As someone who travels for work quite often, I naturally fly a lot. I generally prefer Southwest since you can change or cancel your flight without the ridiculous fees and you can pick your own seat like an adult.
One of the biggest complaints among frequent flyers is how the airlines jam and cram people onto their planes. If you are tall like me, then a little extra room during your flight from Minneapolis to Los Angeles is a godsend.
In my years of flying Southwest, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks on how to get an empty middle seat next to me. Now obviously these tips don’t apply to a completely full flight, but if there are a few more seats than passengers, these tricks may just get you a little more room to relax.
Tip 1: Sit in the back of the plane, but not all the way in the back
Many people who board a Southwest plane (especially those who board early) want to sit in the front of the plane. This is something I’ve never really understood.
Unless your connecting flight is 40 minutes or less upon your arrival, why sit up front? You only get off 5 minutes or so earlier than the passengers in the back.
If you sit towards the back of the plane, you have a much better chance of getting an empty seat next to you. Now a rookie flyer might think this means that the very last row is your best chance… WRONG!
Think about it… if the last few passengers make their way to the back and see an empty seat in the last row or two (after passing other empty seats), they aren’t going to go back towards the front. Instead they will take that seat in the back.
So, pick a row that is 4-6 rows from the last row in the back.
Tip 2: Sit in an aisle seat
Much like the obsession of sitting in the front of the plane, I’ve never understood why some people are so adamant about getting that window seat.
First of all, if you are in the back of the plane, you aren’t going to see that much as the wings take up a chunk of your view. Second, for tall people like me, the window seat is very uncomfortable. And finally, you can see just as well from the middle or aisle seat.
Most importantly, an aisle seat allows you to have some control over your row. This leads to my next point.
Tip 3: Pick a seat with someone (preferably a bigger person) sitting in the window seat
Now, technically, this tip is part of tip 2, but it’s just as important. It is crucial that someone else is already seated in the window seat. Why you ask? Two empty seats next to you may invite a couple to plop down and there goes your mile-high bliss. A few more reasons for this tip (and tip 2) will become obvious after you read the next crucially important steps.
Tip 4: Put your personal item in the middle seat
The vast majority (99.9%) of the English speaking world now knows that you are allowed to take two items with you on the plane: your carry-on luggage stored in the overhead bins and a personal item that must be stored below your seat.
For women, this personal item is often a purse. For men, it’s usually a briefcase or a backpack. If you’re a man and you carry a purse on the plane… well… you’re on the wrong website. You’re neither proud, nor an American, and I don’t want to be travelling next to you.
This leads to another rookie mistake; most passengers assume they must store their personal item below as soon as they sit down… again, WRONG! Put that item in the middle seat to ward off a fellow passenger from taking that middle seat.
Tip 5: Put on your headphones and pretend to sleep or look busy and flustered
This final tip may seem a little childish, but hey… it works! After you’re sitting in your aisle seat, your personal item is in the middle seat, and you’re oblivious but soon-to-be-thankful passenger in crime is in the window seat, it’s time to put on a little one-man play.
Put on your headphones (not earbuds, harder for other passengers to see those) and either pretend to be asleep or look busy. If you choose the look-busy route, it’s better to look upset, anxious or frustrated, because who wants to sit in a middle seat next to that?
And thus now you are on your way to a more comfortable flight where you can enjoy some extra legroom and that extra tray table next to you. Enjoy!