When is a window seat not a window seat? When that large view to the world below, the blue skies and fluffy clouds is replaced by the blank slate of a boring beige wall panel.
Almost every plane has them. The reasons are varied, but most often it’s because the space where a window would otherwise be is needed to fit in everything from thick looms of avionics cables to air-conditioning ducting.
In the case of the Boeing 737 workhorse flown by Qantas, Virgin Australia and Regional Express, there’s a specific point on the sidewall of the fuselage where Boeing places ‘riser ducts’ connecting air conditioning unit in the plane’s belly up to the ceiling, where a series of distribution ducts pipe air throughout the cabin.
The size of these ducts makes it impossible to install a window. On larger and longer twin-aisle jets such as the Boeing 787 there can also be points where different sections of the composite carbon-fibre fuselage are joined together.
(There are also seats which don’t have a complete window next to them – that can happen when the airline’s layout of seats doesn’t perfectly align with the position of the aircraft’s windows, so the windows are offset in front or behind the seat.)
Not everyone considers the ‘windowless windows seat’ to be the short straw of flying: for some, it’s preferable to lean against that smooth wall and catch a quick nap en route.
But if you do want a pew with a view, here are the seats to avoid on different types of aircraft flown by Qantas, Virgin Australia and Rex.
Qantas Boeing 737: seat 9A is missing a window
Qantas Boeing 787-9: seats 44A, 44K, 57A and 57K are all missing a window
Qantas Airbus A330-300: seats 28A and 28K are missing a window
Virgin Australia Boeing 737: seat 9A is missing a window
Regional Express Boeing 737: seat 9A is missing a window
Regional Express Saab 340: seats 2A and 2C are missing a window
Window seats without a view aren’t limited to economy class. The business class ‘window’ seats at the front of British Airways’ Airbus A380 – these being 50A and 50K – are adjacent to a blank wall, as are seats 16A and 16K on Singapore Airlines’ Boeing 787-10.
The quick way to avoid a windowless window seat is to visit the SeatGuru website. Its seating charts for most airlines flag seats with some kind of disadvantage such as a missing window, limited recline or close proximity to the lavatories.
(While you’re avoiding those red-coloured seats, SeatGuru also suggests the best seats in any cabin by colour-coding them in green.)
If you’re unsure which type of aircraft you’ll be flying on, check your ticket or use the FlightAware website to search for your specific flight number.
FlightAware shows information such as the flight’s current location as well as upcoming and previous flights: the column labelled ‘Aircraft’ lists what sort of bird you can expect to be on.
Additional reporting by Chris Ashton