The price of airline tickets has increased since travel resumed after the coronavirus pandemic, so it can be disheartening to discover that the airline is charging extra for seat selection. This can mean families being split up on long journeys, those who like to look out the window stuck in the aisle and extra legroom is going to cost you.
However, according to two travel experts, there are a few ways you can get your “perfect seat” without breaking the bank.
How to get seats with the rest of the party
Whether you’re a nervous flyer or flying overseas with your kids, sitting together can be a top priority.
Kate Brassington, co-founder of The Family Vacation Guide, told Express.co.uk: “We’ve all been through the process of booking a flight to our dream destination, choosing a flight date and time and entering all our details ourselves, only to be asked if we want to pay to select a seat.
“Some of us may panic and give in, some of us will push the decision to the check-in stage.”
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However, the extra cost is not always necessary.
She explained: “Not all hope is lost if you don’t pay for specific seats.
“A majority of airlines flying from the UK and within Europe try to allocate group seats entirely.
“For example, British Airways mentions on their website that they recommend selecting seats in advance when you book, but if you do not select seats in advance, airline staff do their best to put families together, with all children under 12 seated with a accompanying adult and anyone over 12 can sit separately in adjacent rows or across the aisle.
“BA even allows up to nine travelers with an infant to select seats for free.”
The key is to be aware of the carrier’s specific seating guidelines.
If this is not an option for your chosen operator 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: “If having seats together on a flight is a top priority, it’s important to book flights as far out as possible.
“This ensures that there are still plenty of available seats together before the aircraft starts to book up with other passengers.
“If you end up booking at the last minute, I would recommend calling the airline directly to see if there are any open seats that aren’t visible online.
“Often airlines block certain rows, so there’s a good chance there may still be seats available for you and your kids if you ask.”
How to get extra legroom
Extra legroom is usually offered, but with a price tag to match the extra space.
But Mr Kelvin says it “doesn’t hurt to ask” if you find yourself squeezed into a tight spot.
He explained: “The difference between a regular economy seat and a premium seat can be several inches of legroom, pitch and recline, which means knowing how to maneuver your way into more spacious spaces is important.
“First, it never hurts to ask, after all, the worst a reservation agent, check-in agent or gate agent can say is no.”
The travel expert recommends ExpertFlyer, which provides seat alerts when you set up alerts for specific seats.
This will show if and when they become available.
He explained: “You can specify up to 30 flights to monitor the availability of currently occupied or blocked seats in the cabin.”
Alternatively, you can ask the crew when they are 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 the passengers have boarded.
“Some customers with assigned seats may not show up for the flight due to last-minute cancellations or missed connections, so let the cabin crew know that you would like to be reseated if possible.”
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How to get your “perfect” seat
If there is a special seat in the row, you may have to pay extra to select this when booking your flight.
However, according to Mr Kelvin, planning ahead can help you determine if the extra cost is worth it.
He explained: “Whether you’re a window fan or prefer the aisle, choosing the perfect flight seat can make or break your flying experience.
“While we all prefer to cruise in business or first class, seat selection is even more important when traveling economy.
“Whatever your preferences are, decide where your dream seat is for your particular flight, taking into account the airline, the route, the class of travel, the time and length of the flight, traveling companions and other personal factors that may affect your seat choice.”
He recommends using the website SeatGuru, which allows you to view the seat map for your flight and read reviews of the seats.
Once you have entered the airline, date of flight and flight number, a color-coded map of your flight will appear.
He said: “You can then decide exactly where on the plane you want to sit to be near or far from a toilet, whether that exit row is worth it, or prevent you from choosing a seat with no window or limited recline.”
In some cases, the ideal location may be available upon online check-in. Depending on your carrier, this could mean grabbing your seat for free.
If not, there’s no harm in asking the flight crew if they have any seats available once you’ve boarded for the day.