How To Get A Free Empty Middle Seat On Southwest Airlines

Everyone has their own strategy for securing the best seats on Southwest Airlines. No matter where you sit, it’s a better experience than at a comparable seat on another U.S. airline because there’s more legroom. Southwest doesn’t even advertise this! But they offer one to two more inches of space than American, Delta, and United.

But what makes the biggest difference in comfort on any flight, regardless of airline, is having an empty seat next to you. And if your flight is full, that’s something which is largely within your control when flying on Southwest Airlines. If you fly Delta you hope they didn’t assign the seat next to you. If you fly Southwest, seats aren’t pre-assigned, so you hope no one decides to sit next to you.

There’s a whole subculture of people who have their own strategies for making sure sitting beside them is… undesirable. For instance, spreading out over the seat next to them, making it look like anyone who takes a middle seat next to you will be uncomfortable. Or crumpling up tissues and placing them on the seat to make it look like they’re sick. Who wants to sit on dirty tissues?

Here’s a new technique I haven’t seen though. As someone looks like they might sit down beside you, reach out and offer them hard boiled eggs out of a plastic bag. Do it with an impish grin, like you might eat them or at least creep on them. And what if those eggs are.. rotten?

As long as the plane isn’t completely full, someone is going to get an empty seat next to them. Sure, that could be you as a matter of luck. And you can increase your chances of it being you by sitting in the back of the plane. But why leave it to luck?

If you’re a young, attractive woman and the last passenger on the plane is a guy they’ll probably choose that seat next to you. But if you’re a middle-aged man or older, and you play your cards right by looking unwelcoming… or too welcoming… you can have a bit of extra comfort for your flight.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I fly SWA pretty regularly along with a couple other big airlines…but when I do fly SWA I always purchase Early Bird boarding and I (99.9%) of the time have scored an “A” group boarding and thus a great choice of seats. For personal reasons I select aisle seats. Now, that being said, I also always hope for two things: 1) that the flight will not be full, and 2) that someone will not select the seat next to me. However, I cannot control either one of those factors, and I will NOT engage in any of that rude, inappropriate “seat saving,” or other behavior which actively discourages a person to sit next to me. Call me old-fashioned (I am a Senior, BTW), but I want to treat every person who flies with me with the respect I would like back from them. “What goes around, comes around,” and “do unto others…” remains my policy for life!

  2. That’s solid. Been years since I flew SWA regularly, so I’m not afraid to share my top 3 methods of discouraging a seatmate…

    1. Forced coughing, blowing your nose, etc. Always a classic.

    2. USA Today. Open one of those babies up full spread and read. For one, it prevents eye contact with any potential seatmates, which is huge. But also makes a claim to part of what would be their space.

    3. This one requires a partner in crime, but is super effective. I take the aisle, as always, my friend takes the window. Then for the entire boarding process I act like I’m his boss berating him and threatening to fire him. Who wants to sit in the middle of that drama?

  3. When I flew SW with my sister and they didn’t announce that the flight was not full, she just starting hacking like she was losing a lung. She didn’t stop until boarding was finished.

  4. @Richard, I applaud your spirit of civility, sir, and endeavor to do the same.

  5. The only middle seats that I would prize on SW are the first row and exit row(s).
    No matter the ploy, I lay on my John Candy (Plane, Trains, & Automobiles) shower curtain ring salesman pitch in an elevated voice of, “Hey, is that seat taken!?” Women (yes, I said it) will give you the evil eye, and children will cry, but what the heck!! Even had a guy move across the aisle one time!!

  6. @Richard is right. I prefer not to conduct myself as a jerk while flying, which is exactly what Southwest rewards. Be a class act even if thise around you aren’t.

  7. Take off your coat and put on your cap and reveal your MAGA collection – few people want to sit next to that.
    Douse yourself in AXE body spray – makes me physically ill, but does drive the talkers and Karens away

  8. Risk of the OP’s method is you definitely increase your chances of sitting next to an egg-loving psychopath who sees one of his own there!

    Similarly, with the MAGA gear, you are going to attract the wrong crowd. As for Axe? “When you smell irresistible, anything can happen!”

  9. The back is where all the folks and families sit who won’t pay for Early Bird and don’t fly much. Noisier by far. Lots of kids. Lots of Large Americans.

  10. @Richard/Jake/Dave S. I didn’t see any of this attitude in another post. Treating others with respect. Do unto others. What goes around. It’s nice to see. Good travels guys! 🙂

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