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When Life Only Gives You a Middle Seat, Don't Select It

November 29, 2012 at 9:22 AM | by | Comment (1)

We are right in the middle of the holiday travel season, so we’ve got some advice for you when it comes to picking your airline seats. It’s not just for travel over the next few weeks, but a trick for all year long. We imagine that it’ll only get worse as airlines continue to hold back—and charge for—premium seats like aisles, windows, exit rows, and pretty much everything else.

So you booked your ticket and all went well, but when it’s time to select a seat you only have the option of picking a middle seat. Here’s the tip—don’t pick a middle seat—and leave your seat selection unassigned. First of all, there’s always the possibility that better seats will pop up closer to departure. You never know who will cancel or who will change their plans, so keep an eye out for better up in the air opportunities.

We're thinking that you should check-in without an assigned seat, and if you can’t check-in without doing so maybe just wait until you arrive at the airport. Sure we see how this could make you nervous, as you’re kind of heading to the airport without a seat. Your ticket has been confirmed and you do have a seat—like 99% of the time—you just don’t know where it will be yet. What’s going to happen here is that your carrier is going to pick one for you right at the gate, and yes there’s a chance they’re just going to give that middle seat that you could have selected months ago.

However, what you want to happen is that the gate agent has plenty of open seats that usually are blocked off for an extra fee, for frequent flyers, or for folks that have a hard time getting around. When the agent sees that you need a seat and that there are plenty of other seats available, there’s a chance they’ll stick you in a better option. If you had selected a middle seat on your own prior to arriving at the airport you’re probably just going to be stuck in that seat. Sure you can ask—and do it nicely—if there’s any other options, but we like to gamble a little bit at the gate.

We’ve had friends and colleagues play middle seat roulette, and most of the time they make out better by not selecting a middle seat in advance. Exit rows, premium seats, and extra legroom options can all be yours if you’re willing to wait on picking out your spot. You don’t have to take our word for it either, as just the other day we kind of saw things in action over Twitter. Qatar Airways was chatting someone up about his upcoming flight, and mentioned that an upgrade is always possible—especially if the economy class cabin is full. Sure this is a more extreme example, but if one set of seats is full then another set of seats just might be in your future.

[Photo: MikeMurry and Twitter]

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Disagree with Reasoning

I have travelled many times and when travelers do not have seat assignments prior to getting to the gate, then they have a greater chance of getting bumped off the flight if it is overbooked.

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