Selecting Airline Seats Is About More Than Just Avoiding Galleys, Bassinets & Lavatories

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If your fare or airline status allows you to select the seats you’ll fly in (or if you’re paying to choose your seats) there’s more than just your fellow passengers and the proximity to galleys, lavatories and bassinet seats to consider when making your decision.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that you can get some amazing views when you’re taking off or coming in to land and if you’re clever with your seat selection you can see some truly fantastic cityscapes and scenery that a lot of people usually don’t get to see….so make the most of it.

Two Tips For Good Views

Tip 1 – Avoid the wings!

The first and most obvious tip is to avoid sitting where the aircraft wings are going to get in your way.

Wings are great for keeping you up in the air but they’re not transparent so you’re not going to see very much if you’re seated right over them.

A lot of airline seat maps won’t show you where the wings are when you’re selecting your seats but sites like show them quite clearly.

A section of the Delta A350 seat map courtesy of

For example, if you’re booking the Delta Premium Select cabin on the Airbus A350 (above) and you’d like to see some views, the window seats in rows 20 & 21 are really your only option.  Most other seats in the cabin will get a great view of the wings and not much more.

Tip 2 – Do your research

At most airports the prevailing winds mean that aircraft generally take off and land in/from very predictable directions and you can use this information to give yourself the best possible chance of a great view.

The internet can be your friend here and a Google search can make the difference between a view of an endless ocean or views of some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.

When Joanna and I visited Bora Bora not that long ago the last sector of our outbound journey was on a small aircraft between Tahiti and Bora Bora so, before I selected our seats on the aircraft, I googled “what side of the aircraft offers the best views of Bora Bora?” and found out that the left side of the aircraft is usually the place to sit.

That was the side I selected for us and this was the result:

Everyone on the opposite side of the aircraft had nothing but wide blue ocean to look at.

When you’re coming in to land in Kauai, Hawaii, you’ll almost certainly be landing from the south so, if you’re on the left side of the aircraft you’ll get great views as you come in to land….

….but, as this google maps screenshot will show, you’ll see nothing but ocean if you’re on the right.

The same applies when you’re coming in to land at major cities.

If you’re visiting LA you’ll almost certainly land from the east (I don’t think I’ve ever landed from the west) and if you’re on the right side of the aircraft you get views of downtown and possibly the Hollywood sign in the distance (as long as the weather is clear)….

…while passengers on the left side of the aircraft mostly see the sprawling suburbs and a lot of strip malls 🙂

London is another great example where choosing what side of the aircraft to sit can make a lot of difference.

Usually (but not always) aircraft will land at London Heathrow from the east and this means that regardless of where they’re arriving from they’ll head out over the south-east of England, perform a slow 180 degree turn and fly over some of the most iconic scenery in London as they come in to land.

If you’re seated on the right side of the aircraft you’ll get almost all the views (Olympic Stadium, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge, London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Harrods, Hyde Park, Albert Hall etc….)….

…while seats on the left side of the aircraft really don’t get to see much at all.

Picking what side of the aircraft to sit on can make a huge difference to what sights you get to see and what you miss.

Bottom Line

Clearly all of these examples are very dependent on the weather so nothing is guaranteed (you may have heard that London isn’t exactly the most cloud-free city in the world) so all you can do is to try to give yourself the very best chance to catch some views that will stay with you for some time (I’ll never forget Bora Bora).

Ask friends for tips if they’ve visited places you’re traveling to or just do a google search before you select your seats – it doesn’t take much time and the results can be spectacular.


  1. This is why I always sit on the left side when flying into SAN. With its single runway, you only approach from the south-east. So on the left side you can see the harbor/cruise ships, downtown skyscrapers, Coronado bridge and island, and of course the ocean. On the right side you see boring things like the freeway and my apartment, though you get small glimpses of Balboa Park too. Research is worth it!

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