Are you a window seat or aisle person? Personally I almost always take the aisle seat, except for certain circumstances which I’ll mention below. Here’s some advice you can use when picking your seat.
Lets assume first of all you don’t get an upgrade and don’t have access to those coveted exit / bulkhead seats. This is seating strategy for the masses in economy / coach class.
I dislike window seats. This is because you can never leave your seat without bothering someone, and they feel more cramped because the fuselage is curved. Not to mention, on smaller planes the curve is more pronounced, meaning you may lose some space down by your feet as well. In China/Asia I especially hate window seats because passengers don’t usually get up when you need to use the toilet, they’ll just sit there and you need to jump over them.
There are benefits of window seating however. You don’t feel people walking up and down the aisle, and won’t bet bumped and knocked as they go by. Serving carts are really heavy too, you don’t want one of those to slam into you. Additionally, you have a wall to lean/sleep again and some interesting scenery to look at. Good for photo buffs!
The only time I’ll take a window seat is usually for a very short distance or early morning flight. I’ll probably still be sleepy at 6 or 7am, so as soon as I get on the plane I’ll knock out. I can use the wall to sleep and won’t be disturbed by people going up and down the aisle. If it’s a flight less than 2 hours I probably won’t need to get up to use the toilet neither. Lastly, since my eyes will be closed, I won’t get that claustrophobic feeling sitting by the window.
Don’t select a row right in front of an exit row. These seats generally have minimal recline, if they can recline at all. This is to minimize any obstruction to the exit row in case of emergency.
Don’t sit near the toilet unless you like smells, banging doors, foot traffic, and people standing near you while queueing.
Seats generally tend to fill front to back, you have a higher chance of getting an empty seat towards the rear of the plane, but then it’ll take longer to deplane. Pros vs Cons here. (Though oddly on occasion, particularly when flying Asian airlines I’ve seen them fill back to front.)
If you don’t like your seat assignment, constantly check for open seats before and after check-in. People move seats, cancel their flights, etc; so seats do tend to open up. I can’t remember the last time I sat in the middle, had to be years. I simply ensure I’m diligent at checking for open aisle/window seats if I initial get assigned a middle.
Window seat strategy
Honestly there’s not much involved here. There are only two window seats on every plane in every row. Grab any window seat you see when booking or checking in.
Aisle seat strategy
For dual aisle planes, select an aisle seat in the middle stack. The passengers in the middle will have two options to leave their seat. Therefore if you’re sleeping and the other aisle passenger is awake, they might go the other way. Also, the middle stack has a higher ceiling, so it feels more spacious and airier.
On single aisle planes, the aisle seats are more or less the same. I’ll just try to pick something towards the front since these single aisle planes tend to take awhile to deplane.
Two person strategy
If traveling as a pair, in a row that has 3 or 4 seats together, don’t reserve the two seats next to each other. Select seats that are aisle/window or aisle/aisle. Then you can hope that the plane will not be full and you can get an empty seat in between. Worst case if the middle seat passengers come, they’ll be happy to switch with you for your aisle seat.
See below, the grey seats have been selected. Lets hope the middle stays empty!