Though they're built to withstand air turbulence, airplanes are not the most comfortable capsules when outside air starts knocking harder. It's impossible to avoid the feel of turbulence when it hits, but getting the right seats in the cabin can slightly reduce the intensity of the experience. Booking early and discussing your concerns with flight attendants can help ensure you enjoy a smooth ride and a relatively worry-free flight.
When Turbulence Occurs
Rapidly-changing air motions hitting an airplane will cause turbulence. This typically occurs when airplanes are passing over mountains or even large buildings, as airflow is uneven in these spots. It can also happen when a plane passes near a thunderstorm or other type of unstable air mass, which is why turbulence is more common on summer afternoon flights than morning flights in places that experience thunderstorms. The effects of turbulence are usually worse during take-off and landing, because airflow is shakier at lower altitudes. Be sure to keep your seatbelt fastened and remember to breathe.
Choosing Smooth Seats
The best seats on the plane for less turbulence are those directly over the wings of the plane. This typically means somewhere between rows 10 and 30, but check with your airline for the exact rows, as they vary by aircraft. The wings of the plane keep it flying smoothly, whereas the tail on the back of the plane can bob more, especially during severe turbulence. The difference is slight, but sitting towards the front of the aircraft means you'll feel less of any impact of turbulence. This can go a long way in helping you have a smoother ride, both physically and psychologically.
If you get motion sickness when turbulence occurs, it would be wise to choose an aisle seat both for your comfort and that of your fellow passengers. Also be aware that choosing a plane seat in the middle of the plane can put you in the emergency exit row. While you do get extra legroom, you also must be able bodied enough to assist if the plane has an emergency landing. If that makes you a more nervous flyer, consider getting seats towards the front of the plane, like first class, premium economy seats or business class seats.
Before You Fly
To ensure you have the best plane experience possible, book several weeks in advance at the latest. Select your seat on a seatmap when you book with a commercial airline to ensure you’re in an ideal seat for the smoothest ride possible. If your flight has open seating, check in online and arrive at the airport early, so you can be in the first wave of passengers entering the plane. If you have a medical condition that requires special seating to avoid turbulence, approach crew members at your flight's gate and ask about reserving a seat over the wings of the plane, changing seats at the last minute or boarding early to ensure a desirable location in the cabin.
When you board your flight, inform the cabin crew of your fears and let them talk you through any fear of flying you might have. They can help you find a seat where you feel most comfortable, such as one in an exit row toward the front or middle of the plane. A magazine, story or book of puzzles can be welcome distractions during take-off and landing, and the rest of the time you can turn on electronic devices such as headphones or laptops to entertain you. If you feel more comfortable and the weather is nice, consider taking the window seat so that you can sit and watch the clouds go by. Remember that airplanes can withstand much more than the minor turbulence you're likely to feel throughout your flight, and that flying is safer than driving.