Travel and Leisure recommends checking out SeatGuru, designed to help travellers choose the best seats and in-flight amenities. It basically gives you a blueprint of the plane's seating. Sounds almost... illegal, I know.

READ: How to get bumped up to Business Class when travelling 

Then download an app called ExpertFlyer which gives passengers up-to-date information and even Seat Alerts®, notifying you when the exact seat you want becomes available! 

So if an entire row opens up before boarding, you can swoop in and grab some seats.

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