One of the most amazing aspects of flying in an aeroplane is simply looking out of the window. This is why I usually try to get a window seat when I fly. I know that this isn’t something that matters to everyone, and some people have a phobia about looking out of the window of a flying aeroplane, but to me it's an opportunity not to be missed if at all possible!
Getting a window seat becomes increasingly difficult with increasing size of the aircraft being booked– the bigger the aeroplane, the smaller the proportion of window seats. Aircraft like the Airbus A380 and Boeing 747 are ten seats across, so you can be a long way from one of the relatively few windows! Smaller planes give you a much better chance for a window seat. Travelling in a small group also means that you are more likely to get at least one window seat amongst you.
There are a few more criteria to consider than just getting a window seat though; avoiding the wings is a big one. I once flew on a Boeing 747 in a window seat in the middle of the wing root – it was like looking out onto a metal football field with no view at all! You can see in this view of an Airbus A380 flying over London just how deep the wings are and how many of the window will have their view obscured by them.
The front of a 'plane is usually mostly taken up with first- and business-class seats, so going for the front of economy-class section gives you a good chance of ending up over the wing. If you are familiar with the airline's seating arrangement for a specific plane you can go for the forward seats, which have their advantages; particularly, the wing sweeps backwards out of your view rather than into your view, and you aren’t looking through the hot, condensing, and turbulent exhaust of the under-wing engines. Generally, however, it's safer to go for the rear of the aircraft, to be sure of avoiding the wings. If you get the chance to make a choice in advance (which may cost you more), you can get reasonably accurate seating layouts that show the location and extent of the wings on seatguru.com.
The next consideration is: where will the view be? For example, flying up the coast of Queensland, Australia, on the way to Korea or Japan you will fly up the outside of the Great Barrier Reef, so sitting on the left-side of the aircraft will give you the best view.
The last consideration is the orientation of the sun. The windows on an aeroplane are plastic and they get scratched over time and are commonly not too clean, and they also get iced-up at higher latitude. All of these surface conditions light up when sunlight falls on them, causing them to glow and scatter light, which greatly reduces the clarity of the view, so it's generally best to get a window seat on the shaded side of the plane. Sometimes though, these limitations are worth putting up with if you are travelling at sunset or sunrise when the view towards the sun can be particularly spectacular.
And to get down to the really fine detail: its best to wear dark, un-patterned clothing. When the interior of the aircraft is brightly lit and it's darker outside, or when a lot of light is coming in through the window, light-coloured and patterned clothing reflects strongly in the window pane, obscuring the view. Here's an otherwise quite successful picture of lovely rainbow reflections, and clouds and their shadows on the sea; but if you look on the left side of the picture you can see that I made the mistake of wearing a mauve-checked shirt for the flight!
(Unkind people may say that wearing a mauve-checked shirt is a mistake at any time; but it's a great shirt!)
That's my thoughts on getting the best of the amazing views that you can get from an aeroplane!
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