Preseating for a flight

What do most of us want on board a jetliner these days? Often it is good leg-room, interesting on-board entertainment and delicious food. The order of preference differs according to your personal requirements, but leg-room is often top of the list. We are generally taller than our parents and in many cases wider than our grandparents ever were.

A320-200 seating configuration. Copyright United Airlines







One might instinctively phone one’s travel agent and insist on being seated in a favourable spot.  “The airline charges for that” we will be told. “What?  But I’ve already paid for my fare!…”

The good news is that one can often get that coveted pleasant seat with better leg-room, at no extra charge.  This can be done as a DIY Travel Expert, without having to use a travel agent, if you follow our guidance.

Loyalty programme

Firstly, sign up onto the loyalty programme of the airline you are flying with.  Yes, do it even if you anticipate that you will likely only fly with them just this once.  The reason is that in order to get you to sign up right away, frequent flyer programs often offer immediate benefits.

These may include:

  • pre-seating at no extra cost
  • a bigger luggage quota. e.g. Qatar Airways offers 10kg extra to their frequent flyer members.

Once you have signed up you can phone the carrier and bargain for favourable pre-seating. I recently did this for a passenger flying on Singapore Airlines and it worked wonders. This is not going to work every time, but is well worth the try.

Get the timing right

Then, there are some airlines, who although they don’t generally permit pre-seating on their so-called ‘entry level’ fares, will allow pre-seating twenty-four hours prior to departure. South African Airways is one of these.

Check-in online

The final and BIG pre-seating trick, especially on those nasty long-haul trips in economy is to check in on-line, as soon as it opens.

See our article on Online Check-in and use our Online check-in resource to go directly to the right online check-in page for major airlines.

Online check-in usually open twenty-four hours prior to departure.  On Singapore Airlines, and others it is forty-eight hours. It is very rare to find no decent seat available when you do an online check-in: Airlines always block an unspecified number of seats from being allocated before check-in.  For instance, in many cases, seats in the emergency exit row can normally only be booked at check-in.

The obvious boon is that you spend less time queuing, so at the airport you get to waft past those less-prepared, even if you are seated in “coach class” and they are in first-class.

1 comment for “Preseating for a flight

  1. AJW
    13 January 2011 at 06:35

    Congratulations on a refreshing and wonderfully informative web site!

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