I have to admit – over the years I’ve gone from an “always aisle” type to an “always window seat” type on airplanes. It was undoubtedly a gradual transition – first I would pick aisle seats no matter what, then choose window seats only on shorter flights, then choose window seats only in premium cabins, and now choose window seats no matter what.
Heck, that almost caused a drama in my relationship. When I first met Ford, I thought, “Great, he prefers the window seat, that’s perfect.” Nowadays we argue about who gets the window seat.
Why has my seat preference changed so much?
Why airplane window seats are superior
Gary of View from the Wing made an interesting post about how your seating preferences reveal your worth to the airline. He quotes a loyalty program manager who said seating preferences are a good indicator of a customer’s lifetime value:
- Those who prefer the aisle seat are business travelers who like to sit in the front of the plane and get off quickly
- Those who prefer the window seat are leisure travelers and therefore less valuable to airlines in general
Gary argues that aisle seats are superior to window seats and that “everyone knows” and therefore airlines generally sell aisle seats for more than window seats (I’m not sure I would agree with this claim).
What is its logic?
- In the aisle seat you “control your own destiny” because you can get up and use the toilet at any time
- Window seats are dirtier than aisle seats
- Window seats are claustrophobic
Now, Gary and I can probably agree that an aisle and window seat is ideal, whether it’s American Eagle First Class or Qatar Airways Qsuites. Gary and I can probably agree on the importance of “directing your own fate on the plane,” but the problem seems to be that we interpret it a little differently.
American Eagle first class
Qatar Airways Qsuites
Anyway, let me tell you in no particular order why I’ve become a total window seat guy these days:
Looking out of airplane windows never gets old
Even though I’ve flown millions and millions of miles, it never gets old for me to look out of an airplane window. Ever. Even the least scenic flight has things to see and do, and there are only perks from there.
I don’t care how mundane air travel becomes, I will never take for granted the wonder of flying and the fact that we can get a bird’s eye view of the world as we fling through the sky at 500 mph a metal pipe.
View from a Philippine Airlines A350
View from a Cathay Pacific A350
Window seat passengers control shutters
In addition to enjoying the view, you want to be able to control the shutters. For example, if it’s a daytime flight and you want to sleep, you can control whether or not the window shade is lowered.
If you want to watch your personal conversation, you can also decrease the window shadow to reduce glare. The person in the window seat always controls the shutters.
The control of the shutters belongs to the person in the window seat
Window seats make work easier
Personally, I work very efficiently on airplanes, and I find that being in a window seat helps. I can turn my laptop or phone screen away from the person sitting next to me.
While my preferred view on an airplane is out the window, some people seem to prefer staring at other people’s laptop screens. Of course, putting one of these privacy filters on your screen also makes sense, but even these aren’t foolproof when wrapped like sardines.
In a window seat, you can turn your screen away from others
Nobody climbs over you in window seats
Gary argues that a major benefit of gang seating is that you can control your own destiny as to when you can go to the bathroom:
“You get up to use the toilet whenever you want, and you don’t have to worry about other passengers waiting for their belongings to let you out, or your seatmates falling asleep and being woken up to let you out. “
Conversely, if you are in the aisle, you have to worry that other passengers will disturb you getting up when they have to go to the bathroom. And when you fall asleep, your seatmate wakes you when he has to go to the bathroom.
For me it’s very simple:
- I don’t drink a lot on airplanes, so I don’t have to go to the bathroom a lot
- If you are in a window seat, you have a fair right to ask the person in the aisle seat to stand up if you need to use the bathroom. Maybe I’m only eligible, but I don’t worry about when I’ll be released if I have to go to the bathroom because it’s a reasonable request
- The advantage of sitting in the window seat is that you don’t have to get up when you don’t go to the bathroom, and you have fewer people to “pull” your seat to get up
I’d rather sit in a window seat and not let anyone climb over me
Window seats are better for resting
Whether you’re in economy or business class, window seats are consistently better if you’re trying to get some rest. In the economy, you can lean your head against the wall, which you cannot do in the aisle seat.
You can lean your head against the wall in a window seat
Meanwhile, in business class cabins, which do not have direct access to the aisle from all seats, I personally have a strong preference for sleeping in front of the wall, as this minimizes disruption.
Window seats are also better suited for sleeping in Business Class
You expose fewer people to window seats
Gary argues that aisle seats are cleaner based on the fact that cleaners appear to clean aisle seats better than window seats. I don’t really care because I can (and can) wipe my seats while I sit down. I’ve seen cleaners cleaning planes and there is no way I can rely on them.
Now that I’m not a doctor or a scientist, it seems to me that you are a little less exposed in the window seat than in the aisle seat:
- For one thing, people literally hover overhead in the aisle seat as you get in as you get to their seat
- In the window seat you only have people on one side of you, while in the aisle seat you have people on either side of you (after all, an aisle is a few feet wide at most).
Coronavirus made me aware of this more than ever.
I’d rather be further away from more people in the window seats
With window seats you can control your destiny
If I’ve been in a window seat and asked to go to the bathroom, no one has ever seated me in an aisle to say no. Ever. However, I was in a corridor and:
- Have a flight attendant give the person in the window seat a drink and spill it on my laptop, destroying it
- Set up my electronics to charge (it’s a hobby of mine to fully charge things, and sometimes I charge four things at once), and shortly after I’ve got everything set up, the person in the window seat asks to go to the bathroom and I have to take everything apart
- Had someone in the corridor who was basically above me (whether fellow passenger or flight attendant) having a loud, long conversation with the passenger in the window seat
- Had someone hold the window shade closed for the entire flight (that’s actually incredibly common)
With window seats, you can really control your destiny
Over the years, I’ve had a change of heart about my airplane seating preferences. These days, I am 100% in favor of choosing a window seat no matter the circumstances.
Window seats provide a better view, provide more privacy, are more suitable for resting or working, and allow you to control your own destiny in terms of the position of the window shade and when you get up.
Where are you standing – are you #TeamWindowSeat or #TeamAisleSeat?