Updated December 2018
If you fly domestic a lot, you know the pain of the cramped seats, the lack of carry-on space, and the struggle to find some kind of entertainment for yourself. Oh! You bet. The struggle is real. There is, however, a way you can avoid all of those while not paying a single penny more.
What is the most comfortable way to fly domestic?
The key is to buy a ride on a widebody plane like a 767, 777, 787 (dreamliner), and on rare(r) occasions a 747.
Let me backup for one second here to explain why airlines don’t fly widebodied planes on more domestic routes than they do. It's because most are done on birds like a 737 or an MD-80. I’m fairly certain, for example, Southwest only uses 737s. The reason being is that they’re smaller than their bigger widebody brothers which means, bottom line, they’re cheaper to operate on a domestic level most of the time.
However, on certain domestic routes you’ll find a widebody plane you can fly! That’s the good news! Sadly, there is no legit way to tell if your trip will have one until you’re buying a ticket. I’m willing to bet most are longer (cross country) flights. Like an LAX to JFK route. Other routes are probably on the popular side. Based on experience, I know American Airlines has at least one widebody flight a day from ORD to DFW (flight AA0328).
Finding a widebody flight: there are clues to look for during the booking process
Most of the time you can find the kind of plane you’re going to book on before you actually buy a ticket. For example, on American’s flight AA0328 they label it as a “788” (787-8). Another way is to simply use Google Flight to see which flights use a widebody plane.
Why are these widebody planes nicer?
First, they’re bigger. Passengers end up having more room. Second, (unless it's a really old 767) you're guaranteed seatback entertainment options because these planes typically fly longer routes. The domestic widebody flights I’ve taken the most (on American) are equipped with roughly 250 movies, and 130 TV shows as part of their entertainment system (pictured below). You're not always gonna get that on a narrow-body plane. Third, each seat/passenger has access to a USB, power outlet (both becoming a lot more common in all planes), and other bells and whistles you don’t normally get on another domestic flight.
These flights are great! Unfortunately they're hard to find. Which is why I kinda think they’re so special. And as an added bonus, they typically don’t cost more than any other domestic flight. So if you can find one that you can take...take it!
Here’s another special tip: if you want even more space, my favorite seat in economy on American’s seat set-up is the very last row, window seat. There are only two seats in that row which means the window seat gets you quite a bit more personal space on the window side of the seat. (Update: these two seats used to be free but American now charges extra for them.)
Good luck and happy flying!
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