Is the seat next to me still empty? Which seats are blocked by the airline and may still be available at the check-in? How full will the plane be? All these questions can be answered by checking the seat map.
As a passenger, you usually only get to see the seat map when reserving seats while booking the flights or while checking in. What the airline doesn’t tell you: many seats are shown as occupied, but in reality, they are blocked. These seats are then available once you can check-in. These can be seats, where a baby bassinet can be placed, or simply seats that have been blocked so that there still are neighboring seats for passengers who are traveling together.
A free way to check this is by using the ExpertFlyer tool:
Viewing the Seat map With ExpertFlyer
ExpertFlyer is an online tool that shows you a lot of information about flights, such as how many award seats are still available, or how many seats of each booking class there still are, and many other things. Usually, you’d have to pay between €4,50 and €9 per month. One feature, however, is available for free: Seat Alerts. You can get notifications, when a specific seat or even an aisle or window seat becomes available. No matter if you want to receive an alert or not, to set this alert, you get to see the seat map!
- First, you have to create a free account at ExpertFlyer and log in. Under seat alerts, click on Create Seat Alert:
2. Afterward, you have to select a specific flight. To do that, you have to enter the Departing and Arriving Airport, as well as the Depart Date, Airline, Flight Number, and the Cabin:
3. After clicking Search, you’ll be shown the seat map:
On the right of the seat map, you can now create a Seat Alert.
The key explains the meaning of the different symbols. White seats are currently available and not blocked. All blue seats are either occupied or, if marked with an X, blocked.
Limits of the Free Version
Sadly, the free version has a limit. You can view a maximum of five seat maps per day. Afterward, you’ll get this error message:
You can then either wait for a day, or invest $4,99 (roughly €4,50) into getting an ExpertFlyer Basic account, or even $9,99 (roughly €9) for a Premium account. You can also test the Basic or Premium account for free for five days:
Not Possible for Every Airline
Sadly, not all airlines (e.g. Ryanair, Easyjet) publish their seat maps, as they are not all part of the Global Distribution System (GDS). Some airlines also only allow access before check-in opens.