Why You Should Wait to Board a Plane Until the Last Minute

A flight attendant explains why the counterintuitive move is best

Passengers boarding an airplane with the baggage compartments open. A flight attendant explains why you should be the last person to board a plane.
In this case, the early bird doesn't get the empty exit row seat.

Up until very recently, I never understood why people are always in such a hurry to board the plane.

To start, unless you’re flying Southwest, you have a seat assigned to you. Whether you board first or last, that seat is going to be there waiting for you. Secondly, you’re still going to wind up waiting for everyone else to board. And, especially if you’ve got a long flight ahead of you, why tack on more time in your seat — potentially with very limited legroom — than necessary?

Well, as fate would have it, there are actually some other pretty legitimate reasons to hold off on boarding, too. Chief among them, it can help reduce stress during the holiday travel season per an Express.co.uk interview with consumer expert and former flight attendant Jane Hawkes.

“Enjoy a few more minutes sipping your coffee or reading a good book until the queue has almost gone,” Hawkes suggests. “No squeezing past people on the aircraft, no need to keep standing up for people if you have an aisle seat and no danger of being clonked by bags as fellow passengers pass by to find their seats. Simply head to your own at your leisure.”

Sure, it’s important to protect your peace and all that, but there’s another even more important thing to consider: The last passenger to board will also see all the empty seats on the aircraft, in the event it’s not a full flight. In other words, if you happen to spy, say, an empty emergency row aisle seat on your way back to your middle seat while boarding, you’re now in the perfect position to ask for a switch.

“If the plane isn’t full and there’s an empty seat which is more suitable, then it’s easier to swap,” Hawkes said.

Of course, thanks to the current hellscape that is checking a bag in 2022 and everyone resorting to traveling exclusively with a carry-on, boarding last also means you might wind up having to check your carry-on at the gate. But that’s typically at no extra cost to you and, if you’re flying direct, generally a nonissue. If you have a layover? That’s where things tend to get a little dicey, in which case…get in line, you best be the first one on that plane.


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