In an effort to save money since the U.S. government had to bail out airlines post-9/11, said airlines have been doing their part to keep flights as full as possible. So it’s been pretty rare to to have an empty seat next to you on a plane, never mind getting a whole row to yourself. But here and there it does happen, especially on those rare flights that are only half-empty. Here’s how you can put the odds in your favor.
Travel off-season and/or on off-peak routes
Of course, being able to do that all depends on your travel plans. If you’re in NYC and have a business meeting in L.A. on a Tuesday, chances are good you’re not going to find an empty seat, never mind an entirely empty row, when traveling on a Monday. But if you’re traveling a less popular route or at an oddball time? You might get lucky.
Check as last minute as possible
Let’s say you’re going to fly and, unless you’re on Southwest, you already have your seat assignment. If you use free version of ExpertFlyer, you can get up-to-the-minute updates on your flight’s seating chart. If you see there’s an open row just before boarding’s about to begin, unless you have a ticket that disallows it (read: basic economy) there’s nothing stopping you from asking the gate agent if you can switch seats (or you can do it directly from the app, as well).
This suggestion might also work if there are any business or first class seats still available at the last second. The gate agents may be willing to sell you the better seat for not-an-arm-and-a-leg, as a last-minute upgrade.
The last resort
The absolute last resort, of course, is once everyone is on board, there’s nothing stopping you from moving your seat (as long as you stay in the same travel class. Yeah, good luck trying to nab a first class seat if you’re in Premium Economy).
And I bet you thought my only suggestion was going to be to pretend you have the plague, right? 😉
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary