An Airport Worker Taught Me The Secret Of Getting A Row To Myself On A Plane


There’s nothing quite like the joy of the main cabin door closing just as you’ve realised there is an empty row of seats next to you so you can spread. Except for maybe being able to go on an international holiday after COVID-19…

In any case, when you’re on a long-haul flight, particularity if you find it hard to sleep on a plane, getting the infamous row to yourself so you can lie down and have a semi-regular sleep is a true blessing. Yet it was only last year (pre-COVID, of course) while on a flight back from Japan that I had my mind blown by the tricks that can make it more likely you will get a little more of that highly sought-after space in the sky to yourself, and it was purely by accident.

My partner and I had booked our return flights through a travel agent and when we were prompted to check-in online, we realised we weren’t seated next to each other. Taking a scroll through the seat selection, there were only single seat options left and no possibility of moving into side-by-side seats.

So, with this in mind, we decided to get to the airport early and be at the check-in desk as soon as it opened. While we’d already checked-in online, we were hoping to beat the others who hadn’t and get a chance to change our seats.

That’s when we met the magical unicorn of a staff member behind the check-in desk of Singapore Airlines. Not only was she incredibly helpful in getting our seats changed, but she also let us in on an insider trick used to score an empty row.

The unicorn informed us that generally speaking, the back of a plane is the emptiest. The reason being is that when people book and they get to select their seat, they usually start to pick from the front and work their way back, so they’re closer to the main cabin door and can get off the plane faster.

Working her magic, she moved us to the back of the plane and when we boarded, I spied an empty seat next to me. And of the small wins in life, this one was up there. It seems that the check-in staff member was right on the money, as it’s also the top tip suggested by Point Hacks’ spokesperson, Daniel Sciberras.

So while we can’t book that overseas holiday just yet, I’m sharing this hack with you (and a few others) so you’re at the ready for when we can. Sciberras shared his top tips with me for scoring a row to yourself:

1. Pick the back seat

As suggested by the check-in staff member, getting to the back is also Daniel’s top tip. “Seats towards the front of the plane often book out first, leaving more rows empty at the back,” he said. However, Daniel pointed out that sitting at the rear of the plane does come with some disadvantages.

“Depending on the aircraft configuration, you might be close to the lavatories and be one of the last to disembark when doing this from the rear of the aircraft isn’t available,” he said.

2. Choose the right time

Daniel suggested trying to book yourself on a flight time that isn’t as busy and you’ll be more likely to get some extra space. “For instance, pick less popular times such as a red-eye flight, where a flight will be less likely to be full,” Daniel said.

3. Be a lounge member

There are some situations where it pays to be a member and getting a row to yourself is one of them. “At times, staff manning airline lounges have greater scope to meet passenger requests, including allocating empty rows,” Daniel said. “Members of any lounge can ask the lounge desk if there are any empty rows on the flight, prior to boarding.”

4. Check until the last minute

If all else fails, keep checking the seating allocation, even after you have checked in for your flight.

“Keep checking for the seat availability until just prior to checking-in, as some more favourable seats may have opened up due to passengers missing connections or changing flights,” Daniel said.

So go forth and grab that row (that is, unless, we’re on the same flight).

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