This Is the Smart Way You Can Get a Whole Row to Yourself on the Plane

One of your biggest complaints about flying is probably the lack of legroom. The cramped quarters make it impossible to get comfortable, much less sleep during your flight. Plus, you never know what kind of seat mates you’ll get when you board the plane. But sometimes, you get lucky and end up with no seat mates at all. Getting a whole row to yourself seems impossible to do on purpose. But as Travel + Leisure reports, you can actually achieve it with a little bit of preparation.

Read on to check out the smart way you can get a whole row to yourself the next time you fly.

1. Research the plane’s layout

Women sitting on an airplane

Figure out which seats are the best. | iStock/Getty Images

Travel + Leisure recommends researching the plane’s layout before you book your ticket. Use a tool like SeatGuru to figure out which seats are the best. Then, use ExpertFlyer to set an alert for the seats you want. Travel + Leisure explains, “The app also allows passengers to see their flight’s seating arrangement with up-to-the-minute updates. So if an entire row opens up before boarding, they can swoop in and grab a seat — and hope no one else has the same idea.”

2. Play ‘musical chairs’ in the days leading up to your flight

Hipster manager holding a smart phone

Switch seats in the days leading up to your flight. |

Business Insider reports that you should play “musical chairs” with seats in the days leading up to your flight. Set alerts for any seat you’d like. (You can even have the app notify you when any free seat becomes available.) Using ExpertFlyer, you can switch from seat to seat, strategically choosing the best seats in the cabin. You can keep improving your seat assignment. That way, even if you don’t end up with a row all to yourself, you’ll still feel happy with your seat.

3. Ask the gate agent whether any seats have opened up

boy and his father waiting at the airport for plane departure

Consult the gate agent to see whether any seats have opened up. |

Just like you, other passengers may plan to change their seat reservations a few days before flying, or even just an hour or two before the plane arrives at the airport. As Travel + Leisure explains, “Passengers looking for an entire row should remember that no seating assignment is final until everyone is buckled in.” So before boarding begins, you can talk to the gate agent to see if any seats have opened up. They may also know if other passengers are looking to switch spots.

4. Check the app even after you check in for your flight

Surfing the net before the flight

Take a look at the app even after you’ve checked in for your flight. |

You can check the app even as you stand in line to board. You may even see an opportunity to get a whole row to yourself. Business Insider notes that you should definitely take a look at the map after you check in for your flight. By then, most people will feel resigned to stay in whatever seat they’ve been assigned. But you may be able to make a last-minute move to a better seat — or an empty row. 

5. Choose a less-crowded flight

Women standing in a plane

Try to choose a less-crowded flight. | DigitalVision/iStock/Getty Images

You can’t possibly get a row all to yourself if your flight is full. So Travel + Leisure reports that you may want to pick a less-crowded flight, rather than one that’s likely to be completely packed. A travel agent can look at seating charts to help you choose a flight that’s less crowded. But if you find yourself on your own, you can also take a pretty educated guess. Fly during off-peak times and seasons to increase the likelihood that you’ll get a row to yourself.

6. Enlist a friend to help you

Get a friend to help you. | LiudmylaSupynska/iStock/Getty Images

If you plan to fly with a friend or a family member, you can enlist their help to try to get an entire row to yourself. Lifehacker suggests booking an aisle and window seat in the same row. Most people would prefer not to sit in the middle seat. So you stand a good chance of getting an empty seat next to you. You and your travel companion can either sit in the same row, or one of you can switch to another seat at the last minute.

7. Book a seat in a partially filled row

Woman at the airport

Choose a seat in a partially filled row. |

Alternately, if you need to travel by yourself, Lifehacker recommends booking a seat in a row where the aisle or window seat is taken, but the middle seat isn’t. “Don’t choose one in an empty row, or the other two seats might be booked by a couple traveling together,” Lifehacker advises. If the flight doesn’t fill up, you may end up with an empty seat next to you. That’s the next best thing to ending up with an entire row to yourself. 

8. If seats aren’t assigned in advance, be strategic

Casually dressed middle aged man working on laptop in aircraft cabin

Make yourself at home. | Kasto80/iStock/Getty Images

Finally, if you fly on an airline like Southwest, which doesn’t assign seats, you can employ a few strategies to get people to avoid sitting next to you. The Points Guy has a variety of suggestions, some more humorous than others. You can talk on the phone as you sit in your seat, pretend to be asleep, spread out all of your work, play some music, or just act unfriendly. It may or may not work, depending on how full the flight gets. But it’s probably worth a try!

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