Enlightened or Pretentious? What Your Airplane Seat Choice Says About You

by  Yahoo! Travel | Dec 12, 2014
Plane / Biletskiy_Evgeniy/iStock

By Leah Ginsberg for Yahoo! Travel

Are you an aisle or a window? (Thinkstock)

Choosing your seat on an airplane is a big deal. People obsessively check SeatGuru.com before picking a seat or even pay more for a certain position on the plane. Why? “It’s a rare opportunity to have some control over your environment when traveling,” explains psychologist and University of Washington professor Jonathan Bricker, Ph.D. “That’s very significant for the traveler.” Indeed – ask people whether they’re an aisle or window person, and they don’t hesitate to answer. (In case you're wondering, based on Expedia.com customers who indicated a seat preference, 55 percent prefer a window seat and 45 percent prefer an aisle seat.) So Yahoo Travel researched, asked the experts, and picked the brains of frequent fliers to find out what your seat choice says about you.

If you’re an aisle person:

You value freedom. “Choosing an aisle seat is an expression of freedom. You know you have the ability to get up and walk around without having to ask anyone or climb over your seatmate,” says Bricker.

You’re an introvert. When stuck in a large group of people (as you are on plane – sometimes for hours) introverts feel physically uncomfortable and tend to want to stay on the periphery and have an easy escape route (even if it’s just in their heads), and they don’t like to be surrounded by people or objects on all sides. The aisle seats checks those boxes more than any other.

Related: The New Airline Seat that Turns Economy into Business Class

You’re all business. No gazing out the window and daydreaming for you. Plus it’s usually much more comfortable to sleep at the window, so you’ll likely be up working or reading a book. In fact, a recent American Express Global Business Travel survey found that business travelers prefer aisle seats.

You like to be in the power position. You’re the first one to talk to the flight attendant when she asks what you want to drink. You control your seatmates in a sense – middle and window people need to ask you to go the bathroom – and you can set the tone for the interaction by either being nice or grumpy about it. You’re the de facto dictator of the row.

You tend to be a bit claustrophobic. Sitting on the aisle is about as much open space as you get on board. (Too bad you can’t sit on the wing.)


If you’re a window person:

You value privacy. When you choose the window, there’s a wall on one side, so for the most part, you’re insulated enough that you won’t be affected by other people’s behavior, explains Bricker. And you won’t have your seatmate asking you to move so he can go to the bathroom.

You’re a nester. “You can create your own little own space by the window,” says Bricker. The spot feels cozier, and you can rest a pillow against the wall for more comfy naps. “You can create a little bit of a home,” he says.

Related: Never a Bad Seat on View from the Wing

You’re a dreamer. Yahoo Travel’s Editor in Chief, Paula Froelich, says she likes to look out the window because she can think about all the amazing places out there she can visit. We suspect she’s not alone.

You’re open to new experiences. According to Brian Little, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Me, Myself and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, the fact that the window allows you to watch the actual Rocky Mountains go by – which in your world that’s so much better than watching an in-flight movie about the Rockies - belies this trait.


If you’re cool with the middle seat:

You’re an extrovert. “Outgoing people like social contact,” explains Little, so they wouldn’t dread sitting between two strangers as much as others might. Yes, chatty Cathy, you’re that person on the plane.

You’re highly evolved. “Being okay with the middle seat, especially on a long flight, is an exercise in acceptance and willingness to allow what is be what is,” says Bricker. “If you’re able to give up your privacy and your autonomy, and realize it’s just a moment in time that will pass, you’re probably the most enlightened passenger on the plane.”

Related: Armrest Etiquette: We End the Armrest Battle Once and for All

You’re considerate. Often, when someone chooses the aisle seat, it’s because they’re with a friend or partner, and they’re doing it as a gift to the traveling companion, explains psychologist, Pauline Wallin, Ph.D.

You’re low man on the totem pole. If you’re traveling with family or friends and you get stuck in the middle seat (as opposed to offering to sit there), it’s probably because you’re the one with the least amount of power in the group, says Wallin.

You’re disorganized. People who repeatedly end up with the middle seat may very well be there because they failed to sufficiently plan ahead. Get it together.


If you only do business class:

You’re a control freak. “You don’t want to have to choose between values – between freedom and comfort, for example,” explains Bricker. “Paying the extra money allows you to protect both. What you’re really buying is opportunity to exercise these values.” Plus, there’s plenty of place to store your overhead luggage - no being forced to cram your stuff into leftover space.

You value your time. It says a lot when you’re willing to spend several times the price of a regular seat, and one of the perks of the business class ticket is that it comes with priority boarding, explains Bricker. Plus, being at the front of the plane allows you to get off more quickly, too.

You’re a little pretentious. Sometimes people like to fly business class because of how it appears to others – “They like that sense of privilege, of having something that other people can’t,” explains Wallin.

You’re rich. Obviously. Or your employer is. Or you have mega frequent-flyer miles.

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