Why Some Airplane Seats Don't Align With Windows — and How to Avoid Them

No one wants to end up in a windowless seat.

<p>urbazon/Getty Images</p>

urbazon/Getty Images

Here's the scene: You've booked a window seat on your next flight, excited to take in the bird's-eye view of the world. But as you're boarding your flight, and come upon your row, you're greeted with a horrible surprise — your row barely has a window. Or worse, it doesn't have one at all.

You might think that airplane windows are aligned with the rows inside, and while that might be true in some situations, it's not always the case. And there's a fairly simple explanation for this. Airlines change seating arrangements from the manufacturer's original plan.

"Airplane seats and windows do not always align because the cabins in modern jetliners are designed to allow for changes in seating density, according to airline needs," aviation historian Shea Oakley tells Travel + Leisure. "When more or less rows of seats are installed, it sometimes leads to different alignments vis-à-vis the windows."

While aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing design planes, airlines have the freedom to configure their interiors to their own specifications. In many cases, they add extra seats to expand passenger capacity. In other instances, they might decide to add more business-class seats, changing the alignment in the economy cabin. But generally speaking, all airlines tweak seating plans.

Related: Here's Why Window Shades Have to Be Up During Takeoff and Landing

So, how can you avoid a windowless seat on a plane? It's not that easy. Airlines don't typically notate which seats have misaligned windows on their seating charts, so you'll have to turn to third-party sources. One popular website is Aerolopa, which shows detailed seating charts that include window placement, as well as the relative size of the exit rows and the exact spot of the lavatories. (SeatGuru used to offer a similar service, but the seating charts are no longer updated, so many are out of date.)

Another option is to watch video walkthroughs of aircraft cabins. Head to YouTube and search your airline and aircraft, then see if there's a fairly recent video that matches. You may be able to see which rows have misaligned windows.

You can also check online forums and social media to see if anyone has posted about a lack of windows, which tends to be a popular topic.

Related: The Extremely Important Reason Airplane Windows Are Always Round

Whichever method you choose to suss out whether or not an airplane row has a window, keep in mind that layouts vary per airline, not just per aircraft model. So, make sure you're looking up your specific airline's seating chart for your aircraft model.

And remember that these methods aren't foolproof. Airlines might retrofit a cabin at any time, so you could end up with a different layout than what's already published online. Plus, equipment changes — that is, using a different aircraft instead of your scheduled one — are common. Your best-laid plans may very well go awry.

If you do find yourself in a windowless row, you can always ask the flight attendant if there's another window seat available. But there are no guarantees. On the positive side, flying in a windowless window seat might be a good time for a nap.

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