Flying today has lost a lot of the perks of the “good ole days”. Meals, free checked-in luggage, and even being able to select a “window or aisle” seat when asked by the agent are of days past.
After spending a year of flying and taking over 60 flights, I’ve figured out a way whereby you are almost guaranteed to be able to get an exit row seat. This technique has worked about 75% of the time I’ve gone flying. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Booking Your Ticket
Book your ticket like you normally would. If you are able to assign a seat without having to pay for it, do so. Reserve your ideal seat if you were not able to get an exit row, just in case.
If I’m not able to pre-select a seat because of a fee, then I just allow the system to randomly assign me one.
Check-in online as soon as possible. This will be your first opportunity to snag that coveted exit row seat. Some airlines allow you to select a seat for free during the check-in process. This may include exit row seats too. So go ahead and claim that seat.
If you’re not able to select a new seat, or you still have to pay, you will have another opportunity when you’re at the airport.
At The Airport
Bee line it to a self-service kiosk and check-in again (even if you did so online the day before). You most likely have your preferred seat already reserved, but go ahead and press that “select seat” button and see if the exit row is available.
In the video below you can see that I had seat 31D reserved, but I was able to select an empty exit row seat instead! I made the change, printed out my new boarding pass and I was set.
If you are unable to do this at a self check-in kiosk you might be able to do so by talking to a customer support agent in person.
Others have different strategies that may work for you. Check out this post from Air Travel Genius.