Skip to content

Sorry, aisle-seat fans: The window seat is the best in the air

May 15, 2020
5 min read
United Dreamliner economy cabin
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Picking the perfect airplane seat is hard. If there's one thing we can all agree on it's that that virtually no one voluntarily chooses the middle.

In fact, as travel starts to slowly recover from the coronavirus pandemic, we've already seen some airlines proactively block middle seats entirely. Additionally, going forward passengers are likely going to pay more attention to their seat assignment. These two factors combined are resurfacing the age-old debate between choosing an aisle or window seat.

Though I was an aisle-only flyer many years ago, now more than ever I'm on team window seat. And here's why.

For more travel tips and news, sign up for our daily newsletter

Increased privacy

Regardless of the cabin you're flying, window seats generally offer the most privacy. You don't have anyone climbing over you to use the bathroom or asking you to move in order to make room for their belongings.

If you're a taller passenger, you also won't have to worry about galley carts or other passengers hitting your legs, knees or shoulders throughout the flight.

Related: The hidden costs of saying goodbye to the middle seat

Likewise, the window seat is much less exposed to other passengers. It offers a more private experience across the board — whether you're sitting in an Apex suite or the last row of coach. This feeling might be claustrophobic to some, but I personally prefer the ability to tilt my laptop away from others to avoid people snooping on my work or reading my texts over my shoulder.

United Polaris "true" window seat (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In my mind, the privacy that the window seat offers far outweighs the freedom of getting up whenever you want in an aisle.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

More comfortable for sleeping

To maximize sleep, I need privacy and a comfortable surface. Window seats in all cabins offer the former. Though in some cases like in biz on United's newly retrofitted Dreamliner, you need to select "true" window seats for a private cocoon.

In premium economy and coach, I find sleeping in a window seat much easier since I can rest my head against the fuselage. Combined with the added privacy, this makes napping and resting much more pleasant.

Additionally, in the aisle, I've often been woken up by other passengers or flight attendants passing through the cabin during a long-haul flight. By sitting in the window, you avoid that entirely.

Furthermore, though we're grounded, you might recall this phrase from the safety briefing: "be careful when opening the overhead compartments as items might've shifted during the flight." When I used to sit in the aisle, it got hit more than once by a loose item falling from the overhead bin when deplaning. You certainly don't have to worry about falling luggage when seated at the window.

The views

If you follow my Instagram (which you should now!), you'd know that I'm a big aviation enthusiast. I love all things planes and can easily stare outside the window snapping pictures for the duration of a flight. I particularly enjoy taking time-lapses of takeoff and landing and capturing other cool shots along the way.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B9mk0GiljkZ/

For me, my pictures wouldn't be nearly as good if I sat in the aisle and used my iPhone's zoom feature to get a shot out the window. Furthermore, by sitting in the window, I can control the shade (and cleanliness of the window itself). This means that I can close it at cruising altitude to reduce the glare on my computer screen, but make sure it's open for the rest of the flight. (Nonetheless, I do try to accommodate my fellow passengers' lighting preferences when seated in the window).

Maximize social distancing

Social distancing will likely be a big reason I'm going to have lots of competition for window seats going forward. In an era when people are going to want as much privacy as possible when flying, there's no denying that the window is the best for that.

Related: The best premium cabins for onboard social distancing

Aside from the fact that you're farther away from others while flying, you're much more likely to avoid other people during the boarding and deplaning process. When boarding, you'll likely be the first person to arrive at your row.

United economy on the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

As the plane fills up, you'll also be furthest from the aisle and fellow passengers. When deplaning, you can take your time and be one of the last off, again reducing the number of interactions that you have with others.

Bottom line

In the age of the coronavirus, we're likely going to see passengers be even more methodical about their seat choices. With blocked middle seats (at least for the short term), you're going to need to decide between the aisle or window.

In my case, I now always chose a window seat after years of selecting the aisle. You get more privacy, a better sleeping surface and great views — all while maximizing social distancing.

Featured image by United 787 economy cabin (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees