Ask anyone ‘window or aisle seat’ and you’ll get a pretty quick answer. People know where they sit on the debate and they know where they want to sit on the plane.
We ran a survey of 2,000 recent travellers to finally put the argument to rest – what do Brits deem to be the best seat on the fleet?
The debate: Window or aisle?
There are pros and cons to each seat.
The window seat gives you spectacular views, a place to rest your head and you get control of the shutter. But you might have to wake the person next to you for a quick toilet trip – that or make the awkward decision on which way to face as you pass them.
From the aisle seat, you can walk around as much as you like and get at the overhead compartment. But, when it comes to sleeping, the best you’ve got for a pillow is the person next to you – and expect to be woken up when your neighbours want to get out.
But when we asked British travellers about their preference, the result was decisive: 61% said they prefer the window seat. That was almost double the vote for the aisle seat, which got 31%, while 5% didn’t have a preference and just 2% of people out there actually choose the middle seat.
Why the window seat wins
The most popular reason for picking the window seat was even more clear-cut– 83% cited the unbeatable views.
If you’re a comfortable flyer and you enjoy sightseeing, the window seat is undeniably the best for take-off and landing. But even when you’re mid-flight at 38,000ft, a window seat can still offer breath-taking views of the sky that you have to be a seriously frequent flyer not to find impressive.
While the window seat took the clear majority overall, there were some differences among age groups. Of those aged 55 and over, 54% went with the consensus, while an overwhelming 74% of those aged 16–24 picked the window seat – window seat selfie?
So why the age bias?
The data says social media might be a key driver of this generational trend.
When asked about social media habits, 67% of all respondents said they’ve taken a photograph out of the window. And just under half of those who take a quick plane snap also post it on social media. It’s understandable – sometimes when you’re off on holiday you just have to brag to your friends that you’re not at work.
But it seems that those who snap and share a picture every time they fly mostly fall into a set age bracket. No great surprise with this one – nearly 40% of the 16–44 age group has shared a picture from a plane window, compared with only 8% of those aged 55+. Meanwhile, of all those who say they take a picture and post it on social media every time they fly, 83% are in the same 16–44 age group.
How important is our chosen seat to us?
When asked what seat they prefer, a total of 94% were decisive. We get it – flying is an experience, and where you sit on the plane can affect it significantly.
And respondents were just as clear on the reasons for their preferences. While 83% who picked the window seat cited the views, among the minority who prefer the aisle seat, the number 1 reason was being able to leave their seat with ease (73%).
The data even shows that there are 2% of people out there who actually feel strongly about the middle seat. Nope, us neither – we’re guessing that’s a small minority of very sociable people.
One thing’s for sure: wherever we prefer, we all know where we stand on the issue. And it seems UK travellers are prepared to put their money where their mouth is: 64% would even be prepared to pay extra to reserve their chosen seat.
You can reserve your seat in advance when you book a flight with Thomas Cook Airlines (even if you fancy the middle). Find out more about choosing your seat.