The worst airplane seat in the world is often the one you just sat down in, the one right next to the rotund furniture wholesaler from Akron on his way to his daughter's destination wedding in New Jersey with a layover at the Chipotle in the domestic departures lounge. But there are seats that even under ideal circumstances provide flyers with an absolutely wretched experience. These seats are the icebergs of modern travel.
Fortunately, SeatGuru, the online resource for flyers attempting to cling to their sanity, has identified for HuffPost Travel not only the traits most likely to lead to a bad flight, but what may well be the world's worst seat.
The site's experts used a fairly simple methodology, culling the most frequent and vociferous complaints from its readers to create something akin to a police sketch of the worst possible seat.
Bryan Saltzburg, the General Manager of SeatGuru and TripAdvisor Flights, concluded that it would be "a middle seat that has no recline located at the rear of the aircraft, sandwiched between a misaligned window and the toilet, featuring immovable armrests, a broken tray, obstructed legroom due to inflight entertainment box and next to a seat with a baby bassinet."
Because broken trays and baby bassinets are not constants -- one can be fixed, the other moved -- the qualifications came down to: middle seat, misaligned window, near toilet and galley and minimal legroom. Using their archive of seat maps, the gurus went on a search for the single seat that satisfied all of these criteria and found something very close aboard an aging plane built by Soviet engineers in the 1980s and disconcertingly still in use by a major carrier.
The carrier? Aeroflot, Russia's de facto national airline.
Though Aeroflot's fleet now consists largely of Airbuses, it still uses the aging Ilyushin IL 96-300s to ferry passengers to Russia's frigid far east. The economy seats aboard the plane are 18 inches across and, in the back of the plane at least, they don't recline because they are too close to the galley and the toilet. They also don't offer any entertainment aside from Russian radio.
Though it is not a middle seat, 38A fits every other criterion for misery. It can't recline because it is in front of an emergency exit, which is why the window next to it is misaligned. It sits essentially inside the galley and next to the bathroom at the back of a plane renowned for the racket of its engines.
Realistically, the tray table is probably broken.
Rather than being cowed by the sheer horror of this nightmare seat, smart travelers would do well to learn a lesson from this exercise in aviation geekery: Picking a seat is an important part of booking a ticket. Taking a few minutes to strategize and check out your aircraft can make the difference between between a few hours of discomfort and a restful trip even if you don't get to choose your in-flight neighbor (and they're working on that).
Saltzburg suggests that flyers keep a few tips in mind while choosing seats: Anyone with carry-on luggage should avoid the bulkhead, where storage is limited; anyone sensitive to the cold should avoid emergency rows, which are noticeably colder; everyone should avoid the last row because it is loud and may not allow travelers to recline.
Strategies aside, there is a neat trick that almost always helps veteran travelers avoid discomfort. It is called "flying first class," and it is wonderful.