Airline Seat Assignments

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» Posted by on Aug 25, 2013 in Airlines | 0 comments

For many travelers, the most important aspect of their trip is the seat assignment on the airplane. Some travelers want the exit row seats for more legroom, while others choose a seat based on class of service. Government travelers are not permitted to book First Class seats without high level agency approval based on Federal Travel Regulations; however, travelers are permitted to upgrade to First or Business Class seats using their frequent flyer reward programs.

In our E Travel System we have two options for seat selection–travelers can select isle or window from a drop down menu; or, if one is available, the traveler can view a seat map of the airplane and select a specific seat. Unfortunately, their seat selection is not guaranteed until their reservations are confirmed by the E Travel Systems’ accommodated Travel Management Center (TMC.) Because the seat selection is not real-time, many travelers are disconcerted to find the seat they selected did not confirm when they booked their reservations. To alleviate some of the issues with selecting seats in the E Travel System, we advise our travelers to wait until their tickets are purchased and then select their specific seat from the airline’s website or call the TMC to confirm a specific seat.

Whatever your seating preference, using these strategies will give travelers the best advantage for selecting the perfect seat.

Elite seating (First or Business Class): Some airlines reserve a section of the airplane for their best customers–usually the first 10 – 15 rows in the front of the airplane. Middle seats are filled last in these special sections.

Exit rows: Exit rows usually have more legroom to facilitate quick evacuations in emergencies. As a bonus, seats in front of exit rows often don’t recline keeping the exit path clear and giving exit row passengers even more space. Passengers capable of assisting in an emergency may only occupy exit rows. These seats are usually assigned at airport check in. Arrive at the airport early to claim a seat in an exit row. Caution: Exit row seats may be slightly narrower as tray tables are often stowed in arm rests. Because exit rows offer more room, even the middle seats fill up fast.

Bulkhead seats: Like the exit row, the bulkhead has ups and downs. Because bulkhead seats are generally behind a wall or curtain, you don’t have to worry about someone slamming their seat back in your face. Sometimes bulkhead seats have more legroom, other times less because the wall is so close. With no seat in front of you, there’s no handy place to store your carry on luggage.

Live seat maps: Live seat maps show which seats are still available before you book a flight. You may access these maps on many airline and travel booking sites or through your agency designated TMC.

Seat assignment at booking: If you cannot reserve a seat when purchasing a ticket, it may be a warning that the flight is overbooked. Those without seat assignments get what’s left over.

Ask, ask, and ask again: If you are unhappy with your seat, ask to be waitlisted for a better seat when making the reservation and again at the airport. Better seats often become available when passengers cancel or switch flights. Before departure, airlines release the “no-show” seats.

Flight delays: During a flight delay many business travelers or those with tight connections switch to alternate flights making many choice seats suddenly available again.

The empty middle-seat strategy: In a row of three or more seats together, an open middle seat makes any flight more comfortable. Select an aisle seat towards the rear of the airplane where another passenger is already seated by the window. When aisle and window are occupied, the middle seat is more likely to remain open. If you choose an empty row, you are inviting the next traveling couple to take the two open seats next to you. In most cases, middle seats fill up last in the rear of the airplane.

Couples should reserve the aisle and window seat. The middle seat will remain open unless the flight is very full and any passenger assigned to that middle seat will be more than happy to trade for the aisle or window seat so you and your travel companion may sit together.

Last row issues: The last row of seats often do not recline, and engine noise and bumpiness is greatest.

DC9s, MD80s, B717s, and regional jets: Some or all rows on these airplanes are two seaters. Though this eliminates the middle seat problem, with only two seats together, you are less likely to have an unoccupied seat next to you. Smaller, regional aircraft may also be configured with a single seat on one or both sides of the aisle, giving you an aisle and window seat simultaneously.

by Carole Byrd

Disclaimer: The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.  Use of this equipment is consistent with the agency’s policy governing limited personal use.

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