Most Popular Airplane Seats

I conducted a very unofficial survey on the most popular airplane seats for domestic (US) flights when traveling in economy.  I suggested survey participants imagined a 737 seat layout (narrow body, single aisle).  I received 52 responses (thank you!) from readers of SingleFlyer, FlyerTalk, Reddit and my followers on Twitter.

The survey asked only three questions.

  1. The first question asked to rate preference of ROW on an airplane.  The five choices were bulkhead (with a wall in front), bulkhead (with a first class eat in front), exit (reclining), exit (non reclining) and standard row.
  2. The second question asked to rate preference of SEAT on an airplane; aisle, middle or window.
  3. The final question was what is more important; your ROW or SEAT assignment.

Here are a few of the results that I found interesting.

  • 82% of respondents prioritize SEAT over ROW.  I am guessing that the 18% that prioritize ROW are over 6′ tall.

Most Popular Airplane Seats

  • All of the respondents that prioritized ROW (n=9) selected exit row (recline) as either their first or second choice of rows.  All but two also selected aisle as their preferred seat.
  • 65% of respondents selected window as their favorite seat.  33% selected aisle.
  • Not surprisingly the least favorite seat is the middle seat.  92% of respondents selected the middle as their least preferred seat.
  • 50% of respondents selected exit row (recline) as their most preferred row.  No respondent selected exit row (non recline) as their most preferred row.

Most Popular Airplane Seats


  • 48% of respondents selected standard row as their least preferred row. Even though exit row (non recline) was no one’s favorite row, it was only the least preferred row for 21% of respondents.


Most Popular Airplane Seats

  • The most “controversial” row was the bulkhead with a wall in front of it.  It received the most wide range of preferences; the same number of people selected it as their most preferred row (n=10) as selected it as their least preferred row (n=10).  This type of row is not on every plane, but is the first row of economy where an actual “wall” (as opposed to a curtain) separates first and economy class.  Since there is no seat ahead of these seats, all luggage must be stored in the overhead bin.  Also, while there may technically be more space in these rows (no seats to recline in to your space), there is also less room to stretch your legs.

Most Popular Airplane Seats


An astute Twitter follower had this observation about the survey:

It was a good point that I didn’t ask about… does the flight length change your preference?  I don’t mind having a window seat for a 90 minute flight, but anything longer and I prefer an aisle so I don’t feel trapped when I have to use the bathroom.  Others may prefer a window on longer flights so they can sleep easier.

I am sure there are other variables that I should have asked about (gender, height, preferred airline, etc), maybe I will have to do a follow up to the survey.

What I was surprised by is the diversity in favorite seats and rows on airplanes.  The only landslide was people’s hatred for middle seats (okay, maybe I am reading into the survey more than I should…).  What do you think?  Does this correctly represent the most popular airplane seats?

You can download the complete survey results here.

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