The cost of plane tickets has risen since travel resumed following the coronavirus pandemic, so it can be disheartening to discover your airline charges extra to choose your seat. This can mean families find themselves split up on long journeys, those who like to look out of the window are stuck on the aisle and extra leg room is going to cost you.
However, according to two travel experts, there are some ways you can get your “perfect seat” without having to shell out.
How to get seats together with the rest of your party
Whether you’re a nervous flyer or jetting off overseas with your children, sitting together can be a top priority.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Kate Brassington, co-founder of The Family Vacation Guide said: “We’ve all been through the process of booking a flight to our dream destination, wherein we’ve chosen a flight date and timing and even entered all our details, only to be asked whether we want to pay to select a seat.
“Some of us may panic and give in, some of us will push the decision to the check-in stage.”
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However, the added cost isn’t always necessary.
She explained: “Not all hope is lost if you don’t pay for specific seats.
“A majority of airlines that fly from the UK and within Europe try to allocate group seats altogether.
“For example, British Airways mention on their website that they recommend choosing seats in advance when you book, however, if you don’t choose your seats in advance, airline staff do their best to seat families together, with all children under 12 seated with an accompanying adult and anyone over 12 may be seated separately in adjacent rows or across the aisle.
“BA even allows up to nine travellers with an infant to choose seats free of charge.”
The key is being aware of your carrier’s specific seating policies.
If this isn’t an option for your chosen carrier at online check-in, Nicky Kelvin head of The Points Guy UK, recommends booking your flight as early as possible.
He told Express.co.uk: “If having seats together on a plane is a top priority, then it’s vital to book your flights as far out as possible.
“This ensures that there are still plenty of seats available together before the plane starts to book up with other passengers.
“If you do happen to end up booking last minute, I would recommend calling the airline directly to see if there are any open seats not visible online.
“Often, airlines block out certain rows so there is a good chance that there still might be seats available for you and your children if you ask.”
How to get extra legroom
Additional legroom is usually on offer, but with a price tag to match the extra space.
However, Mr Kelvin says it “doesn’t hurt to ask” if you find yourself cramped into a tight spot.
He explained: “The difference between a regular economy seat and a premium one can be several more inches of legroom, pitch and recline, which means it’s important to know how to manoeuvre your way into roomier quarters.
“Firstly, it never hurts to ask, after all, the worst a reservation agent, check-in agent or gate representative can say is no.”
The travel expert recommends ExpertFlyer, which provides seat alerts when you set up notifications for specific seats.
This will show if and when they become available.
He explained: “You can specify up to 30 flights to monitor for the availability of currently occupied or blocked seats in the cabin.”
Alternatively, you can ask the crew when onboard.
Mr Kelvin added: “Simply ask the cabin crew if you can move to an empty seat if there happens to be any after all passengers have boarded.
“Some customers with assigned seats might not show up to the flight due to last-minute cancellations or missed connections so let the cabin crew know you would like to be reseated if possible.”
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How to get your “perfect” seat
If there is a particular spot in the row, you might have to pay extra to select this when booking your flight.
However, according to Mr Kelvin, planning ahead can help you determine whether the additional cost is worth it.
He explained: “Whether you’re a window fan or prefer the aisle, picking the perfect plane seat could make or break your flying experience.
“While we’d all prefer to cruise in business or first class, picking your seat when travelling economy is even more important.
“Whatever your preferences are, decide where your dream seat is for your particular flight, taking into account the airline, route, the class of travel, the time and length of flight, travel companions and any other personal factors that could affect your seat choice.”
He recommends using the website SeatGuru, which allows you to view the seat map of your aircraft and read reviews for the seats.
Once you enter your airline, date of flight and flight number, a colour-coded map of your aircraft will appear.
He said: “You can then determine exactly where on the plane you’d like to sit to be near or far from a loo, if that exit row is worth it, or keep you from selecting a seat without a window or with limited recline.”
In some cases, your ideal spot might be free at online check-in. Depending on your carrier, this could mean nabbing the seat free of charge.
If not, there’s no harm in asking your flight crew if they have any empty seats once you have boarded on the day.