Are you a window flier or aisle seater?

By Thom Patterson CNN - It's a powerful thing: the airline window seat.

Kids clamor for them. Shutterbugs are drawn to them. And some of us can't not look out the window.

Statistics suggest that window seat passengers may enjoy their flights more. But changes are afoot for this travel touchstone.

Some of the most desirable window seats come at a premium now. And that may shift how we feel about them. And let's face it, if all the photos snapped from airplane windows are any indication, we LOVE them.

Why all the love? Sure, the stunning 30,000-foot views are cool. But for some travelers, it's deeper than that.

Really? Can you analyze a traveler's personality by their favorite airplane seat? Of course not; don't be ridiculous. But let's do it anyway.

First, let's take a look at the aisle seaters, who are passionate in their own right about airline seating. Screw the view; these folks are all business.

"The aisle person is looking to get some work done," said Courtney Scott, Travelocity's travel blogger.

They want quick access to the cabin door -- or the restroom. And to get that access, they're willing to put up with collisions with passing airline attendants and rattling snack carts.

Aisle seaters sacrifice frequently standing up and sitting down -- and returning their "folding trays to their full upright position" -- to make way for the middle and window seaters.

For window seaters, it's not just about the view (or something to lean on). It's about the experience! These fliers often are the true romantics.

Need proof? Search #windowseat on Twitter.

"I hope I get a window seat and no one sees me on the plane crying..." tweeted Bouss'n.Like.A.Bouss. Signaling the seat's iconic status, countless traveling tweeters sing out Erykah Badu's 2010 hit song "Window Seat" online virtually every day.

"Can I get a win-dow seat? Don't want nobody ... next to me," the lyrics read. "I just wanna ticket outta town ... a look around ... and a safe touch down. I just wanna chance to fly ... a chance to cry ... and a long bye-bye."

When it comes to heart-wrenching separations, the aisle seat just doesn't pack the same cinematic punch.

It's been a century since the first U.S. commercial airline took to the sky. In that time, the window seat has become for many the best part of flying in an industry where complaints are all too frequent and the novelty of flight has faded. It attracts certain kinds of travelers, but it also can transform them.

"It's a calmer seat," Scott says.

Stats on airline seats are hard to come by, but anecdotally, front aisle seats are "generally considered most desirable" among Travelocity customers, Scott says.

At Expedia, 21% of customers over the past year picked window seats, 20% chose the aisle, and the rest had no preference. A United Airlines satisfaction survey for Airbus A320 passengers showed slightly higher preference for windows over aisles.

The consumer data collection site Hunch.com reports nearly seven out of 10 respondents prefer windows.

"Window choosers are more likely to be younger, female, shorter and more casual than their aisle compatriots," Hunch wrote. "They're also more likely to be into nature."

Here's what's changing: Airlines are charging premium prices for some window and aisle seats. And that's forcing passengers to choose the dreaded middle seat. It also makes it more difficult for families to sit in the same row if they're not willing to pay extra.

Airlines with preferred seating fees include American, Spirit, Frontier, US Airways, Allegiant, Ryan Air and Delta. Charging more for preferred seating offers passengers more seating choices and flexibility, Delta said in June.

This is shifting "the way that people view the window seat," Scott said. "It has become even more of a premium."

It's not all blue skies with the window seats. The American College of Chest Physicians issued new health guidelines this year warning that sitting in window seats on long-distance flights can increase some people's risk of developing life-threatening blood clots called deep vein thrombosis.

Combine that with a higher risk of wetting yourself and stepping on strangers' toes, and you can see how far passengers are willing to go for those killer views.

Guidelines dispute "economy class syndrome"

And of course, who better to ask about the best air views than airline pilots?

They tell us that -- generally -- window seaters love flying in and out of New York LaGuardia; Vancouver, British Columbia; Sydney; Hong Kong and San Francisco.

Washington's Reagan National Airport has an eye-popping approach known to pilots as "river visual," says pilot Justin Schlechter. The plane flies low over the Potomac, giving passengers on the left side amazing views of the Kennedy Center, the Lincoln Memorial and the National Mall.

The descent into Anchorage, Alaska, Schlechter says, "is spectacular, with unbelievable mountaintops just skimming below the aircraft." Best seats: right side.

And then there's the constant reminder

that you're in a metal tube at 30,000 feet.

In a famous 1963 episode of "The Twilight Zone," William Shatner plays a mentally disturbed flier who watches helplessly through the window while a gremlin tears the plane apart.

"It taps into that universal thought of 'if God intended us to fly, we would have wings,' " the "Star Trek" star told Business Jet Traveler. "A lot of people getting on an airplane to this day still can't figure out why it flies."

Window psychology factored into Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner, says John Barratt, CEO of the Teague design firm. Barratt told Fortune magazine that designers wanted to "bring some romance back" to air travel by reconnecting passengers "to actually flying." Result: bigger windows.

Dreamliner windows measure 19 inches tall, 65% larger than the industry standard, according to Boeing. The cool factor on these portals is high: a gel inside the glass allows passengers to brighten or darken the outside sunlight with the touch of a button.

Finally, a word of advice from award-winning travel blogger Geraldine DeRuiter of Everywhereist.com: Don't be the "inconsiderate window seat guy."

If sunlight is burning through your window when many passengers are trying to sleep, please shut your shade.

Otherwise, DeRuiter writes, you'll be called out as "heinous and rotten and selfish."

And you don't want that -- no matter how amazing your view is.

So... which airplane seat do you prefer? Why? What does your choice say about your personality? Should airlines charge fees to book preferred window seats? We're interested in your opinions and experiences. Cast your vote in the poll above and share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Print this article Back to Top

Comments