Other than the obvious answer of first class or business class, although I am sure on many specific routes that carry 'high-rollers' you might still find yourself sitting next to other passengers (although with more elbow space). I actually don't know of any specific place where most people will not want to sit, so I am curious as to whether there are people who have often booked seats for a particular section of the plane under specific circumstances when they are likely to have a spare seat next to them compared to other sections of the plane.

  • Sitting at the front section - usually allows you to get out quicker (after the first class and business flyers)
  • Sitting at the back section - usually allows you to get out just as quick (if they allow exiting via front and rear exits)
  • sitting near the back section - just far away enough from the back section (sometimes where children get seated) but still able to get out quickly without too much delay.
  • Sitting near the emergency exits - usually the seats taken by people who want leg room (but might not get overhead luggage room near their seat)
  • 1
    That would probably be the seat that has all empty seats near it on the airline's seat availability map. But airlines are flying planes so full these days that you'd be exceptionally lucky to not have anyone seated next to you even if you see empty seats when you book.
    – Johnny
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 0:29
  • @Johnny I was going to say that it would actually be better to book the seat that doesn't have all empty seats near it because then other people would be less inclined to take up a seat there. There are also airlines that actually charge you you pick your seats too :p Commented May 31, 2016 at 0:43

6 Answers 6


There are many plane configurations where there are only two seats in a row, typically on an exit row or in the back. Buy both. Done!

  • 1
    Buying just one would probably also do the trick, if you buy it first. Nobody is going to pay to sit next to you. ;-)
    – fkraiem
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 10:14

Similar to chx's answer: there are some aircraft where there may be only one economy seat between window and aisle. Book such a seat and you are guaranteed not to sit next to anyone.

For instance the ERJ-145 series of regional jets usually has a 1+2 seating configuration in economy. So just pick a seat on the left side of the aircraft - it's a window and an aisle.


Typically aircraft fill from the front. Although some aircraft board and disembark from both front and rear, it's less common and more common for shorthaul aircraft. Hence I would always say that you're less likely to get a free seat at the front.

Sitting at the back near has negative qualities of being near the toilets, near the galley which can be noisy and sometimes having limited recline. Sitting in unpopular seats gives you a better bet of having nobody sat next to you.

Exit row seats are often reserved for passengers with higher status who can reserver for free in advance. Sometimes you may be able to reserve them for a payment, and sometimes some are blocked until check-in. They're always going to be very popular so it's unlikely you'll get a free seat next to you there.

Sometimes, the particular seating configuration creates an anomaly such as having only 2 seats together instead of 3 as the aircraft body width declines. Any seat pairs are likely to be popular for couples. Occasionally there are single seats. I'm only aware of the BA "throne seat" in premium economy as can be seen here in 28B and 28J.

Typically at the rear of the aircraft, some seats are blocked for unaccompanied minors (UM). Even an adult can travel as a UM and airlines prefer not to seat UMs next to other people if they can avoid it. So that's an option.

You can also purchase an extra seat, which is often used by "Passengers of Size". In some airlines this can be purchased just for the base fare without taxes and fees, which can considerably reduce the cost of this seat. On some shorthaul aircraft, this can be purchased but will be refunded if the aircraft is not full on take off.


Row 13. Even when it fails at least you won't be sitting next to someone superstitious. For East Asia maybe change this to Row 4.

  • Strange words from a Mathematician. Some airlines have gone ahead and removed the 13th row completely.
    – AKS
    Commented Jun 1, 2016 at 18:02

There is no guarantee for any of this to work and especially if a flight is full, you will have to sit next to someone, period.

A strategy that has worked for me is the following (assuming here you can pick your seat and change that selection):

  • pick a seat in an unoccupied row in the back of the plane (middle alley if available), ideally with many empty rows around it
  • monitor this until just before travel to control if you still have an empty seat next to you and move around if you don't.

The idea is that other people choosing their seats should always find a more attractive seat to take than the one next to you.


I doubt there's any seat with better than standard chances - nearly everybody wants what you ask for, so they start spreading people out immediately - putting single flyers on window and aisle seats. So when the plane is about 3/4 full (depending on plane configuration), there are only middle seats left (=next to two people).

Anything after that is dumb luck with your neighbors not showing up.

In some planes, there are single-standing middle business seats (between two aisles, where the plane gets smaller). That's your only sure pick.

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