Airplane seats: the good, the bad and the ugly

Those who have had the fortune to be bumped up to fly first or even business class often come to curse their good luck on every subsequent flight in steerage. Why? You finally realize that it isn’t absolutely necessary to have your feet turned sideways and your body in the “tuck” position to survive a long haul flight.

The seats in the economy and on charter class flights that most of us take regularly aren’t going to get any bigger in the foreseeable future, but it is possible to make your flight as comfortable as possible with a little advance research.

A new book from Consumer Reports notes that, like theatres, all airplanes have bad seats — but some have more than others. The bad seats are easy to remember: middle seats (unless you enjoy passing trays and being elbowed), the straightback (no recline because they’re against a bulkhead wall or an emergency exit), and the venerable seats-from-hell near the washroom. These are all easy to avoid, but be warned that more than 40 percent of economy seats are in these three categories, so it pays to book early.

The odds of getting a bad seat change with the type of plane you’re on, with the 767 aircraft offeng the best numbers at 30 percent. The A300 is second at 37 percent lousy seats, and the good old 747 brings up the rear with almost half of its seats (48 percent) in the “bad” category. The MD-11 is not quite as bad, with 46 percent considered flight-wreckers.