Earlier this week I was finalising flights home for my sister’s wedding and asked my husband if he had a preference as to where he sat on the plane.
“Any aisle seat” he said.
I looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “Why an aisle seat?”
“It’s better” he retorted.
As a travel journalist who spends a significant amount of time on planes, I feel it’s my duty to set him — and any other aisle-lurkers out there — straight.
Let’s start with what’s a given.
No matter where you sit on a plane, if you’re flying economy on a lengthy journey then it’s probably not going to be the highlight of your trip. While premium passengers get to enjoy reclining seats, direct aisle access, window views and all sorts of little luxuries, those of us flying at the back of the cabin are not quite so lucky.
But the rocketing price of airfares in the current climate makes it inevitable that more of us will be opting to fly coach, myself included. And when I fly economy, you’ll find me very firmly in the window seat.
The reasons for this are myriad.
First, its easier to get some shuteye, with the option to lean up against the window and no one bumping awkwardly into you as they pass by. Armrests are another element to consider. While both inner dividers unquestionably go to the unfortunate person wedged in the middle seat, those sat by the window can use all that extra space on the other side to build a pillow-supported, double-sized armrest ― just try doing that on the aisle.
The window blind is also totally your remit, meaning you have full control over whether you admire the view, close it to sleep or lower it to reduce glare shining on your in-flight movie.
And when you’re flying solo and aren’t feeling sociable, window seat bookers also have to deal with having a person only on one side of them, compared with those in the aisle who have a person either side.
Inflight services are also not as stressful because there are fewer opportunities for things to spill on you and you don’t need to hand people’s dirty plates and cups back to the cabin crew. And while it may be more tricky to get the crew’s attention, the call button makes this a non-issue.
Access to the bathroom is the main argument that aisle-flyers, including my husband, cling to. On this, I hold my hands up ― it is admittedly much easier to get out for the bathroom if you’re sitting on the end of a row than it is if you’re by the window. But this comes down to allowing yourself to be a little bit selfish, although maybe don’t follow my lead if you have a weak bladder. I’d much rather disturb the people next to me to get up on my own schedule, than have to be nudged, pummelled or knocked by passengers waking me up as I nod off, or worse still have to contend with someone trying to clamber over me en route to the restroom.
Granted, I’m sharing all this from my five foot three-inch perspective, which allows me to easily fit into a window seat without having to contort my body in a way I’ve seen some taller travellers do. If you’re over six foot, then the aisle seat gives you more leeway to stretch out, but remember that the aisle isn’t actually your space — and your sprawling legs or arms might not be appreciated by the crew or parents following small children around the cabin.
Sitting in a window seat with a private portal to the cloud-filled landscape beyond is a way to pause for a moment and appreciate the magic of travel
Having a tight connection where you need to get off the plane quickly is one occasion where I would concede that it makes sense to consider an aisle seat. But unless you’re next to those people who like to be the last off a flight, you’re really only going to save a few seconds getting out of your row.
But the principal reason I’ll always book a window seat when I fly has nothing to do with any of the above. Instead, it is for those moments of wonderment as you descend from 32,000 feet above the Earth, and get to see an unknown canvas emerging below.
Having flown over the Statue of Liberty as I landed in New York, cruised over Maldivian islands peppered like snowdrops in a sea of blue and admired a bird’s-eye view of the sparkling Cote d’Azur coastline as I came into land in Nice, the view from the window is all part of travelling. Sitting in a window seat with a private portal to the cloud-filled landscape beyond is a way to pause for a moment and appreciate the magic of travel.
And it’s also why next month, when we descend into Scotland, I’ll be the one oohing and aahing over the never-gets-old beauty of my home country, while my husband will have to make do with a view of a seat-back screen.
Updated: September 09, 2022, 6:02 PM