Travel Tips

5 min read

Secrets to a Smooth Flight: Find the Ultimate Seat

Strap in, jet-setters! Ever play musical chairs at 35,000 feet to dodge turbulence? Let's reveal the throne that'll keep your stomach as calm as a Zen master in the clouds.

Tobi Miles
April 22, 2019

Flying first class may seem like a preferred solution to avoid turbulence, but after a recent flight to Mexico, I discovered that economy seating may be much preferred!  Turbulence is something many people dread, it can be one of the most unpleasant parts about flying for many passengers causing motion sickness for some, fear, anxiety and just plain discomfort for others! So, What are the best seats on a plane to avoid that dreaded turbulence?

The best seat on the plane to avoid turbulence is over the wings or towards the front of the aircraft!

Which Seat numbers have the least turbulence?

For a seat directly over the wings (usually found in rows 10 to 30) is your best option to reduce the sensation of turbulence, says Dr. Quay Snyder, the president of the Aviation Medicine Advisory Service.  (In all respects a Seat Guru!)

Why? This goes back to good old physics, the wings are located central to the plane and thus the centre of mass!  This makes over the wings and the front of the plane the most balanced  part of the aeroplane. The tail ends (Stabiliser) control the direction of the plane and thus move the most during flights.

Worst Area on a plane for turbulence?

By far the worst area to sit on a plane for Turbulence is the Back! This is because the tail end of plane includes a Stabiliser (Elevator) or "Empennage" if your a flight Seat guru.  The elevator controls changes in pitch, the up-and-down motion of the aircraft's nose.  This makes it the most unbalanced and regularly moving part of the plane!

Another great reason to avoid those backseats is if the plane you are flying on only has one exit you will be the last one out! So try and be more towards the front for that quick exit!

Related Read: Is Spirit Airlines Safe?

Should I book a First Class Seat?

As first class on most planes is usually located towards the front of the plane. They are generally fairly stable aswell. However, be warned they can still cause in the case of a bad landing when the front wheels hit first you will feel considerable discomfort! Exactly what happened to me on a flight to Mexico!





How to book the best seat to avoid Turbulence/Motion sickness?

Simply, you should book your flight as early as possible & select the preferred seat then. If you are booking for a large group of friends and you are prone to motion sickness, it's best to do the booking in two's with one friend so you can book early to get your smooth ride sorted before waiting for friends to book. Send them your seat number details so they can book close by.

What is i booked my flight with no seat allocation? No stress, Check in online as soon as allowable. This will allow you to choose your seats from the available left.

See our flights page for your next trip which compares all major airlines worldwide to get you the best deal.

Are some airlines making it harder to book seats in advance?

Some american carries such as southwest is notorious for not assigning seats. Delta launched "Basic Economy" fares at the beginning of 2018 year, which assigns passengers a seat at a check-in, and United and American have both announced they will do the same.


Related Read: How to Choose an 18x 14x8 Bag

Is Turbulence Dangerous?

For peace of mind you should be aware that commercial airliners are built to withstand turbulence and pilots are highly trained to handle turbulence.

However, turbulence is still the most common form of air injury and around 58 people in the U.S. are injured this way every year, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

However, among the 298 injuries, three of them fatal, the FAA attributes to turbulence between 1980 to 2008, 184 of those affected flight attendants and 114 affected passengers.

British Airways captain Steve Allright told the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph. “Every day I fly, I expect a small amount of turbulence, just as I’d expect the odd bump in the road on the drive to work,” he said.

Flight crews have a scale of severity for turbulence: light, moderate, severe and extreme. Moderate turbulence does not scare pilots, according to Allright, who also said extreme turbulence is rare but not dangerous. “In a flying career of over 10,000 hours, I have experienced severe turbulence for about five minutes in total,” he said.

Pilots, however, “don’t get more than a general warning” about turbulence, retired US Airways pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger told USA Today. While flying, pilots must rely on reports from other aircraft and then consider whether they can adjust their altitude to avoid areas of reported turbulence.

Related Read: How Strict Is JetBlue with Personal Item Size?

How to stay safe during turbulence?

The best way for passengers to stay safe is to wear a seatbelt. Of the three fatalities between 1980 and 2008 in U.S. carriers due to turbulence, according to the FAA, at least two of these passengers weren’t fastened in. “Keeping your seatbelt fastened is cheap insurance,” Sullenberger said.

The facts and figures back up how a safe plane travel is also, according to a study,  for every 1 billion passenger miles traveled by car, 7.2 people die, by plane, it's only 0.07 people! - Northwestern airlines Report.  If you can't stomach plane turbulence, according to transit fatality statistics, your next safest bet would be to take a bus, then a train, then a ferry, and last by far a car! Which is by far the most dangerous method of transport just after motorcycles!

However, for some people these statistics don't help them for some the feeling of being tossed around during turbulence is a horrific experience.  Some tips to help mitigate this is booking your flight in advance and checking in online early so you can choose your preferred seat! Opting for extra legroom, distracting the mind with a book, movies on a tablet or music.

Sleeping is also a great cure!  Purchase an eye mask, earplugs, and memory foam pillow so that you can have a comfortable nap during the flight. I never leave for a flight these days without these essentials it just makes the experience much more relaxing!  We stock a price comparison search of these must haves, on our partners Essentials page.

Related Read: Can You Bring Lysol on a Plane?

Which Airline has the least Turbulence?

Delta Airlines is the undisputed airline with the least turbulence.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that Delta was the only airline in America to reduce turbulence across their network, despite growing in size.

Other airlines are catching up but Delta seems ahead of the curve so far as of 2019.

What actually causes turbulence? - The Science bit.

Turbulence is caused mainly by disturbances in the air flow.  The most common type of turbulence is called "clear-air turbulence" It occurs when cold and warm air come together. However, all forms of air turbulence can be caused by a number of factors, including heat, jet streams and flying over mountain ranges.

Weather-related issues such as high winds, clouds, or a storm can also cause turbulence. These cause random pockets of air which cause a pressure change.  Thankfully, highly skilled pilots can detect when there will be turbulence and will notify the cabin crew as well as the passengers to be seated and keep their seatbelts fastened.

Image source - Cbc news.

Do you feel turbulence less on bigger planes?

The short answer YES! Why? Assuming a small 'plane and the big 'plane have the same wing loading the very big one however has wings which are more likely to span across several of the "pockets of air" which cause turbulence thus would partially cancel each other out. The small aircraft would encounter such patches individually and thus feel the full effect of each one.

Another theory is that the aircraft has mass and velocity therefore it has momentum which will resist any change of motion. A passenger in the Boeing will experience less motion than the passenger in the Cessna because the greater momentum of the Boeing will resist the change of motion. Both passengers experience a G force proportional to the rate of change of motion.

Do you feel takeoff less in Larger planes?

The short answer is Yes!  Why? The reason you don’t feel takeoff as much in a larger plane is down to the laws of physics and the plane engineering design.

“There are many factors that cause the difference in the sensation,” said Cox, including aerodynamics, engines, and tires.

How do you survive a plane crash? Check out this great article on the safest seats on a plane.

The Engineering:

As NASA explains, how much lift the plane gets depends on the shape, size, and weight of the airplane as well as the speed at which it is moving. ”Large airplanes have more mass—they weigh more— and, therefore, accelerate slower,” explained Cox. Slower acceleration can result in a lift-off that feels smoother.

Another reason takeoff on a large plane is easier on the body is due to the number of engines on a jumbo jet. Most commercial airplanes have four engines, while smaller planes run on two. While you might think that more engines would translate to greater velocity and thrust and a smoother takeoff, the weight of the plane plays a big role in lift-off, too.

“Large four-engine airplanes climb slower than modern twin jets,” explained Cox. ”With a four-engine airplane there are three other engines to provide thrust for the climb, in a twin there is only one. This means that twin jets have a higher power-to-weight ratio than three or four engine jets.”

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Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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