Choosing a Window Seat, Wisely

As mentioned previously, I have flown my whole life. And for as long as I can remember, I have always loved sitting in a window seat.  I have never worried about how many people I would have to climb over, in the event I need to use the lav during the flight, though I sometimes try to temper my liquid intake beforehand. Too much information there?

You may be wondering why I enjoy the window seat instead of the coveted, roomier aisle seat? There are a few reasons for this. First, it makes the flight seem shorter when you have a view of constantly-changing scenery. Second, I have never been able to sleep well on planes, but having the wall to lean on with the white noise of the engines and air rushing by at Mach .085 does have a calming effect on me. Finally, a window seat view provides the chance to see landmarks that you may never otherwise see – or at least not from this unique perspective.

I do use some strategy in my seat selection when boarding the plane. The first choice to make is my row. I usually like to sit behind the wing because I think the wing provides an interesting element in the photo, along with some sense of scale. I usually fly Southwest Airlines on Boeing 737s and I like row 18 because not only does it have a great wing view, it is also one of the first rows to receive drinks in that section of the plane. My other criteria for selecting a seat is which side to sit on. Some people may never give this a thought. Others may just go with what feels right at the moment, perhaps next to an attractive stranger, or as far as possible from the screaming baby. Here is my Pro Tip: I like to choose my side of the plane based on the direction of our route at cruising altitude, and what side of the plane the sun will be on. For my photos, I like to have the sun on the other side of the plane, versus shining into my window – unless I’m shooting right at sunrise or sunset like in the top photo. Having the sun behind me means that the wing will be lit nicely and there will be little to know glare or sun flare into my camera. So for example, if I am flying North in the morning, I want to sit on the left side of the plane (when seated) because the sun will be on the other side.

Due to the nature of our flight privileges I don’t always get to choose the window seat on or near Row 18, but any window seat can provide an good opportunity for an interesting photo. No matter where I sit, I still try to get some part of the wing or engine into the frame.

Hopefully my seating strategy makes sense to all but the most directionally-challenged. Any camera can take good photos from the window seat. I also like to play with my iPhone camera in flight, using apps such as Hipstamatic and Instagram. Wherever you happen to sit, take the opportunity to shoot a few photos and be creative with it. You might surprise yourself with what you or your viewers end up liking.


Published by

Paul Thompson

Highly passionate about all things related to aviation! I combine my knowledge of the aircraft manufacturing and airline industry to provide a detailed and first-person point of view. I have worked on unique stories with airlines and companies including American Airlines, British Airways, Goodyear, Honeywell, jetBlue, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways, Red Bull Air Racing, Southwest Airlines, and the U.S. Navy.

4 thoughts on “Choosing a Window Seat, Wisely”

  1. I prefer the window for napping purposes and trying to spot landmarks…but I don’t really care which side of the plane. I generally gravitate toward the right side. I’ve also heard of people having superstitions about where to sit on the plane. Sometimes we’re just lucky to get a seat ; ) Great post!!


  2. I couldn’t agree more! When choosing a seat I use the exact same strategies and even take it a bit further sometimes. Seatguru helps with giving me a good overview of the aircraft and shows me interesting rows, like the ones in the back of 747 with only two seats by the window instead of three. Surely I’m not the only one who does that… But a while ago I was booked on a flight from London to Orlando, among others to go see the Space Shuttle launch. In the weeks before departure I routinely tracked my flight on to get an idea of where we would be flying and most importantly, where we would hit land over Florida. Based on these observations I chose which side of the plane I wanted to sit on and was rewarded with an amazing view of Kennedy Space Center, the launch pads and the vehicle assembly building during our descent towards Orlando airport. Some might call me crazy for going through the trouble, but seeing so many beautiful views rather than just the ocean, which was the case for people sitting 10 seats to the right, made it all worthwile!

  3. Great post!

    There are advantages to sitting on the side opposite to where the sun shines. A good rule of thumb is that the sun tends to be in the southern sky, so if you’re flying in an east-west direction, you always want to choose to sit on the northern side of the plane no matter what time it is.

  4. Without a doubt – the window seat is the best. Not for leg room, definitely not; but for the views you would have to drag me from the window in order to get me in any other seat voluntarily! 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s