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Here’s why choosing seats on review flights is harder than it sounds

Jan. 15, 2020
5 min read
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There's a lot that goes into a flight review at TPG.

Aside from writing the review itself, there's a checklist of over 100 items that each reviewer needs to submit to the editorial board before filing a flight review. But, after reviewing over 20 flights, one of the hardest things for me isn't writing the review or filling out the rubric. It's choosing the right seat.

United Polaris business (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Read on to see what I consider when choosing a seat.

Always the back of the cabin

There's people who love sitting right in the front of the plane and others who don't mind sitting a few rows back. When it comes to flight reviews, I always try to sit in the last or second to last row.

The back of the cabin is great for a few reasons. Firstly, when boarding a plane, I love capturing overview shots of the entire cabin. If I'm seated in the first or second row, I don't have much of a walk to my seat, and therefore don't have as many opportunities to capture the best picture. But, when seated in the back of a cabin, I often get a good thirty seconds to walk up and down the aisle grabbing the best possible cabin photos.

Brussels Premium Economy (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Similarly, I'm an AvGeek and love staring at the engine and wing during flight. When seated in the front of a first or biz cabin, I'm often rotating my neck so much that it hurts by the end of the flight. By sitting in the back, I don't have to worry about getting neck pain. And I'll almost never sit facing backwards.

Singapore A350-900ULR (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Finally, inflight service accounts for roughly 20% of our flight review scoring. By sitting in the back, I get a great view of the service flow and can observe flight attendant interactions with other passengers.

Mini-cabin or not?

Even within a particular class of service, there's often the choice of sitting in a smaller and more private mini-cabin, especially on wide-body aircraft. While I'll always be sure to document the existence of a mini-cabin, I try to avoid sitting there during review flights.

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Service is often times better when you're sitting in a mini-cabin, so I don't want to give the airlines an unfair advantage if I chose to sit there. Plus, most passengers will sit in the larger cabin, so it makes sense to replicate the experience that most travelers will have.

That said, all else being equal, I'd almost always recommend choosing a mini-cabin seat. When I'm not reviewing flights, that's definitely where you'll find me.

Aisle versus window

I used to be an aisle-only type of flier. If I wasn't assigned an aisle, I'd set an ExpertFlyer alert until one became available. And now, it's window or bust for me.

JetBlue A321neo (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Personally, I love the views that I can capture from a window seat. I also like resting my head against the fuselage, making for a more comfortable flight when seated in economy.

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Window seats are especially great for review flights. I'll be disrupted less by fellow passengers, and I can remain as inconspicuous as possible to flight crew. I tend to take 300 or more pictures during a flight review, so the less attention I draw to myself, the better.

Thrones

As much as I'll try to replicate the average flight experience, I make one exception, and that's for thrones.

In some cabins, like JetBlue's Mint or Brussels biz, seats alternate between different configurations, creating an unequal distribution of "good" and "bad" seats. The "good" seats are often "thrones," and I'll try to grab one of those if possible.

JetBlue Mint (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In that case, I'll obviously mention the fact that only a small proportion of seats are "suites," but I always want to highlight a cabin's best offering.

Bottom line

Selecting a seat on a review flight is a science. My goal is to the replicate the average inflight experience, subject to choosing the best possible seat in a given cabin. As such, there's lots that I consider when making my pick, including location within the cabin, whether I choose an aisle or window and if I choose a throne.

So, if you see me seated in the window in the last row of the cabin, you'll know that I'm reviewing the flight.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023