Window or aisle?

Posted: July 1, 2016 in Personal, Travel
Tags: , , ,

It used to be that when you flew, as soon as you made a reservation, you could choose your seat.  These days, that’s changed.  On Southwest, my favorite of all airlines, you get a letter and number assigned when you check in.  You board in the order of your letter/number combination, from Group A1 to Group C 60 or something thereabouts.  When you board, you choose your seat from those remaining.

© janet m. webb 2014

Overseas, it’s a different story and, of course, money is the reason.  I’m flying Lufthansa today to Frankfurt, Germany and then on a different plane (still Lufthansa) to Basel, Switzerland.  Tickets for such travel are not cheap, even for “economy”, the lowest of the low, both in seat choice and luggage allowance (1 checked bag, 50 pound limit), one carry-on, and a small personal item to fit under the seat in front of you.  Southwest allows 2 free bags, one of their big draws, along with reasonable prices and cheerful employees.

So when I bought my ticket, no seat choices were available.  A few days ago, an email informed me that I could now choose a seat…for a price.  It said, “starting at $11”, but that wasn’t for the long, overseas leg of the flight.  That cost was $35.  An upgrade was also offered for sale, but when I went to find out how much (just curiosity), I was informed none were on offer.  I was left to decide whether I wanted to buy the seat of my choice.

As I used credit card points to get the flight almost free and because 7+ hours is a long time and because I hope to sleep on the way over, I decided to buy seating on the two long legs of the flight.  Quite a few seats were already taken, but my decision was now window or aisle.

Window.  Advantages:  being able to look out (although the first leg is mostly at night) and having the side of the plane to lean into.  Disadvantages: having to climb past the other two people in the row to use the bathroom or walk around.

Aisle.  Advantages: ease of access to the rest of the plane.  Disadvantages:  the other two people climbing across me and not being able to lean on anything.

So which do you choose when you fly?  Aisle or window and why?  Have you ever paid to choose a seat?  Having been stuck in the middle row on the flight back the last time I was overseas, I thought more favorably of that latter option than I normally would or if I’d paid full price for the flight.

I decided on an aisle seat.  I’m taking an inflatable neck pillow to deal with the problem of a lolling head that might end up on the shoulder of a stranger or wake me up while making me look like a bobblehead doll.  I don’t find the curve of the aircraft all the comfortable and I like being able to get out when I want.  With any luck, my fellow seatmates will sleep most of the way and won’t need to get up.  With any luck, I’ll get some sleep as well.

  1. GeorgieMoon says:

    I would choose the window seat if the flight was three hours or less. Yes, in the uk you can choose your seat but more airlines are charging you for seats at the front, or extra legroom.

    • I think it also depends upon whether you have a connecting flight, in which case you want to get out as soon as possible. But I agree that three hours or so would be the cutoff for me as well.

  2. As you may know J, Ireland’s famous Ryan Air was modeled on Southwest, and has now surpassed it in many ways. You board the plane and grab any seat you can find. For long-haul, aisle is the only way to go. People fall asleep with trays down and maybe stuff lying on the trays, so very difficult to access the toilet or just go stretch your legs, should you feel the need. I have been to Switzerland a few times. Make sure you have lots of cash – they are very good at extracting it from foreigners – coffee, beer, accommodation, all well above the prices of more normal western destinations. In any event, enjoy the trip and let’s have some posts on your adventures.

    • Have to admit, MB, that my one experience with Ryan Air was much less then stellar, on an old, very cramped plane, only one checked bag allowed, no water, nothing. Much like I think a cattle truck would be were one a cow. Southwest has never been like that for me, although they do now charge for Early Bird check-in, which is paying to get a better spot in line and thus a better seat. If I have a carry-on, I often do that so I’m assured of a spot for that bag. But their prices are so low (of course I’m flying in the US, not overseas), that I don’t mind. When the lowest cost for a seat is well over $1600, it seems that free seat selection might not be too much to ask.

      I’m only landing in Basel, which is the closest “large” airport to where my s-i-l and b-i-l live. Then we’re off to France (and I’ll be exiting on the French, not Swiss side.) Last time we were over, we stayed overnight in Basel and it’s a lovely city. As for posts, you can be assured there will be some, albeit not right away. Have to relax and then have something about which to post.


  3. For short (or particularly scenic) flights I usually go window. For long haul I’ve started to lean towards aisle, mostly because I can’t sleep anyway and I feel slightly guilty waking people up if I need to get up.

  4. Prior-2001 says:

    I always choose window – but I can see why you went with aisle….
    safe travels to you 🙂

  5. susurrus says:

    I’m an aisle too! I’ve never paid for seating (so far). I can see the benefits of having add ons stripped away and made optional, but I can’t see a seat as an add on until there’s an option to stand up for a flight. For me, the lowest priced seat should be priced in and available to book, with premium seats available as an upgrade. Otherwise, with different and changing airline policies, the customer may be comparing misleading prices.

    I often used to fly KLM (part of Flying Blue) and found the interface between connecting partners pretty seamless until Virgin joined the group. Now each journey to and from America seems to have a little problem built into it: often ticket/seat related as the American side can’t ‘see’ or book the English side and vice versa, so you end up with ‘seat allocated at gate’ for an oversold flight or have to beg and plead to sit next to a partner. I keep hoping it’s teething problems and will settle down.

    Wishing you safe flights and a wonderful trip. Switzerland is a great place.

    • I agree that a choice of basic seats should be included in the price of the ticket, Susan. I have no problem with people having to pay to upgrade and if you’re paying business or first class fares a/o fly all the time, naturally the airlines want to take care of you as well they should. We flew KLM a few years ago and had stellar service, but the only connection we had was in Amsterdam. These days it seems as if your experience isn’t by airline but by flight and who works the flight. I’ll be only landing in Switzerland, although I’d love to visit there again. My s-i-l lives in France, but Basel is the most convenient airport and I also like the size of it and the ease with which you can get around it.


      • susurrus says:

        I think consumers suffer when airlines have the monopoly on routes, as they often seem to have in practice these days, even though you can buy a ticket via several airlines in the same group.

        So it’s just a few peeps of Basel before moving on then? France is lovely too, though I have only ever been in or near Paris. Have a lovely time with your in-laws.

  6. I always chose aisle in an airplane I’m a coward and I don’t want to see how high we really are … and otherwise I’m anyway the unlucky berd who gets a window seat with free view on the wings :o) Have a good flight and a wonderful time in europe…

  7. Bastet says:

    I always try to get a seat on the aisle when I travel alone, I like freedom of movement. I just got back home from the States (I live in Italy) and I chose my seats when I bought my tickets. I’ve never paid for an upgrade … hope you have a splendid flight to Switzerland!

    • I’d love to have chosen seats when buying the ticket, but that wasn’t an option. Hopefully I’ll have a good flight and the seat will be a good one.


  8. Sue says:

    Have a good flight, and a great time in Switzerland!

  9. Aisle every time for me. We paid $$$ for extra leg room on our overseas flight last year. The few inches was wonderful but I wonder why they just can’t make a seat area sufficient for the average person rather than charging several hundred to get it. Oh well, travel safely and have a wonderful time once you get off the plane. 🙂

    • Preaching to the flying choir, Judy. Thanks for the good wishes. I’m looking forward to it, but always feel better once I’m actually in the airport, through security, and finally on the plane. 🙂


  10. My greatest frustration with air travel anymore is this process of “nickle & diming” you for everything that used to be a standard item. I priced up a ticket recently on Frontier; and by the time you computed all the “additional fees” it was just as much as the other carriers. I fly out of a “commuter airport” often, and KNOW the planes….and LAUGH when they want to “upgrade your seat” for another $25 or 35…..when I know there is absolutely NO difference. When traveling long haul flights; before I select seats, I pull up SEATGURU.COM and investigate the “better seats” and then choose the very best “free” seat I can. I only pay to upgrade if going international. I like the window on anything less than 5 hours, as I will use the wall / window for extra napping position. I hate being banged about by people traversing the aisle; the carts etc.
    ENJOY your trip

    • I’ve never heard of SEATGURU, so thanks for that. What I love about Southwest is, other than the Early Bird check-in if you like, there are no hidden charges (and that one isn’t hidden.) Everyone on the plane gets two checked bags free, one carry-on and one item to go under the seat in front of you. Drinks other than alcohol are free to all and they have some sort of snack/snacks. Every other airline seems to be full of those nickle and dime charges you mentioned. I’d rather they just charge what the flight costs and all else is included. This is the first time I’ve paid for seat choice on an international flight and the first time I was asked to do so or take my chances with what was left. The times, they are a’changing!


  11. Interesting post, Janet! I’ve been flying on Iceland’s Wow Airlines. It’s a budget airline. I’m an Aisle Gal!

    Here’s their price list. The seats in the upper right section are the pricey catbird seats. Interesting! (Also, the restrooms are at the front and the back of the plane. Some else to consider.

    Upper right section: XXL (35 to 40 inches of legroom), $57 to $67
    Upper left section: XL (32 inches), $38 to $48
    Middle section: (30 to 31 inches), $10 to $15
    Back of the plane: (30 to 31 inches), $6

    My Pick: Like the theater, everyone has a sweet spot. I recommend following designer Elsa Schiaparelli’s mantra on this one: “Buy only the best or the cheapest.” I’d either splurge on a roomy XXL for $67, or book one in the back for a lean $6. Doing the math, it doesn’t make sense to pay extra for an upper left XL seat unless you’re going after location.

    Again, GREAT post! Enjoy the weekend!

    • Happy almost-weekend, Theadora. I’ll wave to you when we fly over/near Paris if I’m awake. 🙂 Sounds like you have a good way of going about it, although having to pay for all seats is annoying to me. Why the ticket price then? Now if we could just “beam up” (or over or down) as in Star Trek, although the airlines might start charging extra to make sure all the body parts arrived at the same time and intact.


  12. Aisle all the way, every time, no exceptions. I drink water copiously when I fly to prevent my skin from drying out, but that means I need to get up and pee every 30 minutes. I miss getting a view out the window, but I would rather not trip all over some stranger(s) each time!

  13. jan says:

    I always take the window seat if it’s available.

    • If I’ll be flying over something interesting, the window seat is great. Otherwise I prefer the aisle …which means we could travel well together. 😉


  14. Aisle for me…but lately I’d as soon drive or stay home.

  15. joannesisco says:

    I’m an aisle seat person all the way. In fact, now my husband and I both choose aisle seats … preferably beside each other, but it’s not a requirement. After years of travelling together and being stuck in the middle seat, I claimed my seating independence 🙂

  16. lexklein says:

    I am almost almost a window gal, but I do make exceptions. I want the window on the left 2-side (I’m so picky that I really only like the A seat), but will occasionally, on a super long flight, take the aisle if there is only 3-4-3 seating. In that case, I must have the C seat! No other side of the plane, no middle section seating, etc. I always use Seatguru, too. I definitely pay up for more legroom (within reason) and to choose a seat in general on a long flight if one is not included (which stinks). Having said all that, I will take an aisle across the aisle from my travel mate on Southwest rather than put one of us in the middle! I could go on, but you get the picture: I am a seat freak!

  17. Tvor says:

    Air Canada does charge for the seat, i notice when i buy my ticket off their website, but lately I’ve been makiny my plans through Flight Centre and can get my seat booked without a charge. They do it right through the airline reservation system. Mind you there’s often a fee for the agency that you don’t pay when booking online so I guess it all evens out. The plus side is if there is a connecting flight, and it’s all booked together, then the seat fee would only be charged once even if there are more than one flight, same with the agency fee if it’s all one ticket.

    I prefer an aisle because I”m a large person and I feel that gives any other seat mate a little more room if i can kind of lean out a bit at times. Also, for long haul flights on a larger plane, I go for the aisle in the middle section rather than the sections against the walls of the plane. I try to book with an empty seat beside me in hopes that it doesn’t get filled. It’s about a 50/50 chance most times. Now that I’m married, though, i don’t mind as much because i’ll be sitting beside someone I know and the “close encounter” aspect of crowded seating beside strangers isn’t there.