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MIT student blogger Natnael G. '15

Picking A Southwest Flight Seat by Natnael G. '15

How to Make Flying Bearable

Entering college has meant I fly at least 6-7 times a year and I sketched up this guide on one of my flights after 4 hours of intense analysis. Or maybe 20 minutes of doodling on napkins, you can decide.



Before you can do anything else with this guide you will need to be able to pick your seat. I warn you that all of the good seats are extremely coveted and the only way you can guarantee maximum comfort is checking in as soon as humanly possible. This is actually pretty easy, set an alarm for 24 hours before your flight and make sure you know what it’s for.


Step 2 – Understanding Your Options and Weighing the Pros/Cons

I’m going to use a couple of initialisms here so that my life will be a little easier.

EER– Emergency Exit Row

FR– Front Row

SSS– Super Special Seat (To be explained later, there is only 1 on any given flight)




Case 1- Middle Seat (Not EER, or FR)

NEVER TAKE THIS SEAT. I promise you the person in front of you WILL recline their seat as far as it can go, the person to your left will have a crying child who has decided they should continuosly kick you, and the person to your right will decide that your shoulder is the optimal resting place as they sleep. Not only that, but getting out of your seat is nearly impossible and you can’t even watch the beauty of the plane taking off/landing. A survey done by Newser found that 56% of respondents would rather be drilled at the dentist. [1]


Pros Cons
  • If you get a seat near the front you can exit the plane fairly early.
  • No Leg Room.
  • Bound to have terrible neighbours whose goal it is to make your flight a living hell.
  • Good luck sleeping


Conclusion:  F-




Case 2/3 – Aisle Seat/Window Seat (Not EER, or FR)

This is the seat you’ll probably get if you check in late and it’s not terrible. The leg room is abysmal for tall people but at least you either have an easy exit in the aisle seat or a beautiful view from the window seat. You’ll also probably get 1/2 of the terrible neighbors above.


Pros Cons
  • One less neighbor to deal with.
  • Easy to leave seat / Beautiful View
  • Have the air / window to sleep on.
  • Still no leg room.
  • Still bound to have neighbors who are out to ruin your flight.


Conclusion: C-



Case 4 – FR Seat

All three of these seats are absolutely beautiful and they have quite a few pros and only a couple of cons.


Pros Cons
  • One of the first people off of the flight and after 3 hours of sitting this is absolutely wonderful.
  • Amazing leg room, there is only one seat on the plane that rivals it.
  • You don’t have anyone in front of you that can recline.
  • Have to store all of your luggage in the overhead bins, annoying if you have electronics you want to use.
  • Don’t have a fold out tray to use.


Conclusion: B+

Case 5 – EER Seat with Extra Leg Room (Not SSS)

These are the bread and butter of this guide. These coveted 5 seats have it all and the only con is that you won’t get off the plane as early as if you were on a FR.


Pros Cons
  • Amazing Leg Room
  • A fold out tray
  • Storage space in front of your seat.
  • Flight attendants serenade you with the song of flight.
  • Have to wait a bit to get off of the plane but after having all that leg room, I’m sure you’ll survive.


Conclusion: A-

Case 6 – The Super Special Seat

Southwest only flies one type of plane, the 737, and on each 737 there is one seat to rule them all. It is in the window seat in one of the EERs and it has the seat in front of it removed for easier access to the emergency exit door.


Pros Cons
  • The most leg room of any seat
  • There is no one in front of you to recline and steal you of your precious leg room.
  • You’re right over the wing and get to witness the beauty of flight.
  • Usually I’d mention how you have to wait to get off the plane but this seat is too beautiful to have any cons.


Conclusion: A+




Tune in later this week for a blog explaining why I’ve been MIA for a semester!


[2] Credit: Jason Hethertington/Getty

[3] By H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY