How to Get the Best View From a Plane

Choosing an aircraft seat with a view requires some forward planning.
Choosing an aircraft seat with a view requires some forward planning. (Image: Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

The view from an airliner as it climbs out of an airport is breathtaking. The higher the plane goes, the further you can see. At cruising altitude on a clear day, you can pick out mountains, rivers, major highways and towns. At night, you can see the lights of cities hundreds of miles away. However, all of this is academic if you are flying in a widebody jet, and your seat is in the center of the cabin. To make sure you are in a seat with a view, you have to plan ahead.

Access your airline's website, and establish the type of aircraft which will operate your flight. This information normally appears on the timetable.

Study your airline's seating plan for the type of aircraft you are due to fly on. Remember, seating configurations can differ according to flight length. There may be a short haul and a long haul configuration for the same aircraft.

Check which rows are beside the wings. If you want a good view, you must sit beside a window well in front of the wings or well behind. However, if you are traveling on a high winged aircraft such as the Dash 8, your view will not be obstructed to the same extent, although a seat at the wing is right beside the aircraft's engines.

Check the seating plan to ensure any seat already allocated to you is at a window, and does not have a view restricted by the wing. Change the seat number if you feel you would enjoy a better view from the window seat of another row. Print the e-mail confirmation of this to show to airport staff, if there is any confusion about your seat number.

If no seat has been allocated, ascertain from the website how far in advance of travel you can select your seat number. Make a note of the date. Select your seat online as soon it is possible to do so. Again, it is important to print the confirmation to show to airline staff at the airport, if they attempt to allocate you another seat.

Tips & Warnings

  • Many airlines allow you to select a seat immediately when booking online, and to change your seat allocation before travel. Make use of this facility to ensure you get a window seat with a clear view. Continental is an example of an airline which offers this service to passengers.
  • If you are traveling with an airline which does not pre-allocate seats, you may be able to pay for priority boarding which means you will be among the first on board. This will enable you to select a window seat with an unrestricted view. Southwest Airlines is an example of an airline with an open seating policy.
  • If your airline does not pre-allocate seats and you pay for priority boarding, remember your departure airport may not be the flight's point of origin. If this is the case, you may find all the window seats already occupied by passengers who boarded at a previous airport.

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