Why Sitting In The Back of the Plane Is Where It’s At

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Best Airplane Seats

Best Airplane Seats

I recently returned from a quick trip to Boston.  It was quick on multiple fronts, actually – in terms of flight duration and time at my destination.  I consider most domestic airline first class options laughable compared to international alternatives, so I’m left dealing with economy.  With every passing flight, I’m happier with one go-to move more than any other.  I generally head straight to the back of the plane, whether it’s in the moment (Southwest) or pre-planned (every other domestic airline).  Today, I’ll describe why the best airplane seats are in the back – for me, at least.

Bathrooms Aren’t That Bad

Many travelers avoid the rear for one simple reason.  They connote the back of the plane with a toilet.  I did so for years.  I think this started with long bus trips in my childhood.  It was priority one to stay away from the bus bathroom at the back, and that belief carried over to air travel.

But in the last several years as I’ve sat in the back more, I’ve noticed that people seem to use plane restrooms less frequently – even before the pandemic.  It’s like bathrooms on planes are the last resort even more so now.  Knock on wood, I’m rarely on the receiving end of something unwelcome.  And it’s not as if the rest of the plane smells like flowers, either.  Plus, I still wear a mask on planes.  I’m enjoying a secondary feature from the mask – tempering odors.

Best Airplane Seats

Stretching Out

Not coincidentally, the back of the plane has been less crowded in my experiences.  With the tremendous rush everyone is in to get on and off planes and to be in the front of any line, I’ll happily take advantage of the alternative.  More often than not, I’ll end up with an empty seat next to me, especially on Southwest.  My small seat automatically grows.  I can set stuff down in the seat next to me.  I don’t need to constrict myself with my own tray table.  And on and on it goes.

Laid Back in the Back

Traveling can be stressful.  Other people can have a lot to do with that.  In my experience, there are less people in a rush at the back of the plane.  Chilling at the back with some like-minded slowpokes beats crunching up with all the jittery people up front every time, in my view.  I’m not looking to get overly chatty or make friends for life on a plane, but I’d rather be around easygoing travelers.  The way people carry themselves, including nonverbally, just seems more relaxed in the back.

Plenty of Storage

I like my underseat bag and rarely depend on overhead storage.  But if some storage is available overhead, I’ll happily take it.  And in my experiences, there’s plenty of it in the back.  Or at least more than in the front.

The Boarding Last Dopamine Rush

I absolutely love boarding planes at the last possible minute.  Embracing a seat at the back often enables me to push boarding as late as I can.  Sure, sitting at the back means I’ll be one of the last off the plane.  Oddly, that doesn’t matter to me as much as being the last to board.  Weird, I know.

Best Airplane Seats
Photo credit Stephen M. Keller / Southwest Airlines.

One Exception

Every so often, I deviate from my back seat tendency.  I save this move for Southwest.  In these situations, I board the plane as late as possible (see above).  Instead of heading to the back, I sit in , gasp – a middle seat – in the first couple rows of the plane.  I usually save this move for extremely short flights.  My seatmates are probably not big fans of me here, but it’s fair game on Southwest.  And some do much worse things on Southwest.

Best Airplane Seats – Conclusion

I know by writing this article I could mess up some of these back seat benefits.  But maybe that means I’ll see some Miles to Memories readers in the back next time!  Regardless, I know some of these benefits aren’t absolute.  Someone will occasionally foul the bathroom, it’s a packed house in the rear, a jerk sits at the back, etc.  Overall, I feel like my strategy prevails.  Where’s your favorite place to sit in economy, other than the extra legroom seats?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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10 COMMENTS

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I always enjoy your posts Benjy. But I still like the front rows better! Sounds like a win for both you and me! Enjoy!

    • Scott,
      Look to the rear on your next flight. If there’s a guy waving, that’s me. 😉 Thanks for reading!

  2. Most of my flights are commuting for work, most often on ULCC’s that charge for seat assignments where premium seats often are left unsold at the end. I have an underseat bag but no carry-on bag requiring overhead bin storage space. I board at the last possible moment as they are closing the door at the gate. Since I am the last to board, I sit in the first seat I like, which is usually an aisle seat close to the front. I almost never sit in my assigned seat, unless the flight is totally full. I board dead last and am one of the first to get off, so best of both worlds.

  3. Back of the plane advantages: higher survivability in the event of a crash, shorter walk to the bathroom

    Back of the plane disadvantages: more see-saw effect at the tail vs. middle of the plane, more aisle congestion due to bathroom

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