Immigration queues are often woefully understaffed, and this makes being among the first off the plane a valuable perk, potentially saving hours of waiting time.
And frankly, people don’t think enough about where they sit on the plane. Sure, sometimes the seats you really want require a premium or upgrade, but there are plenty of benefits you can get just by choosing the right standard seat.
Are you in a hurry to get out of the airport? The further to the front (and usually to the left) of the plane the better. Want extra legroom? Find where the output rows or baffles are at that level.
But sometimes, if you’re on a budget, the back row is actually the best. Yes, I said it.
It’s niche, it’s certainly not everywhere, but it’s true. Here you might want to check the seat map and hope that the last or second to last row of the plane is open. It all depends on where you’re going.
Airports boarded by stairs
Some airports, particularly smaller airports in holiday destinations – think Greece or the Caribbean – board and disembark using stairs. To speed up the process, steps are attached to both the front and rear doors of the plane.
Worst seat in the house when this happens? Assuming there is a business class cabin up front, the front or middle area of economy. If a plane has 30 rows, row 15 will be stuck in the middle and will likely be the last people down the stairs. When boarding, they will also have the longest aisle walk to their seat.
If I know I’m heading to a destination with steps attached to the front and back and I’m flying economy, I’ll usually choose the last or second to last row of the plane. Business class may still get the first chance to leave the plane, but I’m always one of the first in economy.
Sometimes ground staff don’t even prioritize business class, so make of that what you will. I have had many flights where both sets of steps are attached at the same time and I zip first.
Which airports do they fly back and forth?
The list is too long to write, and in some cases it just depends on where the plane is parked upon landing. Sorry!
The single best thing you can do is google the standard protocols at the airport you’re going to. They will often appear in good travel destination guides or airline forums like FlyerTalk.
If I’m going to Santorini, I might google “Santorini boarding steps” or “XYZ airport uses front and back steps” and look at the pictures, not the text results. They are often quite convincing. An ongoing search is never a bad idea.
Keep in mind that even if an airport uses stairs, like Barbados, it won’t always to be front and back. Maldives uses both stairs for some arrivals but not others.
And also consider that it makes sense to prioritize sitting in the back when going to a destination that descends using steps at both doors, rather than when leaving. If you’re flying back to say… New York, you’ll want to be as close to the front as possible for a quick exit.
The A380 has unique boarding and seating tips
No modern airplane has disrupted air travel as much as the Airbus A380. The two-story “super jumbo” introduced first-class suites, in-flight showers and overhead bars.
It also introduced double deck boarding. Some passengers board from the front of the lower deck, while with some airlines, others board from the center of the upper deck. It’s a journey, for sure!
As much as advice on where to sit other than the first row would be helpful, there is no consistent advice. Some airlines have business and first class on the entire upper deck. Others have ideal economy cabins at the rear of the upper deck and some even have different arrangements in their own fleet.
“Occasional” beds in the back
One of the most viral GSTP articles of all time was about using travel knowledge to secure an economy bed. It has since been revived many times and times have changed, but with so many people looking at extra legroom or the front of the cabin, sometimes the rear has its perks.
It never hurts to check the seat maps 24 hours out when the seats open for the entire cabin and most passengers, but also to check again before you get to the airport. Asking an airline team member if there are any empty rows after check in is never a bad strategy either. Low risk, high reward.
Flights are mostly full these days, so I won’t miss a better opportunity to get on and off quickly, but there aren’t always exceptions!
There is no time to waste
When you land in heaven, who wants to stand in lines for hours? Being among the first to get off the plane can be the difference in literal hours. If there are 200 passengers on your plane alone and they all take 30 seconds (or more) to process, there is real time involved.
It should take less than 5 minutes to figure out the boarding and deplaning procedures at any airport, and if you do, you can save time that could be much better spent!