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What You Should Know Before Booking a Bulkhead Seat on a Flight

What is a bulkhead seat?

An airplane bulkhead seat is the very first seat in a division between two cabins. Sometimes the seat will be behind a wall, a seat in a different cabin, or a different type of division between cabins.

Bulkheads on aircraft will usually be considered a wall in front of seats or when cabin classes change. For example, the economy class seat behind first class will be regarded as a bulkhead seat.

a dividing wall or barrier between compartments in a ship, aircraft, or other vehicle.

Traditionally, bulkheads look like the pictures below — it’s simply a seat that is right after the wall in the cabin.

Cathay Pacific A330-300 business class seat 20k bu
Cathay Pacific A330-300 business class seat 20k bulkhead
Delta CRJ900 first class seat 1A bulkhead wall.
Delta CRJ900 first class seat 1A bulkhead wall.

However, bulkheads come in different shapes and sizes. Bulkhead seats are not defined by a wall, but also a change in class. Typically you can find this on regional aircraft like a 737, A320, A319, CRJ, E170, E190, etc. You can see what I am describing in the picture below.

Delta CRJ900 Comfort+ seat 5C and 5D behind first
Delta CRJ900 Comfort+ seat 5C and 5D behind first class seats 4C and 4D.

As you see above, these two bulkhead seats on this Delta CRJ are entirely different, yet the seats are still considered bulkhead seats.

The differences will be different for each airline and aircraft as seat configurations will vary. For example, the economy seat behind the first class cabin has more legroom and allows the passenger to store their personal item under the seat in front of it. However, for a bulkhead seat facing the wall, no floor storage is allowed. Therefore, you cannot have your items readily accessible.

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Window Seats

These seats are perfect since you end up sitting a

These seats are perfect since you end up sitting against the wall. You can nod off pretty easily, and you get to enjoy a sky view upon departure or arrival. If you’re someone who doesn’t like the sun while flying, you’re at the prime location to control this. Plus, you don’t have to worry about being stuck in between two passengers. The downside of a window seat is that you’ll have to either wait for other passengers in your row to get up or bother them each time you need to get up to use the restroom. But the plus side is you can sleep through the flight without needing to get up for other passengers who need to use the lavatory.

Bulkhead Seats

Many people get a little glow in their eyes when t

Many people get a little glow in their eyes when they get to their row and notice it’s a bulkhead. These seats are in the very first row of each section on a plane, which is separated by galleys or lavatories. The biggest advantage is that there aren’t any seats in front of you and you don’t have to worry about others reclining into your lap and it is sometimes possible to get from the window seat to the aisle without making other passengers get up. But while there may be more legroom for your knees, there is usually less room to stretch your legs than a seat in other rows where you can extend your feet underneath the seat in front of you. Instead, there is a wall and you may have to bend your knees slightly for the entire flight.

How to choose the best airplane seat

No matter what class, selecting the best seat on the plane is essential for comfort and privacy.

Daniel wrote an article with 17 tips for finding the best seat on a plane. He writes tips and tricks of identifying the “best” seat in the cabin you selected. Plus, he highlights how different type of people will want a different type of seat and location.

Are Bulkhead Seats more Expensive?

The answer is maybe and it varies by airline and circumstance. Airline seat pricing is confusing as heck anyway (if you ask me) and that certainly extends to things like exit row and bulkhead seating.

Many airlines have multiple seating classes on their planes (including sub-classes in economy). For example, on United Airlines many of the bulkhead seats happen to fall in what’s known as Economy Plus seating which runs passengers a bit more than your plane ole-back-of-the-bus-I-am-broke-af economy seating.

But Southwest Airlines doesn’t have assigned seating or classes. It’s first come first served and so you won’t pay anymore for any particularly seat and you might just get lucky and be able to sit in a bulkhead row.

Where is Bulkhead Seating on a plane?

You’ve probably already figured it out by now, but in case you are a little slow:

Bulkhead seating is the row of airplane seats directly behind a wall, partition or other similar divider on an airplane.

Where is the bulkhead on a plane? The bulkhead usually divides one class of seating from another.

To expand on this a little bit, while the airplane is a giant tube, it does have a few different sections including (many times) different seating classes like First Class, Business Class, or Economy Class. Many airlines use bulkheads to separate one class of seating from another.

An example of this is noted in the YouTube video below from OneWorldFlyer:

A  bulkhead may also simply be the front of the plane. Specifically the very first row of seating. For example, on Southwest Airlines the bulkhead seating is literally row 1…the very front of the passenger seating section.

To give our readers some additional visual cues as what bulkhead seating looks like check out these additional YouTube videos which all feature bulkhead seating:

Pros

Many business travelers prefer bulkhead seats for the added legroom (on the plane configurations that provide extra legroom) and the ability to get in and out of them easily. Bulkhead seats are great if you want to sleep, simply watch a movie during the flight, or if you have no carry-ons that you need to get in and out of during the flight.

Are bulkhead seats good for toddlers?

Easier to pass baby between parents/caretakers: More room in the bulkhead made it easier for my wife and me to take turns holding Baby Murph. It also made it easier to shuffle things like snacks, drinks and baby paraphernalia without bumping the seat in front of us.

How can I reserve a bulkhead seat on a plane?

To reserve a bulkhead seat, you can identify and select it from your flight’s online seat map during the booking process. If you’re not sure which row is the bulkhead, research your aircraft’s particular configuration on sites like SeatGuru, which also includes tips, reviews, and passenger photos detailing the best and worst seats on each type of plane. 

If you’re traveling with a baby and need a bulkhead with a bassinet hook, call the airline ahead of time to make sure you’re reserving the right row.

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