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Thursday 21 April 2016

Just how do you avoid getting allocated the worst seat on the plane?

It is a mantra for just about any frequent flyer. Avoid the middle seat; particularly on long-haul flights.

You can get stuck between two non-stop talkers; two fatties (sorry, two people with weight issues), or, even worse, a couple who booked the window and the aisle in the hope of getting an empty spot between them. They'll talk across you for the whole flight. 
The New York Times reported recently that as planes fly at full capacity and new cabin configurations aim to squeeze in ever more passengers, airlines are, intentionally or not, nudging flyers into paying extra to avoid drawing the proverbial short straw.

So how do you avoid getting stuck in the middle? 

Many high-value frequent flyers get allocated their favoured aisle or window seats, usually near the front of the plane, as a matter of course. That's a lot of good seats gone.

Other canny flyers try to secure their seat when they book their flight; sometimes paying for the privilege.

Seat selection is a perk, so choose airlines that let you select your seat in advance and avoid playing musical chairs. 

But the crunch has left some travellers taking extreme measures to avoid getting stuck in the middle.

The New York Times reported flyers offering fellow travellers money or drinks to switch seats, who paid a fee to upgrade to a premium or an exit row, feigned illness or switched flights. Some travellers even reported buying two seats, just to have an empty one next to them.

Getting to the airport as early as possible, when the check-in agent still has room to switch people around, might just boost your chances of avoiding a middle seat. 

But the reality is someone has to sit there - and some passengers will go to extreme lengths to avoid it being them. Among the favoured plays is saying you have a stomach upset and need to be in an aisle seat - but that could result in you being denied boarding because you are "unwell".

Probably the best use of airline points, if you have any, is to upgrade to an exit row, a premium cabin or business class to avoid the dreaded middle seat (or a seat next to the toilet, another option to be avoided).  

But if you see someone in tears at check-in then they might well have just been given a middle seat from Sydney to Dallas-Fort Worth. A fate worse than death. 

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