The Best Place To Sit On An Aeroplane, According To Flight Attendants

Photo: Getty Images.
Flying can be hard. Unless you're one of those fancy first class travellers (and, um, if you are, can we hang with you?), it pretty much looks like schlepping your massively overpacked suitcase to your sad little gate, paying £10 for an aggressively mediocre sandwich, and then squeezing your adult-sized body into a toddler-sized seat right in between Snoring Guy and Wants To Passive Aggressively Battle Over Elbow Room Person. (Seriously, why do we always end up with the dang middle seat?) Oh, and there's also that super fun part at the beginning where you get to take your shoes off and risk having those pricey beauty products you splurged on confiscated by TSA.
Anyway, to be fair, we know we have a bad attitude about it all (we're not hiding it very well either, are we?), and there are probably things we could be doing to make the whole experience less stressful. But what, exactly, are those things? We polled flight attendants — aka the masters of smooth, angst-free travelling — to find out.
1 of 9
illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Plan What You'll Eat Ahead Of Time

Bad food, or not enough food, is guaranteed to make you feel cranky and fatigued on your trip. If you know the airport you're going to has decent restaurant options (hello, Shake Shack!) and you'll have time to indulge in them, that's great. But if not, flight attendant Annette, who asked that we not use her last name, suggests bringing snacks from home. "I see people sometimes bring cheese, crackers, grapes…and buy a glass of wine onboard and have a little picnic with their beloved. It is so sweet, and smart. Plane food is high in sodium, high in preservatives, and high in price," she shares.
2 of 9
illustrated by Bella DiMarzio.
Be Smart About Seat Picking

While some flights don't allow you to choose your seat, Ally Lovett, a flight attendant and the blogger behind Depart Fashion, has this advice for the ones that do: "When picking the seat, always try to select the second row of any cabin section especially if you do not like sitting by a bulkhead. Typically these rows come with bulkhead responsibilities which means all personal items will have to go in the overhead for takeoff and landing. Also, sometimes your in-seat monitor could be a bit smaller. Having this modification, makes you have to stow them for take-off and landing which cuts off 30 minutes of screen time." Good to know!
3 of 9
illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Just Say No To Seat Pockets

Seat pockets are tempting, aren't they? They're right there in front of you, all convenient and pocket-like, with their belonging-holding capabilities. But they've also been known to gobble up items like phones, laptops, books, and makeup bags, never to be seen again. "Never put anything in a seat pocket," cautions Lovett. "You might think that you will remember your laptop or iPad, but so many people forget them all the time. When finish with your electronic device just put it right into your bag. It will save you a ton of a headache."
4 of 9
illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Keep Your Shoes On... At Least In The Bathroom

Getting as comfy as possible in what's still a relatively public place is unfortunately crucial to your survival, especially on those long-haul flights But, for your own sake, put your shoes bag on before you go to the bathroom. "Wear shoes when you visit the lavatory. That isn’t water on the floor," Annette says. Yikes.
5 of 9
illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Layer Up

Ever notice how aeroplanes are always freezing? You're not alone in that observation. Both the flight attendants we spoke with emphasised the importance of layering. "Bring a hoodie or lightweight jacket, and dress in layers for your flight. Don’t wear shorts. Planes are usually cold, blankets are few and far between — and if you get one, it is very thin, almost worthless," Annette says. "Even if your final destination is Miami, if you are scantily dressed, I can assure you that your seat assignment is in the meat-locker section of the plane. And, the flight will be full, so you can’t move. And, I won’t have any blankets to pass out. Guaranteed."
6 of 9
illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Make It A Beauty Moment

Flying is notoriously awful for your skin, often leaving it dry, dull, and sometimes broken out. But it's also the perfect time to pamper yourself since, well, what else are you gonna do for five hours? "On long hall flights, I take 5 minutes to give myself a 'spa moment' I make sure I add a little Emergen-C to some sparkling water accompanied by rose spray to keep my face feel refresh and hydrated," Lovett shares.
7 of 9
illustrated by Emily Turner.
Have Your Wits About You In The Airport

Airports, especially those you've never been to before, can be stressful. Luckily, they're pretty much designed for noobs like you. "In the airport, look up. Most airports are very well-signed, and you’ll be able to figure out where you are going if you simply look up and read the signs," Annette says. And since people are busily trying to keep from one place to another, it's polite to keep the flow of traffic moving. "As you walk through the airport, put your phone down, or pull over to the side to text or read," Annette advises.
8 of 9
illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Don't Skimp On Time

Just as it's never a great idea to show up late to pass through TSA, leaving too little time in between connecting flights is a sure-fire way to stress yourself out. Annette suggests allowing at least an hour. "Some of the web travel agencies (like Orbitz, Kayak, etc.) will sell you a cheap ticket, but the connection is less than 45 minutes and you may flying into Newark, Atlanta, or Chicago and have to change terminals…and you won’t make it," she says. "It also takes the a lot of stress away, when you don’t have to worry about making your connection."
9 of 9
illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Stay Aware, Be Polite

Everyone knows flying can be unpleasant, but it's not going get any better if we're bumbling around airports ignoring the needs of everyone but ourselves. "Employ some situational awareness," offers Annette. "I was the Flight Attendant 'greeter' (at the door) while we were boarding a flight a couple of nights ago. I watched a woman get out of her seat and rummage through her suitcase 4 or 5 times. She just unzipped her bag a little, which was in the overhead compartment, and stuck her hand in there, blindly feeling around. She had to stand in the aisle each time to do this, and each time, she held up all the people in line and on the cold jetbridge, seemingly without being aware of what she was doing, and how she was delaying everyone. Don’t be that person."

More from Travel


R29 Original Series