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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2008-12-02

Travel Smart: Choose your AIRLINE and your SEAT
By Doug Murdoch, Think Tank Photo

Photo by Doug Murdoch / Think Tank Photo

Photo by Doug Murdoch / Think Tank Photo

Is there room under the seat in front of you for your bag?
As a photographer, you need to board the plane early in the process to ensure that your gear can go in the overhead or under the seat.

How your chosen airline boards the plane is just as important as the seat that you choose. Although there are sites like www.seatguru.com or www.seatexpert.com to help people understand the seating arrangement on a particular type of plane, but what they don’t do is tell you how a particular airline like United, Delta, or British Airways actually allow people to board the plane, which is of critical importance to photographers.

Check out this website:
http://leeds-faculty.colorado.edu/vandenbr/projects/boarding/boarding.htm

Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you will see a chart that shows "Boarding Systems" like "Back-to-Front," "rotating-zone," "Outside In," etc. and the airlines that use them.

Say for example you are considering flying on Frontier in Economy and you have never flown with them before. According to the chart, they board Back-to-Front, so you can simulate the boarding with the illustrations that are above.

If you watch the simulation, then you will understand that the people on the back of the plane get on first, so if you want to make sure there is enough room in the overhead for your photo gear, then you better be located from the mid section to the back section.

In contrast, United uses the "Outside In" method, which basically means window seats firsts, middle seats second, and then aisle last. So in this scenario, the best seats to insure enough overhead space would be a window seat, or a middle seat from the mid section of the plane to the back.

Personally, I like the window seat. But it would be a serious mistake for me to think that if I choose a window seat, that there will be enough room in the overhead compartment.

For example, if I fly Air Canada, which uses a "Back-to-front" boarding system, and I choose a window seat towards the front of the plane, then I will be boarding last (as opposed to United, where I would be boarding first).

As always, you need to fully research the airline, the type of plane, your seat, AND the boarding system.


(Doug Murdoch is the president and a designer at Think Tank Photo. You can also read his blog at www.dougmurdoch.com. His column "Travel Smart" discusses information and concerns for the traveling photographer.)

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