Best and worst plane seats: Travel experts rate the perfect airline seat experience

From legroom squeeze to premium comfort - our travel experts rate the best and worst seats on planes.


BEST AIRLINE SEAT EXPERIENCE I was bumped up to Emirates business class a few months ago, and found myself overwhelmed by choices: three screens to watch or play with (a large TV screen, a smaller, portable iPad-sized screen, and handheld screen), a private mini-bar stocked with drinks, about a million ways to recline my seat. (Review: Emirates A380 business class)

WORST AIRLINE SEAT EXPERIENCE A few budget airlines, including Jetstar, have removed the floppy seatback pockets at knee level in favour of a slim, hard pocket up the top of the seat in which it's impossible to store a laptop or book, rendering it pretty much pointless.

FAVOURITE AIRLINE SEAT INNOVATION A growing number of airlines now provide power points in seats, even in economy class. For anyone wanting to use a laptop on the flight, or charge their phone – which is most people – it's ideal.

What would the ultimate airline experience look like?

An airline with the best food, service and seats in the world?'s writers name what their dream plane would feature.

AIRLINE SEAT FIX I would love to see seatback entertainment systems that allow you to plug  an iPhone or iPad in and watch movies or TV shows stored on your own device.

SEAT TIP Before booking your flights, go to to find the best seats on the plane and reserve them at the time of booking.


BEST AIRLINE SEAT EXPERIENCE It's all about comfort and privacy, which is why I love Emirates business class. You can lie completely flat, and feel cut off from the rest of the cabin. Of course, its  first class is even better – but perhaps not as much as you think. (Review: Emirates first class)

WORST AIRLINE SEAT EXPERIENCE On a long-haul flight, I was seated in the  back row in economy, by the toilets, in a broken seat that didn't recline at all. At least the entertainment system was working.

FAVOURITE AIRLINE SEAT INNOVATION Really simple things make a big difference. I'd be lost without now-common features such as in-seat power or the flight timer, which helps me  work out whether to sleep or just to watch another movie.

AIRLINE SEAT FIX More storage space around business class seats. Too often, I have to choose between keeping my handbag and my laptop handy. I need both, thank you very much.


SEAT TIP Work those online seat maps. Sitting next to an empty seat can transform an economy flight, so get online and look for the aisle seat on a row of four where the two furthest seats have already been taken. There's no guarantee that the seat next to you stays empty, but it ups your chances.


BEST AIRLINE SEAT EXPERIENCE The best airline seat is the upgrade you get when you don't expect it and you haven't paid for it. But, failing that, last year I flew business class on Oman Air and found the spacious leather chair more comfortable than many first class seats. I've also really enjoyed Etihad First Class (I haven't tried the Residence) with its filigree sliding doors which makes you feel a little bit like you're in a private hammam.

WORST AIRLINE SEAT EXPERIENCE The seat that's not quite there: I once boarded a Royal Air Maroc  to Casablanca in Paris and discovered that some unknown person (perhaps a hungry passenger?) had ripped chunks of the foam out of my seat. There was nowhere to move, so I endured it. Luckily, it was a short flight.

FAVOURITE AIRLINE SEAT INNOVATION I'm a fan of airline seats that give you plenty of space for your stuff. I like Cathay's Business Class for this reason – there is even a compartment for my makeup and hairbrush, with a mirror. I also love Emirates' innovation of having your own private mini bar in business class on the A380. 

AIRLINE SEAT FIX Qantas introduced the in-seat massage function years ago but I'd like to see this in economy as well as business class on every airline, but giving a much stronger massage, like the chairs in nail parlours. 

SEAT TIP I always sit on the aisle in economy. Even when travelling with my husband, we sit across the aisle from one another. I'd rather be climbed over than have to climb over. You can stretch your legs, get up when you like. The only disadvantage is the drinks trolley rolling over your toes.


BEST AIRLINE SEAT EXPERIENCE The crew on Virgin Australia add a mattress topper to business class seats, making the flatbed even better  for sleeping. For an additional flourish, this comes paired with moody LED stars speckling the cabin ceiling – it's like glamping – and a four-stool bar  down the aisle for insomniac scotches.

WORST AIRLINE SEAT EXPERIENCE An experience I have endured several times, much to my chagrin, is discovering my economy legroom is severely hampered by a large metal box bolted to the floor beneath the seat in front of me. This box powers the in-flight entertainment system. On a long-haul flight, I would gladly trade away entertainment entirely for the extra stretching space.

FAVOURITE AIRLINE SEAT INNOVATION It is difficult to overestimate the pleasure and value of a fully reclining flatbed, which makes flying a pleasure and gets you to a destination fresh and ready to go. 

AIRLINE SEAT FIX There is no excuse for any long-haul economy seat in 2015 to be missing generous headrest wings, for easier sleeping, particularly in the middle row where a stranger's shoulder can cause all sorts of awkward interactions. 

SEAT TIP Be courteous to the person behind you: don't do maximum recline unless you're sleeping and it's an appropriate time (not dinner). Air travel would be a thousand times easier if everybody was a little nicer.


BEST AIRLINE SEAT EXPERIENCE Singapore Airlines' new business class seat. Widest and most comfortable of any business class seat and, when you want to lie down, the cabin crew flip the seat over to create a flat bed with snooze-tailored cushioning different from the sit-down seat.

WORST AIRLINE SEAT EXPERIENCE SAS Scandinavian Airlines flight Bangkok to Copenhagen. Seat recline didn't work, my seat's video screen was frozen and I was seated between two very drunk, very large Scandinavian guys who used my head as a pillow.

FAVOURITE AIRLINE SEAT INNOVATION A personal USB port so I can keep the juice flowing to my own personal entertainment system however long the flight lasts.

YOUR AIRLINE SEAT FIX Wider economy seating please. Economy seats are configured to fit your hips but most blokes are wider at the shoulders and through no fault of their own they shoulder-invade the next seat.

SEAT TIP In economy, go for the aisle seat for ease of access, better still if it's an emergency exit or a bulkhead seat for extra stretch room.


BEST AIRLINE SEAT EXPERIENCE I'm rather fond of Etihad's business-class seats, which are wide, comfy and allow me to fully extend my legs. I can lie cocooned in pillows and blankets and either doze or make use of the excellent entertainment system, and almost forget I'm on a plane. (Review: Etihad business class)

WORST AIRLINE SEAT EXPERIENCE Sorry Cathay Pacific, but I was recently on flights to Japan via Hong Kong and found the economy-class seats narrow and uncomfortable, mainly because of limited legroom and because both the seat and back were very hard. More padding could have prevented my hobbling off the plane at journey's end.

FAVOURITE AIRLINE SEAT INNOVATION Lufthansa has made airlines seat thinner by using new materials and a new design and moving the seat pocket. The result is more legroom from the same available space. Let's just hope it doesn't eventually mean packing in more seats.

YOUR AIRLINE SEAT FIX It's never going to happen, but who wouldn't love to have an airline seat like those massage chairs you see in airports? I'd happily be pummelled all the way to Europe so I could arrive without cramped legs and a sore back.

SEAT TIP Seat pockets are crammed with inflight and shopping magazines, blankets and headphones. The first thing I do is chuck them up into the overhead locker, and right there I've gained at least another inch of knee room in an economy-class seat.

See also: Flight test: Emirates A380 business class
See also: Flight test: Etihad Airways business class