Here is a travel hack to boost your chances of getting an entire row to yourself when traveling in coach.
This typically works best if traveling with a companion and only applies in plane seating configurations where there is a choice of aisle, middle, or window on either side the plane.
If traveling with a companion
When picking seats for you and your companion, pick the aisle and window seats–leaving the middle seat empty. If the flight is not full, people checking in tend to pick the aisle and window seats first. Generally couples who travel together often opt for seats next to each other, therefore leaving a desirable aisle or window seat open.
To further boost your chances, pick seats as far back on the plane as possible. People tend to pick seats closer to front of the plane first.
What happens if someone does end up taking the middle seat? Ask them to switch and give them preference of the aisle or window seat. I have never encountered anyone who was not willing to switch because what sane person wouldn’t want to get out of the middle seat?
Every time I have flown, this travel hack has had a very high rate of success. It is very rewarding to sit there in anxiety and watch people board until the plane doors close–and to find out the entire row is yours to enjoy for the duration of the flight. It’s like winning upgraded economy seats.
If traveling alone
Your best shot here is to pay attention at check-in and change seats to rows with empty seats. If the plane is half empty but you’re sitting near the front you’ll never get the opportunity to spread out in those rows.