Guilty! We Book Aisle & Window Seats On Narrowbody Domestic Flights

by joeheg

I feel attacked! The Washington Post wrote an article about couples who book aisle and window seats.

I have no shame in admitting that I book a window and aisle seat, hoping we’ll have a less than 100% full flight and the middle seat will remain empty.

According to the article, this is why couples book an aisle and window seat.

In the best-case scenario — which occurs on the rare occasion when a flight isn’t completely booked — no one sits between them, and the duo gets to stretch out. The worst case? Some poor sap gets stuck in the middle of two people who still insist on gesturing, communicating and, in one unfortunate passenger’s case, spilling wine on their neighbor.

Most often, though, one member of the couple offers to switch, and the middle-seat dweller receives an unexpected upgrade to the aisle or window.

“Usually the person is thrilled,” said Scott Keyes, the founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights and an employer of the couple’s gambit when he and his wife, Anya, travel together without kids.

Here’s the seat map from a recent Delta flight. We’re seated in the window and aisle of row 32.

a screenshot of a cell phone

Is this wrong?  If someone gets the middle seat, we’ll let them have the window (Sharon likes to have the aisle seat on longer trips). If it’s a short flight, we might even agree to give you the aisle seat, and we’ll take the window and middle seat.

Here’s a picture of us on a Delta flight, when the passenger was glad to take the window seat instead of sitting in the middle.

a man and woman sitting in a plane

If they decline, we deal with it. It’s only an occasional flight with someone sitting between us if they don’t want to change.

I’d say it’s more than the occasional flight where you’ll get an empty middle seat. If the plane is less than 80% full, there’s a good chance many of the empty seats are in the middle of the row.

Unlike some, if our plan fails, we don’t carry on like you’re not there. In fact, we’ve had instances where passengers have reached the end of the flight, only then to discover that we were a couple. That’s how we roll. I zone out to music or movies on my sound-canceling Bose headphones, and Sharon spends the flight playing Scrabble or writing posts on her phone.

We’re going to be together for the entire trip (or are coming back from a week of togetherness), and we’re OK with a few hours of alone time. In fact, one or both of us will probably fall asleep for part of the flight.

While some feel this is gaming the system, I feel it’s using the system in place to your advantage. Middle seats are less desirable. If I book far enough in advance to avoid a middle seat, it’s my reward. I know the risk/reward analysis of booking separate seats in the same row, knowing that we may not sit together. That’s a risk I’m willing to take to get a row to ourselves.

If the middle seat person refuses to change, we’re willing to deal with the consequences of our choice.

Want to comment on this post? Great! Read this first to help ensure it gets approved.

Want to sponsor a post, write something for Your Mileage May Vary, or put ads on our site? Click here for more info.

Like this post? Please share it! We have plenty more just like it and would love it if you decided to hang around and sign up to get emailed notifications of when we post.

Whether you’ve read our articles before or this is the first time you’re stopping by, we’re really glad you’re here and hope you come back to visit again!

This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Chris January 11, 2023 - 2:39 pm

Omgosh, doesn’t everyone this? Never in a million years would I consider this gaming the system. We do it the time. I always offer to move to middle seat, if necessary.

Dan @ Points With a Crew January 11, 2023 - 3:10 pm

I think it’s fine if, as you say, you give the person who takes the middle seat between you the choice of a window or aisle.

What I think is NOT okay (and you didn’t say that you did this) is to put them in the middle anyways, and then proceed to converse around them the whole trip. I’ve seen people do that or talk about doing that and that I think is incredibly rude

Christian January 11, 2023 - 3:51 pm

You did what? Le Gasp! Just kidding. I tend to do the same for my wife and I unless I think the plane will be full.

DaninMCI January 11, 2023 - 6:56 pm

Not very shocking. At least it’s not as low class as buying early bird boarding for one person only and saving seats on Southwest.

Bill January 14, 2023 - 10:43 am

The new basic fares ruin this. We were on a non-full flight and got somebody in between us. I asked why they got stuck in the middle and they had a basic fare. At least on Alaska they will put you in the center seat even if there’s aisles/windows available with a basic ticket..

Rob January 15, 2023 - 8:08 pm

I see nothing wrong with it. I have been able to get window seats a few times when I have had to book last minute tickets. But a more practical way would be to book domestic first class.

Jacki S January 17, 2023 - 9:56 am

I need a window sear because I need to look out the window. Hubby is tall enough he needs an aisle for his legs. I don’t see any problem at all in booking our preferences. And no, we won’t change seats unless it’s for the same type of seat elsewhere.


Leave a Comment