The Best Seats for Flying

Many fliers like the extra space in bulkhead and exit row seats.
Many fliers like the extra space in bulkhead and exit row seats. (Image: Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

The best seats can differ from one flight to the next, because seating configurations are different for various aircraft. While the exact location of the best seats on each flight may vary a bit, most travelers want the seats that provide the most space. Passengers pay a premium for first and business class seats, which offer better comfort and service. Many economy class, or coach, travelers prefer the exit rows and bulkhead seats, which typically provide the most room in that section of the plane.

First Class

First class seats cost more than business and economy because they offer the most room and personalized service. The benefits of a first class seat are especially evident on international flights. Some airlines' first class seats recline fully flat, becoming a bed. A first class seat that converts to a flat bed enclosed in a suite provides even more privacy and comfort. First class seats on short domestic flights still offer more leg room, wider seats and better service than business and economy seating.

Business Class

After first class seats, business seating offers the most comfort. International business class seats have more leg room, are 2 to 3 inches wider and recline more than seats in economy. Some airlines' business seats on international flights recline to become a fully flat bed. While the difference between a business class and coach seat for domestic flights is less pronounced, business class seats are wider, have more leg room and are spaced farther apart.

Exit Row

For coach class, seats in the exit rows usually provide more leg room; that's because the area needs to be big enough for passengers to quickly exit the plane if there is an emergency. For the same reason, the seats in front of the exit rows usually do not recline into the space behind them, providing exit row passengers even more room. However, only passengers able to assist in an emergency situation can sit in exit rows. And some airlines have charge extra fees for these seats.


Bulkheads are physical partitions, such as a wall or curtain, that separate areas of the plane. The bulkhead separates the different classes, dividing business from coach, for example, as well as separating seats from the toilets and galleys. Bulkhead seats are located behind these separators. Some people prefer these seats because there is no seat ahead of them, avoiding the reclining issue. The bulkhead seat also might offer more room, because the separation is situated far from the seat. However, not all bulkheads seats provide this extra space. Some bulkheads are only about a foot away from the seat, which actually makes it a worse seat. And since there is no under-seat space in front, you must stow carry-on luggage in overhead bins. Websites such as specify whether the bulkhead seats on a certain flight provide an advantage.

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