Bulkhead seats are seats located directly behind an airplanes internal partition (like the divider between first-class and economy). These seats generally have more legroom, an armrest tray table, and easy access to the lavatory.
Depending on the size and model of aircraft you're flying on, there may be a single bulkhead near the front of the plane (short regional flights) or 3-4+ bulkheads on longer international flights.
The 4 main bulkhead configurations you'll likely see are:
- The very first seats on the plane
- The seats directly behind the lavatories
- Exit rows (not technically a bulkhead, but same idea)
- The seats directly behind the flight-attendant food stations
Is a bulkhead seat better?
This really comes down to personal preference. Here are some trade-offs to consider when deciding if a bulkhead is the right seating choice for you.
- More legroom (usually, but not always)
- Easy access to lavatory
- No one in front of you to recline
- Easy to get up and stretch
- Constant traffic from people using lavatory (more of a problem on red-eye flights)
- Smaller armrest tray table
- No under-seat storage means you must use the overhead bin during takeoff and landing
- Less convenient entertainment system (your screen is usually attached to the bulkhead or your seat will have a smaller fold-out armrest display.
Can I request a bulkhead seat for my flight?
When you purchase your ticket or check-in for your flight, you'll be able to select a bulkhead seat from the online seat map, as long as one is still available.
Some airlines reserve bulkhead seats for families traveling with small children, but will gladly give you the seat if you speak with an airline representative when you arrive at the airport.
If you're ever unsure about which seats are the bulkheads on a flight, the site SeatGuru lets you explore seat maps of 1,278 different aircraft -- you can even search by flight number.