Choosing the best seats on a long flight to Hawaii can be an ordeal. That is if you pay a high enough fare and choose an airline that offers advance seat selection. It’s an important part of the airline ticketing process and choosing wisely can determine in part how much you enjoy your 5+ hour flight to Hawaii.
It is always great to travel with extra legroom or get upgraded using points or cash into premium economy or business class, but that isn’t always possible either due to affordability or availability. As we mentioned, premium seats to Hawaii are in far greater demand than ever before, and people stand ready to fork over the extra money in order to be comfortable. So the only option may be to select the best economy seats available, especially for such a long duration.
Airlines, including Hawaiian, are now charging extra for some regular economy seats.
Earlier this week we wrote Hawaiian Adds $19-23 Fee for Many Economy Seats. Airlines other than Southwest let you pick your seat. But there can be an extra charge for seat assignments, especially on the cheapest tickets and for those seats found near the front, plus aisle or window seats. But when the alternative is sitting in the middle, or not being seated together with your travel companions at all, that can be a real bummer when starting out on your Hawaii vacation.
Everyone has their own take on what’s best.
Seats that are in one class are the same as others, in terms of their physical dimensions. But in other ways, they may not be equal, as experienced travelers will definitely attest to.
One thing to decide on is whether you want an aisle seat or window seat, or whether, when two are traveling together, will one of you accept a middle seat? Also, make note of the distance from restrooms in terms of potential convenience as well as annoyance.
Do you prefer seating near the front of the plane?
We definitely both do. We like not seeing all the other people on the plane. It doesn’t really make sense, but somehow it feels less claustrophobic. Also, it’s great to be among the first to get off the plane on arrival in Hawaii. When you have a connection en route, sitting forward helps reduce the concern about a missed flight.
Will you be able to easily stow your carry-ons?
That’s a real concern. And it isn’t always easy to figure out since it involves both where you’re sitting and the airline’s boarding plan. Sometimes, too, overhead bins near bulkheads will be used by flight attendants. Generally, sitting near the back gives you more access to overhead storage, depending on when you board.
Two-across economy seating is becoming somewhat of a rarity.
Airlines flying to Hawaii have moved to more single-aisle, narrow-body aircraft for the majority of their flights. These are almost exclusive 3-across seating. Check when booking to see if some flights might still be on wide-body aircraft. Those are offered depending on route and flight by American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, and United Airlines. Both Alaska Airlines and Southwest Airlines only fly narrow-body aircraft to Hawaii.
Aisle and window seats are now monetized.
The airlines know that we hate middle seats and they are in the process of fully monetizing window and aisle seating whenever possible. Even on aircraft with two-abreast seating, airlines will try to charge extra for those sections to the degree they can.
This old trick no longer works.
In a plane with three-across seating, an old trick was to reserve in a row that was open, even better towards the rear, and then select window and aisle seats, leaving the middle seat open. When the plane was not full, that often provided an opportunity for two people to share three seats. But airlines filling nearly every seat, that is not likely to happen any longer.
But this old trick still does work.
When traveling with a companion and neither of you is willing to sit in a middle seat, many will opt to select adjacent aisle seats. We have done that ourselves. We had a comment on that practice from Ted, who said, “An annoying pattern I’ve noticed is that before when 2 people traveled they usually took aisle/middle or window/middle seats. What’s happening now is each person taking aisle seats across each other.”
And so does this one.
Check on your reservation frequently from the time of booking until your flights. In today’s rapidly changing travel world, your flight could have been changed, the aircraft type might not be the same, or other seats may have become available. Whatever may have happened, do check to be sure everything is as you expect.
How to check for the best seats on your flight to Hawaii.
Some seat locations simply are more comfortable than others. Depending on the aircraft, seats can include more or less legroom, and some seats in front of exit rows may not even recline. There are other issues too, such as fixed armrests between seats. Two websites that we use to check seating on all aircraft are Seat Guru and Seat Maestro. We like checking both to see if they yield the same results. You’ll enter the date and flight in most cases or may need to identify the specific aircraft type assigned for your flight. Both websites show you a depiction of the seat map, with indications of which seats are better and why, as well as which ones you should avoid. You can also check the seat width and the seat pitch using these websites, which is especially helpful if, like editor Rob, you happen to be 6′ 4″.
Choose your seats as soon as possible.
That gives you the best selection of seats to choose from. Ideally, that happens in the same process as purchasing flights. If that isn’t possible, and you have to obtain seats 24 hours before departure, set an alarm so you’re there at the exact moment you can check in and not one minute later.
Twenty-four hours before travel is also the ideal time to change seats if you had reserved ones that aren’t your favorite, or are hoping for an upgrade. When that doesn’t work either, the last choice is to arrive at the airport early to see what is possible.
What are your airline seat tips and tricks?