Window or Aisle Seat?

On 27 October 2009 by Jessica

Here’s something that’s been kind of bugging me for the last week: why do I call myself an aisle-seat person when I fly?

Rewind for a moment back to the conference in Las Vegas that I keep mentioning. One of the people on my panel has started a series of short videos on his blog, and apparently someone had asked him the “aisle seat or window seat” question. Being a good travel writer, he decided to not answer the question himself but rather ask it of other people – including me.

In the resulting video, which you can see and read more about here, I said something like “I’ve become an aisle seat person.” And it’s true, it’s been a process. When I first started flying, I was all about getting the window seat. Then, probably 10 years ago or so, I worked with a woman I admired quite a bit who told me she always asks for an aisle seat. Until that point, it seriously hadn’t even occurred to me that there would be a seat on the plane that people would actually ask for other than the window seat. Until that point, I think I mentally had the aisle seat on the same (low) level as the middle seat.

But soon after that conversation, I took a flight somewhere and requested an aisle seat. Maybe I was just testing it out, maybe I was trying to emulate this person I admired, I don’t remember now. But I know that I liked not having to ask anyone to move if I needed to get out of my seat, and I liked having a better vantage point from which to people-watch other passengers.

And from that point on, I asked for aisle seats whenever I was flying alone. (The husband prefers window seats, so when we fly together we generally end up with a window and a middle seat – unless we’re super-lucky to get one of those planes with only two seats together, in which case we both get what we want.)

I hadn’t questioned my move to being an aisle seat person, however, until I watched the video with all the other responses. The other aisle seat people said they liked the aisle because they had small bladders, or they had a bad back and needed to walk around a lot during a flight. Me? I have no such problems. I have a notoriously enormous bladder (I have gotten into the car in Portland needing to go to the bathroom and still not stopped to go until I’ve reached my destination in Seattle, 3+ hours later). I’m certainly not tall enough to require the extra legroom you get with an aisle seat. I have been dealing with more aches and pains on flights in recent years, but I have them whether I’m on the aisle or the window or the middle, and whether I walk around or not. And, let’s face it – when you’re on the aisle, you might not have to ask anyone to move, but there are certainly people who will be requiring you to move for them.

So, I’m left with the question I asked at the beginning of this post – why am I an aisle-seat person?

Over the past year or so I’ve flown quite a bit, and on a few of those flights I asked for a window seat (and in one case was lucky enough to have a window seat with the middle seat open for a trip from Amsterdam to Portland – heaven!). Once the plane flew so far north that all I could see below me was ocean and big floating pieces of ice. Once I got to see some of the beautiful landscapes surrounding a not-so-beautiful city, which I hadn’t really realized were there. And every time I fly in and out of Portland I love seeing the big river and all that green.

So why am I an aisle-seat person?

I have no idea. Maybe I’m not. Maybe I’m a window-seat person who tried on the costume of an aisle-seat person and then forgot to take it off. Maybe it depends entirely on the flight I’m taking (night flight? I won’t see anything anyway, aisle is fine). Maybe it depends on where I’m flying. I really don’t know. But I know if I got asked that question now, I wouldn’t be able to provide as clear an answer as I did less than two weeks ago.

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