Selecting a plane seat : 5 reasons why last row should be first choice

Plane windows during the night, with a man behind the first window, a woman behind a second one, and a dog sitting in the last row plane seat, graphics by

Selecting a plane seat may or may not be your worst nightmare. With so many pros and cons for any of them, decision making gets complicated. However, if you are sensitive to possibly complex situations during the flight, my first advice would be: go for the last row!

In the plane, legs of the passenger who is seating behind are protruding under the seat in front, photo by Ivan Kralj
This is why a plane seat in the last row could save your legroom space!

It might happen that even the airport crew at the baggage drop-off will ask you: „Are you sure you don’t want to be reseated to the better seat?“. Sure, the seats in the last row often cannot recline, they are also just in front of the plane’s toilets area, and they are never actually mentioned as the “best airplane seats”. But until somebody rewards me with the business class treatment, I will always be choosing „the worst seats of the economy class“.

Passengers’ sweet dreams becoming your worst nightmare

Here is one example to illustrate this idea! Flight from Riga, Latvia, to Frankfurt, Germany, is not a long one. Lufthansa brought me there for two and a half hours. But flights that depart at 06:30 in the morning make one sleepy, no matter how long the actual trip is. Drugged by a narcotic sound of the plane engines, rows and rows of travelers fall into sleep, with their jaws dropping on their chests as if they are waiting for a dentist checkup.

Somehow he spilled out of his seat as if he was a liquid, and diffused all over the floor

Just at the moment when I planned to hit the sack myself, something scratches my heels. Did the life vest fall off? Has the part of the seat crumbled? Did somebody’s bag get legs? It couldn’t be! Both mine and the row behind mine are the emergency exit rows, so no luggage cannot be stored beneath those plane seats. Hence, no bag.

Even the extra legroom might not make you comfortable

I moved my legs apart and in between two shiny shoes emerged. Whose legs are these?! How can someone sit in the extra legroom plane seat, and still not have enough? Not only is his extra legroom not enough, not only is the space below my seat insufficient… His legs are actually invading the legroom of the seat in front of him! Is he the tallest man on Earth? The sleeping passenger wasn’t exceptionally tall. The fact is that somehow he just spilled out of his seat as if he was a liquid, and diffused all over the floor.

Passemger seated behind in the plane is resting her heavily non-pedicured leg on the armrest of the passenger in front, photo by Ivan Kralj
This is almost NSFW: rightfully so, you cannot zoom into this picture!

Example number two. On my recent Jetstar Pacific light from Phu Quoc Island to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, an incredibly ugly female leg sneaked onto my armrest. Unpedicured in-your-face toenails could make one puke even on the firm ground. But how to approach the issue when you are in the confined space with no possibility to run away. In my case, luckily the flight was short, and the leg appeared just before the landing, so I have decided not to confront the female passenger behind me.

These events reminded me on how online checking-in is important. Never ever leave the choice of your seat to the fortune of the airport check-in! And here is why the supposedly least attractive seats in the bottom of the plane should be on the top of your list:

1. When seated in the last row, there is no one sitting behind you!

Don’t you just hate it when somebody’s knees are poking your ribs through the seatback throughout the entire flight? This can be annoying even when in a cinema and someone is constantly pushing their feet against your seatback. Those seats are not known for the greatest sturdiness, so if the annoying passenger behind you can be avoided, why would you think twice?

2. The chance is nobody else wants to sit in the last row!

Being well-marketed as the least attractive in the plane, last row seats often stay empty. On the smaller planes certain portions even get reserved for the cabin crew (who doesn’t necessarily use them), so if you hit it big, it could just mean that instead of sleeping on a reclining seat, you could actually spread yourself over two or three empty seats that do not recline!

3. Small children are sitting far away from you!

Family designated spaces in the plane are often at the bulkhead seats which face the partitions that divide different sections of the aircraft. These have no seats in front of them, so if you opted for these you indeed could have gotten more legroom, but also your first neighbors might be babies and toddlers sitting in their parents’ lap. Bulkhead seats sometimes have extra oxygen bags for children, so this is the place where the airline will put the crying babies. Enjoy your extra legroom! I can’t hear anything from the last row!

4. No blocking in between the drinks carts!

Yes, sitting just in front of the toilet may be annoying if people start to pile up in front of it as if the bathroom might run away. However, it is even more annoying to have to go to pee, while being blocked in between the carts from which the flight attendants serve the drinks to the passengers. That sound of the coffee hitting the cup – it makes you want to pee even more! And the toilet is so far. Sitting in the last row means you will always be the first in the queue for the loo. Wait, did I say queue? What is the queue?

5. The plane seat in the last row is the safest one!

The last, but not the least: from when I’ve listened in the conversation of one pilot talking to his civilian friends about how he always chooses the last row when he flies in private arrangement, because the last rows come with the safest seats, I always follow this advice. Sure, airlines will tell you this is not true, as then everybody would just want to sit in the last row, but statistics do say that after, God forbid, plane crashes, the construction of the aircraft’s tail will be the least damaged. Therefore it is not that unusual that even the flight recorder, commonly known as black box, is placed in the plane’s tail section, where it is more likely to survive a severe crash. JAT flight attendant Vesna Vuković has survived the plane crashing from the 10.000 meters height not because she jumped out of it with a parachute, but because she was sitting firmly next to the supposedly repulsive toilet section.

All being said, just choose the last row next time you fly. It won’t kill you if you try. Pun intended.

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Ivan Kralj


Award-winning journalist and editor from Croatia

    1. Thank you!
      No, actually I haven’t heard this argument before. Mainly I hear the argument of ‘smaller space’ and also turbulencies might affect you more when closer to the plane’s tail than for instance if you are seated at its middle part… But germs… I am pretty sure they are everywhere in the plane 🙂 Don’t touch what you don’t need to touch, and properly wash your hands – rule that should keep us safe everywhere.

  1. Great view point and gave me some things to consider. I sat in the last row once and hated it. It was empty, which was a plus, but the seat didn’t recline and was positioned at an angle stiffer than the other other seats, so my back was aching by the time I landed.

    1. Yes, everything has pros and cons. But still, I prefer a seat that doesn’t recline over a seat that reclines according to the wishes of the passenger behind, who pushes it with his legs and reclines it 🙂

  2. oh I didn’t know about some thing this! Feet sticking through the seat is vile, I am one of those horrible people who just push it back with my elbow! Will opt for back row next time!

    1. Yes, but then, pushing away produces conflicts. And I fell the tension that is being created then is still an uncomfortable situation that changes the way how we feel about the particular travel.
      But good! I support people who confront! Someone has to teach the bastards a lesson 😉

  3. Very valid points. There would be just one more aspect against chosing the last row: these seats you can often not lean back – which makes a longer flight rather uncomfortable… But otherwise I completely agree. 🙂

    1. Yes, I know. But I took that into account and found it a lesser evil to stay in the last row 🙂
      Also, often nowadays, those seats still do lean back, so it’s a gamble I am willing to play

  4. You’ve made a compelling case for the last row! I like the idea of not being trapped by the food trolley, but I’ve found that the turbulence seems a lot more bumpy in that last row. Also, I am now one of those travellers with the child, so I’ll be stuck down the middle / or the bulkhead anyway (at least for the next 15 years). Great post – I’ll be sharing this with my followers.

    1. Thanks a lot, Ali!
      I agree everyone should have their preferences. After all, if I wouldn’t believe in that, then I wouldn’t write an article about it. Because if it would happen that suddenly everyone wants to sit in the last row, I would lose my favorite seat, so I would be working against what I believe in, hahhaha!
      So don’t promote it too much to your followers 🙂
      I am kidding, all shares are welcomed! Me grateful.

  5. Some people do disgusting things with their feet. My understanding is that the safest seats are within 6 rows of the emergency exit. So the last row would have this covered as well. Still not keep on taking the last row though.

    1. I think it is a different definition of safety… Sure, being close to the emergency exits raises your chances to get out of the burning plane first. But in general, it does not make those seats any safer in terms of experiencing a plane crash. Well, I would assume that at least.
      Where did you learn about 6 rows rule, and what was the argumentation?

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