This Is the Safest Seat on an Airplane, According to an Expert

Hint: it's typically a dreaded spot on the aircraft

rows of blue seats in The empty cabin of an airplane
Will the answer factor into your next seat selection process?
Getty Images

When choosing your airplane seat, details like extra cost, legroom and convenience likely all factor into your decision-making. You’re probably not thinking about safety too much because of air travel’s reputation for being the safest mode of transportation. And it is, but in case you were curious, there is one spot on an airplane that is safer than all the rest.

According to Doug Drury, professor and head of aviation at Central Queensland University, middle seats towards the back of the plane are, in most cases, the safest spots on the aircraft. He cited a Time investigation that looked at 35 years of airplane accident data to determine that the fatality rate for rear middle seats was the lowest at 28%, compared with 44% for aisle seats in the middle of the plane. While this isn’t a hard and fast rule, it does make sense. Airplane wings store fuel, which disqualifies middle exit rows as the safest options, even though they’re in close proximity to the door. In addition, people in the front of the plane will likely be impacted before those in the back, and sitting in the middle means you have human buffers on either side. Bleak, but true.

To reiterate, air travel is extremely safe. In 2019, there were only 287 airplane fatalities that arose out of just less than 70 million global flights. And according to the U.S. National Safety Council’s analysis of census data, your odds of dying in a plane are only one in 205,552, which is a chance we’ll take to explore some of our favorite destinations, new and old. But maybe the next time you get stuck in a middle seat near the rear of the plane, it will be just a little bit better knowing your spot is the safest.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.