Do You Ever NOT Want To Sit Next To Your Travel Companion?

Filed Under: Advice, British Airways

Pretty soon Ford and I will be headed to Italy via London in British Airways business class. This is thanks to a super cheap ~$1,100 business class fare that British Airways published a while back, making this a no brainer.

I’m not a huge fan of British Airways business class, to put it mildly, but at least this time I’m coming in with the right expectations. I’m paying slightly more than economy would cost, and for that I’m getting a great deal in what I consider to be one of the most underwhelming fully flat business class products out there.


However, I still can’t decide whether or not to sit next to Ford on the flight.

Why, you might ask? After all, presumably you’re traveling with someone because you want to spend time with them, and in my case there’s no one I’d rather spend time with than Ford. However, in British Airways business class the window seats are significantly better than the other seats.

There are eight seats per row in business class (which is ridiculous), and the only seats that I think are decent are the window seats. As you can see below, window and aisle seats face one another, and the partition has to be lowered for takeoff and landing.

British-Airways-Business-Class-777 - 3

However, after that you can raise the partition. The window seats at least feel really private, even if they are extremely narrow, and even if you have to climb over the person in the aisle to get out.

British-Airways-Business-Class-777 - 2

However, the aisle seats feel very exposed, as there’s virtually no separation from the aisle (not even a real armrest).

Some might suggest taking the middle seats in business class. Well, as much as I love Ford, I don’t want to sit that close to him for a redeye if I don’t have to. 😉

British-Airways-Business-Class-777 - 6

All of this is simply to say that I’m a bit conflicted. I always like to give my travel companion the better seat, so I’d insist on giving Ford the window seat, and I’d take the aisle seat, which I really don’t like. I know I’d sleep much better in a window seat than an aisle seat, and I know the same is true for Ford.

For example, on our last British Airways flight from London to Los Angeles, we split the time in the window seat. I took a nap in the window seat while Ford watched TV (he offered), then we switched seats, and I sat in the aisle seat while Ford napped. It’s just such a better seat for sleeping.

But at the same time, why would I want to sit next to a strange when I could sit next to someone I’m traveling with?

It’s a similar struggle one might face in JetBlue Mint, where the fully enclosed suites are better than the other seats.

JetBlue-Mint-A321 - 5

The same is true in the Apex Suite found on Oman Air and Japan Airlines, where the window seat is significantly better than the aisle seat.

Oman-Air-New-Business-Class - 7

So I’m wondering, does anyone intentionally not sit next to their travel companion when there’s huge variability in the quality of seats in a cabin, or does sitting next to your travel companion rank above all else?

  1. Since you love Ford, why don’t you let him decide? There will be plenty of time to choose separate seats several years after you two get married.

  2. I have been trying to decide on an acceptable seat for myself too. I see what you are saying about the window seats but they look almost claustrophobic to me. Besides, I’m barely 5′ and will feel trapped in there — almost impossible to hope over my neighbor. I’m thinking the bulk head aisle may be the way to go. No one to jump over me… a little more leg room. I’m thinking of booking it and hoping that the window in the last row with easy access comes available.

    Short of that I’m considering an upgrade to 1st but am wondering if it is worth an additional $1100.00.

  3. I love my husband and we’ve been together for almost 20 years yet we rarely sit next to each other on planes. The closest we usually get is across the aisle in coach. In business it depends on the seat, but using JAL or CX as examples, we both go with window seats. We try to be right behind each other but that’s it. Considering you spend most of your time on an airplane either asleep or with noise cancelling headphones on, it’s not like we’re missing much. Plus I’m a total cranky antisocial flyer. I don’t want to talk to anybody!

    Now in domestic first we do sit next to each other and window / aisle selection depends on which side of the aircraft. I sleep on the right side of the bed so I have to have him on my right in flight (same rule applies at the movies and at the theater).

  4. Have a trip that starts next week, and on only one flight am I sitting next to my travel companion. We both prefer the window seat and will be spending virtually every minute together for two weeks anyways.

    Flying KE and SQ F, so seat quality wasn’t really a factor. We’re in separate rows on two flights, and across the aisle on a third.

  5. Oh yawn!!!!

    Yet another bash BA Club opportunity. To be frank I thought Ford so hated BA last time that I really question why you choose to fly it again. I mean lets be honest you are not exactly hard up!

  6. A few examples. SQ F, booked the whole fam in all the window seats vs middles. Would much rather have a view than small talk for a flight.

    Regular Y strategy is to either book aisle across or window aisle I think is even better if you think the plane might not be full. You hope the middle seat doesn’t fill up but if it does pretty much no one would not trade it for a window if you wanted to sit next to each other.

  7. Please make sure you post about your experience in Sardinia. That is in my list of places to explore next year.

  8. My wife and I sat in 1A and 2A on CX 77W. We chose them so we’d get that aisle to ourselves. We did dine each others suite during dinner and breakfast. Other than that, I didn’t see her for the 16 hour flight.

  9. We split up! We’d rather all have good seats than sit together and have some get good seats and some get lousy ones.

  10. Why is this even a question? Just book two window seats and be done. I’m sure you’ll both survive sitting apart for a few hours.

  11. Having done BA in CW on the 380, I suggest sticking with an aisle/window pair… although to be honest I preferred the aisle seat as the window (53A) felt incredibly claustrophobic. The advantage to row 53, as you probably already know, is that the window gets a true direct aisle access seat without having to hop over anyone. Despite the negative reviews on SeatGuru etc., we quite liked row 53 and didn’t find it noisy as some had suggested.

    Having two window seats means you’ll be making out with your neighbor during take off and landing, so I would suggest sitting together!

  12. I have this dilemma for my honeymoon flight on SQ in J on their new a350 from SFO-SIN. The seat is so big and private that it’s almost pointless to sit in middle seats together, so why don’t we just sit in Windows separately, but then there’s the “we are on a honeymoon we should sit together” mindset.

  13. Take the E and F seats. There’s nothing better on BA if you’re traveling with a loved one. It feels like having a suite to yourselves.

  14. +1 @Andreas

    I rarely get to travel with my partner; but, when we do travel together, I have no problems with us sitting apart.

    I like to zone out while flying. I want my book, a bloody mary, uninterrupted peace and the ability to meditatively stare out the window. I do not want to chat. With anyone. So we pick the best seats in the cabin regardless if they’re together.

    I have never understood why some couples have a life-or-death like need to sit next to each other. It becomes especially obnoxious when a couple wants to engage the whole cabin in a game of musical chairs just so they can sit together.

  15. My story is on Southwest flying from Philadelphia to Denver. Since my mother and I boarded early, we grabbed the window seat and I had the aisle. If you don’t fly Southwest with its open seating, this is typically the way all the seats board. In Southwest fashion, we were looking downward in a way not to make eye contact hoping to have the row to ourselves. Sure enough, an elderly fellow stood over me, meaning he wanted in my row. I was just about to do the shuffle in to the middle seat, when one of my great ideas struck me. I stood up, and allowed him to sit in the middle seat. I was happy watching my free Southwest TV stations, and the two of them chatted for the better part of the four hour flight. I actually thought he would call her for a date. Anyway, I think it was one of my more brilliant moves in having him utilize that middle seat.

  16. Wife and I recently flew MEL to AUH in the Etihad Apartments. Only time we sat next to each other was when she came into my apartment for meals. And we slept next to each other with the divider down.

    Tough life

  17. I’d recommend the following:

    For the Europe-bound flight (redeye), take the 2 middle seats. My wife and I loved these… it was like we were in our own private “pod” and we had no trouble sleeping.

    On the way back (daytime flight) maybe get 2 separate window seats. At that point you’ve already vacationed together that some alone time would probably be welcome!

  18. In coach, I never sit in the same block of seats as my travel companions. We almost always take opposite aisle seats (e.g. 9C/D on a 737). The only exception is on the MD80s.

    In business or first, it depends on the seat style and layout.

  19. Just grab whichever seats each of you like. Flying BA isn’t exactly a romantic memorable experience.

  20. When coming back from Miami on BA Premium Economy with my Dad and Brother we seated ourselves separately as this was a cabin which had a seat in its own individual row, on the righthand side facing the front of the plane,so we put one of us there and the other two in the second seat from the front row on the lefthand side. However, when we went to book in the night before our flight we found that BA had moved our seats placing the three of us in the first aisle, which we didn’t want, stating that they thought we wanted to be together as a family – so you never know, they might end up making the decision for you! To get to the point, if I would get a better seat/sleep, I would separate myself from my companion – after all it’s not like you can’t get up and visit them during the flight itself.

  21. I’ve been thinking about this situation in regard to a trip I’ll book within the next few months. I hope to have 4 adults on one flight (hopefully JAL) and have been debating getting us all 4 windows vs 2 windows/2 aisles. First world problem for sure.

  22. The BA-bashing is a little much… Compared to other business products it’s not that bad. I fly BA Club 4 or 6 times a month, and sometimes don’t get a window seat, and yet sleep happily enough! Just take a window/aisle pair and deal.

  23. In coach I’d always rather sit next to my family than next to strangers – partly because they are small people, partly because it just feels more comfortable to share space with family.

    If the coach cabin is empty, we have no problems spreading out, and in business or first, it just depends on whim and seat arrangement.

  24. Not one of your best posts! Any newbie coming across your blog and seeing this may think twice about visiting what generally can be a very good insightful blog. My recommendation is to keep your personal dilemmas about 1st world problems (choosing which seat in business class!) off your blog. I appreciate some couples (albeit a minority) may experience a similar view but this has to be one of your poorer posts. However, I look forward to the reviews in the unusual carriers.

    Safe flying

  25. you are really a walking contradiction Ben……..why bother even writing about this let alone flying BA if you ‘hate’ them so much? agreed with the other comments that your BA bashing is overboard..Club World is perfectly fine, especially if you get the window seat (aside from having to hop over your seatmate)

  26. In Air Canada business Vancouver to Sydney, my husband and I took window seats in front of/behind each other. It was great!

  27. I booked our JAL flight from LAX to NRT a few months ago, so I called Window. This always happens. He and I both like window. But this time I’ll let him and his son duke it out for the remaining seats. Maybe I’ll let him have window on the way back.

  28. Travelling with a business partner from SEA to LHR with BA, we where discussing where to sit, we ended up in in the middle, it was a bit to intimate but not sitting together where a bit to strange.

    On the ground i was having a fight with the divider between me and an English guy on the aisle – it was strange that it was easier so see him than my business partner sitting beside me, so i kept fighting with the divider the English guy joined in, but before that he looked at me with big intimate eyes and said something like:

    “You could end up sitting with a person starring strange at you the whole flight if its not working”

    Giving a good and loud laugh.

    As i brook my seal after 2-3 hour it must have been a pain for the English guy, but luckily he was sound a sleep after meal service.

    But flying with children and the hunchbacks “in laws” its great with the middle and the hunchbacks further away in aisle and windows seats.

  29. hopefully you are flying on a 747 and have booked the upper deck! otherwise forget sleeping, there’s just too many people in that 8-across layout cabin to make it quiet enough to sleep…Just enjoy the Moët and movies with your partner!

  30. On a British Airways 747, my husband and I always go for 62A and 62K on the Upper Deck. The Upper Deck window seats are great with the side stowage as well and these seats have the best aisle access. We’ve been together for 25 years so have no need to constantly chat etc. We both watch our movies on our laptops or sleep so interaction is minimal. We don pop over to each other’s seat if only to stretch our feet for a bit. Those Club World seats were not made for hand holding either.

  31. My mum and I were flying back from Europe to Australia after a big trip. I didn’t want to sit near her in case she played up to any other passengers about travelling with her son (and that I paid for her J tickets). Originally we were on the same flights and I had us at opposing ends of the airport. And then a better award became available so I ended up taking a totally different way home never seeing her until she walked through the front door at home.

    Who needs a travel companion right? 😛

  32. Not sure what the problem is with the middle seats, esp if it’s with your significant other?? As others have said, it offers the most privacy possible and if you can snag the ones at the rear of the cabin, you’re not going to have to step over anyone to get to the aisle.

    As for the seat itself, if it’s anything like the ones I’ve flown the past couple of years, it’s almost painfully worn and ragged. There were wires or coils or something poking me last time. Crews were lovely though.

  33. For me the middle seats would be the way to go. This is almost like a budget version of Singapore Airlines Suites Class! (OK, slight exaggeration)

  34. I’m no therapist but I think Lucky and Ford should just switch off the window seat like they did on their flight last time.

    I don’t like the last row of first or business class because I’m afraid there will be noise coming from the galley behind me.

    I had a bad experience once where I was assigned an exit row seat and the man in the seat next to me was so wide he took up half of my seat. I should have switched to another seat even if I was giving up the extra legroom.

    I absolutely will not be in the last two rows of economy near the lavatory even if I were to have an entire row to myself. I’d rather have a middle seat further up .

  35. My wife and I both prefer the window so we sit front to back on the right set up. I am anti social while flying and want my own space and quiet. Domestic F it is side to side.

  36. Center seats together (it’s like the poor man’s version of SQ suites!), or take the A and K windows in the very last row. Vastly better experience when you don’t have to climb over anyone.

  37. A uniquely gay problem: When you are husband twins (i.e. everything thinks my husband and I are brothers/twins), we flew Etihad to Abu Dhabi a few months ago and didn’t sit together, we were both at the window but a few rows apart. He felt guilty making the flight attendant come to his seat to take his order so he would go up to the galley to order, which is fine, except they kept bringing me his food because I was the first one they’d reach and they thought I was him. So, think of the poor flight attendants and the confusion you cause if you are husband twins and don’t sit together 🙂

  38. I always suck it up and let my partner choose the seat.
    Initially it was difficult for me because we both liked the same seating.
    Guess what? I ended up switching away from and now enjoy my new seating choice.

  39. This might be your most ridiculous post ever. My partner and I hardly ever sit together. What’s the big deal?

  40. When I was still working with Miles & More, we had very funny requests by some members. There was a classic one, in which the husband and his wife wanted upgrades in businessclass, but let their children stay in Economy. If they were old enough it was of course no problem, but many times those kids were under 12 and somehow the parents figured, let the staff do the babysitting. One time a father called in and requested an business class upgrade just for himself. His wfie and the two children were still in Economy. His comment was: I live with them all the time, this flight is my treat, I will tell them there was no availability for all of them…

  41. Depends, are you the man in this relationship. It’s interesting that you can’t even make this simple decision yourself without the help of your readers.

  42. I never understand why your colleague rave about how many posts you put out per day and how tough that must be. This is honestly one of the most pointless posts on this site. Clearly you have no regard for the quality of your work

  43. If you do go for a window/aisle pair then go for the front row in the cabin (nobody stepping over whoever is in the aisle) or the back row (window guy has direct aisle access) … but I’m sure you knew that already 🙂

  44. I would definitely go with the middle seats in this scenario. One of the big problems with having someone you don’t know as a seatmate is the unpredictable nature of it. When it’s someone you know, it should be pretty predictable.

  45. I would also go for the middle seats here. Then again, I always want to sit next to my significant other.

    My problem is that I want “honeymoon seats” in business class when I’m traveling with my spouse and lots of airlines don’t offer that option! We’re odd ducks who don’t like super-private business or first class seats when we travel together because we feel too separated. Yes, we could tolerate being apart for a few hours, but when we’re on vacation together, the whole point is to be together! And it’s easier to sample each other’s food, sip and compare wines, hold hands, make the occasional eye contact, and generally be soppy together in honeymoon-type seats.

  46. My wife likes the centre seat pairs, especially at the rear bulkhead. She likes to sit next to me, but we’re just happy to be in J, whichever seats we get.

    Last year we took F return flights on BA – we did the centre outbound but two windows on the way back. Why not do something similar? Change it up, book different types of seats each way?

  47. Lucky, you are correct BA Business is horrible.

    However, if you are travelling as a couple, then those centre seats are quite cosy. As others have said – its like the cheap version of a suite. And lets face it – you will still get the same bad service from British Airways staff (and management) as you would whatever seat you choose.

    My partner has given me firm instructions to never book BA longhaul business again – although he will fold once a good price deal comes along . . .

    I wish this video was a satire . . .

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