Airline ticket costs have risen since travel resumed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. As such, it can be disheartening to find that your airline charges additional fees for selecting your seat. That can mean families on long journeys split who like to look out the window, get stuck in the aisle, and extra legroom comes at a price.
However, according to two travel experts, there are a few ways you can snag your “perfect seat” without breaking the bank.
This will give you a seat with the rest of your group
Whether you’re a nervous aviator or jetting abroad with your kids, sitting together can be a top priority.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Kate Brassington, co-founder of The Family Vacation Guide said: “We have all gone through the process of booking a flight to our dream destination, choosing a flight date and time and even entering all our details, only to be asked if we would like to pay to select a seat.
“Some of us might panic and give in, some of us will defer the decision to the check-in phase.”
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However, the additional cost is not always necessary.
She explained: “All hope is not lost if you don’t pay for certain seats.
“A majority of airlines flying from the UK and within Europe are trying to allocate group seats altogether.
“British Airways, for example, mentions on their website that they recommend pre-selecting seats when booking. However, if you don’t select your seats in advance, airline staff will do their best to seat families together, with all children under 12 seated with an accompanying adult, and those over 12 seated separately in adjacent rows or on the other side of the aisle sit.
“BA even allows free seat selection for up to nine travelers with an infant.”
The key is to be aware of your airline’s specific seating policies.
If your chosen airline does not allow this when checking in online, Nicky Kelvin, Head of The Points Guy UK, recommends booking your flight as early as possible.
He told Express.co.uk: “When shared seating on an aircraft is a top priority, it’s important to book your flights as much as possible.
“This ensures that there are still enough seats available together before the plane starts booking with other passengers.
“If you’re booking at the last minute I would recommend calling the airline direct to see if there are any vacancies that aren’t visible online.
“Often airlines block certain rows so there’s a good chance there are still seats available for you and your children if you ask.”
This gives you extra legroom
Extra legroom is usually offered, but with a price tag that matches the extra space.
However, Mr Kelvin says there is “no harm in asking” if you’re feeling cramped in a tight situation.
He explained: “The difference between a regular economy seat and a premium seat can be a few inches more legroom, recline and recline, which means knowing how to maneuver into more spacious quarters is important.
“Firstly, it never hurts to ask, after all, the worst thing a reservations clerk, check-in clerk or gate representative can say is no.”
The travel expert recommends ExpertFlyer, which provides seat notifications if you set up notifications for specific seats.
This shows if and when they are available.
He explained: “You can enter up to 30 flights to monitor the availability of currently occupied or blocked seats in the cabin.”
Alternatively, you can ask the crew on board.
Mr Kelvin added: “Just ask the cabin crew if you can move to an empty seat if there happens to be one after all passengers have boarded.
“Some customers with assigned seats may not show up for the flight due to last minute cancellations or missed connections. So please let the cabin crew know that you would like a different seat if possible.”
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This is how you get your “perfect” seat
If there is a specific seat in the row, you may have to pay extra to select it when booking your flight.
However, according to Kelvin, planning ahead can help you determine if the extra expense is worth it.
He explained: “Whether you’re a window fan or you prefer the aisle, choosing the perfect airplane seat can make or break your flight experience.
“While we’d all prefer to travel in Business or First Class, when you’re traveling in Economy Class, your seat selection is even more important.
“Whatever your preferences, decide where your dream seat is for your particular flight, taking into account the airline, route, class of travel, time and length of flight, travel companions and any other personal factors affecting your seat choice could.”
He recommends using the SeatGuru website, where you can view your aircraft’s seat map and read reviews for the seats.
Once you have entered your airline, flight date and flight number, a colour-coded map of your aircraft will appear.
He said: “You can then determine exactly where you want to sit on the plane, to be close or far from a loo, whether that exit row is worth it, or discourage you from choosing a seat with no window or limited backrest. “
In some cases, your ideal seat may be available when you check in online. Depending on your airline, this may mean getting the seat for free.
If not, there’s no harm in asking your flight crew if they still have seats after you’ve boarded that day.