According to a recent article in the New York Times, it’s becoming easier to find the most comfortable airplane seats, thanks to some new Web sites that allow you to search for flights not only by price and schedule (Kayak, Priceline, Expedia) but also by seat width, legroom, quality of aircraft and conveniences (such as Wi-Fi and power outlets).
For years, SeatGuru.com has helped travelers snag the roomiest seats farthest from the lavatories. Thanks to the site’s comparison charts, you can easily see which airlines have the widest seats (Air Canada, British Airways, Asiana Airlines, Aeroflot) and the narrowest ones (ANA, AirAsia X and Air Vanuatu). You can check out which airlines offer the most legroom (United, American Airlines, Thai Airways) and the least (too many to list). You can also determine which planes have laptop power and Wi-Fi, as well as the type of video available on board.
A little competition is good for us all, they say, and now SeatGuru.com has some. A new site called Routehappy.com is trying to make its mark by allowing users to filter flight search results by “happiness factors.” The site, which is intuitive and easy to use, allows you to search for a flight and then narrow your results by nonstop routes, time, airlines, airports, flights that are “happy and cheap” or “happiness factors”—which you can filter even further by clicking boxes for “nicer planes,” “roomier seats,” “high flyer rating,” “Wi-Fi,” “best entertainment” and “in-seat power,” the article explains. Routehappy is a search site, not a booking platform, so if you like what you find, you’ll need to book it through the airline or an online travel agency.
Another handy site is Hipmunk.com, which allows users to sort flight search results by “agony” factor—a combination of price, number of stops and duration.
If finding the shortest flight possible is your primary goal, the Danish search site Momondo.com rates routes on a scale of 1 to 10 based on price and average flight time.
Even if you’ve already booked a flight and every decent seat is occupied, fear not—there are seat-tracking apps that can help. However, these do not enable you to actually book a seat. When one becomes available, you’ll need to call the airline or use its Web site to nab the seat before some other passenger gets it.
One such app is Seat Tracker, a new feature from TripIt Pro, the popular trip organization app and Web site. To use Seat Tracker, you must be a TripIt Pro member ($49 a year, though the Web site offers a free 30-day trial). Members log into the site and create an alert for a future flight, then select their criteria: a window, middle, aisle or “aisle or window” seat, ahead of the wing, over the wing, behind the wing, in the exit row or by the bulkhead. You can also request up to four seats together. If the ones you want become available, TripIt will notify you with a text or e-mail message and tell you how to contact the airline or booking agent to change your seat.
If you don’t want to pay for a seat alert, visit ExpertFlyer. You can sign up for one seat alert at a time free of charge (additional alerts are 99 cents each without a monthly membership). A basic membership is $4.99/month; a premium membership is $9.99 a month.