My Unusual Business Class Seat Preference

Reader Paul emailed me the following question:

Hi Lucky, I notice in your trip reports that you always seem to sit in the last row of business class. Is there a reason you choose to sit there, or is it just all that’s available when you book last minute?

It’s true. I have a strong business class seating preference, and it’s almost always the same, regardless of the configuration.

Assuming a plane has two business class cabins (as seems to be the case on most planes I fly in business class — usually A330s, 777s, or 787s), I’ll almost always choose to sit in the very last row. This is opposite of the preference most people have, since the goal for most people is to sit as far forward as possible.

To explain my seating preference in an example, take the China Airlines flight I’m presently on, between Los Angeles and Taipei. The flight is operated by a 777-300ER, featuring 40 business class seats. There are six rows of business class seats in the forward cabin…

China-Airlines-Business-Class-1

…then there are four rows of business class seats in the rear cabin.

China-Airlines-Business-Class

Between the two cabins are the restrooms and the snack bar.

China-Airlines-Business-Class-Bar

As is usually my preference, I reserved the window seat on the right side of the plane in the last row, seat 23K.

Let me start with the downsides to sitting in the last row:

  • Often times the first row of economy is for bassinets, so there’s a risk of having a screaming baby behind you; fortunately that’s not an issue here, since China Airlines has a huge premium economy cabin right behind business class (and premium economy is becoming more and more common)
  • Everyone walks past you during boarding, so the boarding experience is much more chaotic than if you were in the forward business class cabin, since economy doesn’t board through there
  • In theory it’s marginally louder back there, since you’re closer to the engines

However, I prefer almost everything else about being in the last row of business class:

  • There’s virtually no foot traffic, since the lavatories are in front of you, and passengers don’t really move between cabins; the only time there’s traffic is when the flight attendants are going to economy for their break
  • Travis explained your best chances at snagging an empty seat next to you in economy, and the same philosophy applies in business class — the further back you’re seated, the better your odds of empty seats near you; in my case, the forward business class cabin is full, while I’m the only person on the right side of the rear of the cabin (literally the only person in those eight seats), so I don’t have to deal with the light/noise/smells of other passengers
  • Because I have the aisle to myself, service is extremely attentive, since there’s a flight attendant assigned to this section who checks on me every few minutes
  • While sitting further back might add a bit of noise due to the engine, it also greatly improves the pictures you can take with the engines in them; as an aviation geek, I love that

Air-Canada-777-Business-Class - 67
View from the last row of Air Canada’s 777 business class

Bottom line

Everyone has different preferences, though personally I swear by sitting in the last row of business class, assuming it’s a plane with two business class cabins, with the bathrooms between the two cabins.

This setup leads to a quiet flight with limited distractions, and great odds of having empty seats near you. I seem to be among the only people who feels this way, though, given that I rarely see the last row of business class occupied. Maybe that’ll slowly change. 😉

Do you have a general business class seating preference?

Comments

  1. Always amazes me how the wings support those massive engines. They almost seem too heavy for the wings.

  2. My personal preference when choosing a business class seat: As far as possible from the lavatories. Some business class have the lavatories in the back so I will prefer to seat in the front. I also never get the first row.

  3. If business class is a small cabin like CX’s 73Z and 772Z configuration, I always try to sit at the last row to get good photos and videos as I’m an aviation geek too.

    If the business class cabin is huge like CX’s 77H cabin which consists of a staggering 53 seats, that depends. Sometimes, I like sitting at the front to hear the engines better during take off and landing, sometimes I like to sit in the middle by the flaps, sometimes the last row. It all depends on what cabin configuration I get and what I want in my videos.

  4. Agree, I don’t like people behind me. I love sitting in the last row of premium cabin and dread first row ( as I am right now)

  5. Does the exact same logic apply to First as well? Or is there a different seating strategy in First?

  6. @ Kneemuh — Same strategy in first class for me. Since many airlines have two rows of first class, I always like a window in the second row.

  7. “fortunately that’s not an issue here, since China Airlines has a huge premium economy cabin right behind business class (and premium economy is becoming more and more common”

    Wouldn’t the first row of PE have baby bassinets as well? Or are babies banned from China Airlines PE?

    Also, isn’t one other negative you sometimes might not get your first (or even second) meal option?

  8. I used to choose the last row for the privacy, but now I avoid them at all costs. I found out the hard way that pax in those seats tend to lose their seat assignments (and/or downgraded) if there’s an aircraft swap or schedule change. Even when there wasn’t any change (aircraft or otherwise), being in the last row got me downgraded on a discounted J ticket booked several months in advance.

  9. @Aaron, thanks for the reminder. The (lack of) meal choice is another reason I now avoid the last rows.

  10. @ Tennen — Ouch! Suffice to say that has never happened to me. What airline was that on, if I may ask?

  11. I use the same rationale to be in the 2nd- or 3rd to last row (depending on how big the cabin is). I want to mitigate foot traffic, but I also don’t want to be near the Y/Y+ cabin behind as well as having a shot at meal choice vs. no shot at all. Thus, I’m willing to put up with 0-4 pax who’d need to walk forward to the lavs/snacks… much better than all of them. I guess I call it a compromise.

    I also pick the right side of the cabin… if they have a choice, passengers inexplicably select seats along and walk through the left aisle more often, both while boarding and inflight.

  12. Lucky, great to have you involved in the comments section. I know you’re usually super busy, but I do miss the discussion that used to happen more frequently a couple of years ago. Hope you’re continuing to enjoy the flight!

  13. On a recent Delta flight, the cabin crew were telling me that it seems like all the ‘weird’ passengers end up sitting on the left side of the plane. I later asked cabin crew on a KLM flight if the experience this aswell. They had to laugh and said: ‘Now that you mention it!’ So it seems the right side is the right side! :’)

  14. I like the last row of business class too, because it feels way more private to me if there’s nobody behind me (though this is less true in cabins with rear-facing seats).

    One of my favorite parts of flying is seeing the thrust reversers engage upon landing.

  15. Premium Economy or not, the risk of a screaming child a few feet behind me is way to high for me to select the rearmost seats in Business Class. I don’t necessarily reserve the front row (although on AA’s 777-300’s 3J is mine so hands off! 🙂 ) but I’ll avoid the rear of the cabin as if my life depended on it 🙂

  16. This is me! I totally agree! RHS as far back as possible, unless there is a mini-cabin trade off (eg CX 4 class 77W). That doesn’t mean right at the back. eg QR 778 means row 4, as row 5 has no windows and row 6 is in the toilet… But generally as far back as possible, RHS to minimise foot traffic

    Simples!

  17. @Ben, it’s happened twice on AC – YYZ-YVR on A330 and YYZ-YUL on 763, and neither had schedule/aircraft changes. On the A330 it was apparently due to W&B, but no explanation on the 767. Pathetic refund amount, since both were domestic segments of TATL tickets.

    Also happened on AA 763, but that was a OLCI buy-up that was downgraded at the airport – no compensation but got an MCE seat & checked bag for free.

    On SK A340, I was technically in “paid” Biz, since OptionTown upgrades get rebooked into Z. When it cleared 3 or 4 days prior, I selected a seat in the last row of the old config’s mini-cabin, but got reassigned to my original SAS Plus seat (thank god it was still available) at the airport. IIRC, one of the Biz seats was inop. Took forever for the refund (still had to pay the OT fee), and I only got 5k miles for the trouble.

  18. I always choose a K window seat in the 3rd to last row on the 330-300. I would actually prefer an A seat on the other side but I’ve been moved from those twice. I heard (not sure if it’s true) that FAM’s select the A seats (I assume because they are right handed). Sometimes AA substitutes the 330-300 with the 330-200 which has two less rows in BC so I feel rather safe that I won’t be moved and end up in a non window seat.

  19. The wings hold up a lot more than the engines. They lift the whole plane including the engines.

  20. Food and drink service usually starts at the front and works back. Those at the back have more risk of menu items having run out.

    At the front is EZ-on, EZ-off, and I don’t understand the problem of people sitting behind me

    Finally being near the loo is handy – by the time you’ve walked from the back, someone else might be in there

  21. Iberia A330 row 8 window seats are the best. Only 7 other seats in the mini cabin and the seats are super private. Far superior to the one big business cabin they have on their A340.

  22. I always try to get the first row, as I find it quieter because you are more ahead of the engines. I also find the turbulence to be less. Also you will be ahead of others in line for customs and immigration.

    But the biggest reason I try for row 1 is so I can get a meal choice!

  23. Last toe will make for more discreetly taking pictures. If you sit in the first row and take pictures from that angle you’ll have people looking at the camera in the photos.

  24. Interesting. I don’t generally have a specific preference, though as a single traveler I tend to prefer a window seat rather than a middle in most modern configurations. I’ll be on AA’s reconfigured 777-200 on my next flight in 2 months, so maybe I’ll check it out. And hope I don’t get any neighbors thus avoiding any potential for the seat shake on those kinds of seats.

    I’ll try anything once.

  25. For me it depends on the aircraft and where everyone else is already sitting when I make my selection. If there’s a “minicabin” as in the CX 777 I like to sit up there as it is quieter and just feels more private. But I do agree that in general most people either choose to sit farther forward or the airlines automatically assign seats from the front. So if the back section is wide open I will sometimes choose there. The thing about lack of meal selection is a concern though.

    I often choose the right side as well since it seems to have less traffic at boarding. Sometimes I choose based on which side the sun will be on (to avoid it)

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