Why Exit Row And Bulkhead Are Not Always The Best Seat Choices

When flying long distances, we often request/or pay extra to upgrade to exit row or bulkhead seats.  Usually, these seats have more legroom, making flying more comfortable – especially for larger taller people. However, from our experience, these particular seats are not always your best bet. Sometimes it is wiser to save your money and choose are ‘normal’ economy seat on the aircraft. Here’s why:

Disadvantages to Exit Row and Bulkhead Seats:

  • Colder: Exit row seats tend to be one of the coldest climates on the aircraft since you’re right beside the drafty door. Have fun trying to find extra blankets to keep yourself warm.
  • Smaller Seat Width: Exit row and bulkhead seats are smaller because the tray table has to fit inside the armrest. Those extra inches do make a difference.
  • No Seat Pocket Storage: No seat back pocket (because there is no seat in front of you) to store your books, magazines, water, iPod, headphones, glasses, etc. You will either need to keep them all on your lap or constantly get up to store them in your bag, in the overhead compartment.
  • No Space for Bags: No seats in front of you also means you can’t store your bag/purse under the seat in front of you. You will have to place it in the overhead compartment.
  • Beside the Toilet: Often these seats are right near or beside the lavatories. This means people will be constantly swarming you while waiting in line. Not to mention the smell. Also, flight attendants spray out the lavatories a couple times during the flight with strong disinfectant sprays which are quite harsh on the lungs. It will be noisy and uncomfortable, and don’t even bother trying to sleep.
  • Leg Room: Sure, most exit/bulkhead seats have extra legroom – but not all! The window seat of the exit row is usually obstructed by a large slide cover on the emergency door (i.e. Boeing 747-400 aircrafts). This gives you even less legroom than a regular economy seat. And no, you’re not permitted to rest your legs on the slide cover due to safety reasons.


Next time you fly, visit SeatGuru.com to find the best seat for you. They offer airline seating charts categorized by airline and aircraft type. Color codes on seat maps let you know which seats are optimal on all major airlines. They also offer seat pitch and width measurements to make your seat choice a little easier.

About Gary & Taya

Founders of 9to5Travel, this jet-setting Canadian husband & wife team scour the globe searching for the best travel destinations the world has to offer. They provide detailed accounts of tropical beaches, gourmet cuisines, and luxury hotels. Learn more about the couple here.

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