The 3 Secrets to Getting an Empty or More Expensive Seat on Flights
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I’m not an antisocial guy. Ok, sometimes!
I find one of life’s simple pleasures to be an empty seat next to me on the plane. I don’t like wasting time, so I usually try to work during my flights. Or sleep!
And I can work better (or sleep) when I have a little room to breathe!
Here’s how I’m able to sometimes sit next to an empty seat when I fly.
1. Change Seat Assignments Online
Once while flying United Airlines from Austin to San Francisco, I had some work I really needed to do. I wanted to set up an office on the plane to maximize my efficiency.
Waiting at the airport for my plane to arrive, I opened the United Airlines app on my phone to see if I was one of the lucky folks with a vacant seat next to them. I was not one of them!
I wasn’t targeted for United’s Economy Plus subscription, and I did NOT want to pay for an upgrade to the Economy Plus seat.
So I waited until the last minute at the gate. And used the app to switch my seating assignment next to an empty seat a few rows back. And it worked like a charm!
Here’s the seat map of a Delta flight I took:
If I see someone has taken the seat next to me, I’ll gladly switch my seat to a few rows back so I can sit next to an empty seat.
This obviously won’t work every time. There are last-minute seat re-assignments, and sometimes every seat on the plane is taken. In those cases, I keep my office inside my carry-on.
2. Ask and You (May) Receive
Million Mile Secrets team member Jasmin has had multiple successes getting upgraded to Premium Economy simply by asking! It made a huge difference on a 9+ hour flight between Washington, DC, and Honolulu.
It doesn’t hurt to politely inquire with the gate agent if something further forward with a bit of extra space is available (the worst they can say is no). And on flights that aren’t full, they may have to shift some folks into an otherwise-empty Premium Economy section anyway for aircraft weight and balance. JetBlue may be the exception, since they continue to sell seats with extra legroom even after folks have boarded the plane.
And keep in mind, you may not be able to see all available seats on airline websites or mobile apps. So even if it appears there are no rows with empty middle seats to move to, it could be worth asking the gate agent if there’s anything they can do.
3. Don’t Assign Yourself a Seat
You can also wait for your seat to be assigned for you by the ticketing agent at the airport instead of choosing it yourself beforehand. This will give coach seats a chance to fill up, and increase your chances of being bumped to Premium Economy.
However, there are no guarantees, and eve some risk involved! Possible outcomes are:
- You still end up getting a regular coach seat
- You end up being split from folks you are traveling with
- You get NO seat assignment, and are bumped from the flight
So weigh the dangers before you decide to go this route! You may end up on the worst seat in the plane.
If you want to sit next to an empty seat on the plane, you can use your airline’s mobile app to view the flight’s seat chart and re-assign your seat!
Do you have any tips or tricks for getting a bit of extra space on flights?
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