How to book the best seats on your flight

THERE was a time when I used to go to the airport, asked at check in if I could have an aisle seat, or better yet, an exit row or bulkhead, and got what I got.

These days I can't imagine not having my seat selection locked in as soon as I've booked my ticket.

As frequent flyers know, not all seats are created equal, and there are some ways to increase your chances of getting one of the best ones.

The most obvious way is to pay extra for it. Now that some airlines sell exit row and other extra legroom seats for an additional fee, that's one way to lock in a good seat. Well, most of the time.

SeatGuru Supplied

I was saved from paying extra for one of the worst seats on a plane once by a quick SeatGuru check. It was exit row, which seemed like a good idea, but SeatGuru revealed it had no recline, the wall of the plane curved into the seat's space, and the seat was narrower because the entertainment screen was stowed in the armrest.

Bulkhead seats also range from offering extra legroom to being cramped and uncomfortable.

As different airlines configure planes in their own way, even if I've flown on a certain type of plane before I'll always do a SeatGuru check before locking in my seat.

After putting in your flight details SeatGuru brings up a map of your plane with green, yellow and red seats for best to worst. Red warnings include window seats with no actual windows, and even some 1A business class seats are yellow as they have less legroom. It turns out not all seats are created equal in the pointy end of the plane either.

As well as avoiding bad choices, checking seat maps has also helped me book seats with no seat in front of them.

On an A380, Qantas' 71D and Etihad's 69D are two aisle seats that I've flown in with a missing seat in front, giving me loads of extra leg room at no extra cost. (Qantas Silver, Gold and Platinum frequent flyers don't pay for seat selection, while other passengers pay $35).