4 reasons I choose the aisle instead of a window seat
Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full advertising policy: How we make money.
I’ll concede that a window seat can be great for shorter flights. I like taking pictures of a sunset from 37,000 feet just as much as the next fella. I like leaning against the wall and falling asleep as my saliva performs Chinese water torture on my forearm. I even like the extra privacy it affords me, incremental though it may be.
Even so, the aisle seat is superior for four reasons. These are particularly apt for long-haul travel, but they are true for everyone.
Why an aisle seat is better than a window seat
More convenient to reach the bathroom
My aversion to disturbing my fellow seatmates is more persuasive to my brain than my aching bladder. If I’ve booked a window seat, it’s guaranteed that I’m not going to the bathroom on the flight.
Holding it can become truly nightmarish, depending on the length of your flight (reminiscing about my nonstop flight from Washington, D.C. to Dubai gives me the cold sweats all over again), so the aisle wins handily for me with flights lasting more than a few hours.
Yes, you can go to the bathroom if you’re at the window, but you’ll either have to bother the person(s) next to you to get up and move or do the awkward dance where you try to squeeze past them and their folded-up knees.
You can stretch your legs in the aisle
Here’s something you simply can’t do unless you’re a toddler: Completely stretch out your legs in coach while seated. Not in an annoying way, just intermittently throughout the flight. You shouldn’t set up camp in the middle of the walkway, but stretching your legs every half hour makes such a difference in morale.
Stretching your legs even reduces the claustrophobic vibe of a tight fuselage. Just the knowledge that you can get up whenever you want reduces stress — in my experience, anyway.
It’s easier to reach the overhead bin
This is a double-whammy. While I’m not usually the traveler that digs around in the overhead bin after takeoff (everything’s sorted before I board the plane), it’s nice to have the option. When I remember my headphones are in my other bag, I’m grateful to have the aisle seat.
The much bigger win here is that you can pop your personal item in the overhead bin after everyone’s seated. I store my carry-on and my personal item in the overhead bin when there’s room. This will give you tons more legroom, as you won’t have to perch your feet atop your backpack with your knees above your ears.
Since your personal items (laptop, tablet, food, etc.) tends to be the bag you’re using during your flight, access to the overhead bin now becomes extremely valuable.
You can move about long flights with regularity
You shouldn’t be too concerned about developing blood clots during a flight, but it’s a real thing. It’s called “deep vein thrombosis” (DVT), and it usually occurs in your legs.
The hypothesis is that flights longer than eight hours are contributors to this condition. And moving around instead of sitting for eight hours is the key to preventing it. Those annoying people doing yoga upside down in their seat may have no friends, but they also have no flight-induced blood clots.
DVT isn’t enough of a reason to book yourself an aisle seat, but moving about the cabin on long-haul flights certainly is. You don’t need a reason to walk to the front of the plane and back. And when you sit down again, you’ll feel much better.
I’m team aisle. It’s more convenient, more spacious and even healthier.
Of course, there is a way to avoid cramped seats, the inability to stretch and the necessity to climb over your seatmate to reach the bathroom. You can simply book business or first class seats for free with miles and points.
Many long flights in these cabins are lie-flat seats (even your own cubicle!) with direct aisle access. And even if you’re not next to the aisle, the space between rows allows you to sneak out of your seat with little bother to anyone else.
Check out our beginner’s guide to points and miles and the best airline credit cards to see how easy it can be to book a lie-flat seat for practically zero dollars. And subscribe to our newsletter for more travel posts delivered to your inbox once per day.
Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)