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10 Secrets to Getting the Perfect Coach Seat

What’s the secret to a better airline seat on your next flight? We asked the experts at our sister-site SeatGuru for their top advice on getting the best economy-class airline seats and for ways to make any seat (even the one by the bathroom that doesn’t recline) a little bit better. Their tips just may change the way you travel.

Know Your Airline, Know Its Legroom

Think you’ve got a one-size-fits-all answer to the legroom quandary? Think again. Each airline presents a unique set of challenges to flyers, say the SeatGuru experts: “Not all legroom is equal since there is no industry standard. Before booking your flight, take a look to see which airlines fly that route and then check to see how they stack up against each other. SeatGuru provides a handy chart with all of the information you would need in one spot.”

What’s Bad for Some Is Good for Others

What’s the best seat? What’s the worst seat? Ask a dozen people and you may get a dozen different answers, according to SeatGuru: “While some people can’t stand the last row in a plane due to the proximity to galleys and/or lavatories, some people don’t mind. Usually the last row is only two across on either side of the plane, which translates to extra room.”

Buy Your Ticket Early

Good news for advance planners: Your instinct to book early may work in your favor, at least when it comes to maximizing seat selection. The folks at SeatGuru explain: “Usually, you can’t choose a good seat the day before since seats go quickly. The earlier you book your flight, the more seats available, the bigger your pool to pick from.”

Use the Best Worst-Kept Secret

Need extra legroom? Then do what you can to score an exit row or bulkhead seat. SeatGuru advises: “If you are able to grab a seat here, you usually get some extra legroom to stretch out in. It is important to note though that if an emergency does occur, you will have to step up and help out.”

Get a Good Travel Pillow

Choosing the right seat definitely makes a difference when it comes to comfort and in-flight naps, but it’s not the only piece of the puzzle. Even SeatGuru’s experts agree. “For those who like to sleep, pillows are essential. Before your flight, check out some inflatable airplane neck pillows on Amazon. Besides, who knows the last time the pillows on the plane were washed?”

Treat Your Feet

Travel pillows aren’t the only way to make any seat more comfortable, and the SeatGuru team knows all the tricks. “Since legroom is tight, stretching may be tough. Look into getting a travel footrest to help aid in circulation and comfort. Pair that with a travel pillow and your seat could feel like a cloud.”

Go with the Aisle Seat

What’s the best seat? SeatGuru knows: “Sure the window seat is popular, but hear us out. If you are on a long-haul flight, how much time are you actually going to spend looking out the window at clouds? Yes they are majestic and awesome to look at, but after a while, they are all the same. Plus, with an aisle seat, you won’t disturb anyone when you go to the bathroom.”

Know from Experience

When it comes to choosing the right seat, sometimes you’re the best expert, say the people at SeatGuru. “If you have found that you are prone to getting sick during turbulence, pick a seat towards the middle part of the plane. Seats over the wings tend to be more stable and won’t jostle you around like seats at the front or back.”

Just Ask

Long gone are the days when asking sweetly could get you a class upgrade on a flight. But … it’s still a good idea to ask about seats. SeatGuru explains: “Once you’ve gotten to the airport and checked in, ask the agent at the gate if any seats have opened up. Sometimes passengers upgrade to a new class, which opens their previously booked seat. While it is no guarantee, you might end up with a better seat than before.”

Be Kind

The Golden Rule has just as much of a place in the air as it does on land. SeatGuru says: “The gate agent and flight attendants are your friends. Remember, they hear complaints, demands and profanity on an almost daily basis, so taking that approach will not get you anywhere and will ultimately make you look like a child in front of everyone you are flying with. Keeping the phrase ‘treat others the same way you want to be treated’ in mind and following that can unlock a lot of doors for you.”

More from SmarterTravel:

Christine Sarkis never chooses a seat without first consulting SeatGuru. Follow her on Twitter @ChristineSarkis and Instagram @postcartography for more advice about making every vacation the best vacation.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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