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Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Aircraft Seat Maps

Profile image of post author Michał Szewczak
Michał Szewczak · November 2021

At Duffel, we are working towards making the complex world of selling flights accessible to anyone. When designing our Seat Map API, we've investigated hundreds of real seat maps along with multiple existing seat map display systems. The findings were quite surprising!

In the spirit of the classic Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names blog post, here are 12 assumptions seat map display designers often make about seat maps. All of these assumptions are wrong!

Seat map examples are courtesy of SeatGuru.

The same aircraft model always has the same seat map

Airlines are free to outfit their aircraft as they please.


British Airways A321

American Airlines A321

The same aircraft model, operated by the same airline, always has the same seat map

Sometimes, even the same airline will outfit the same model of aircraft differently for different purposes.


British Airways A321 Domestic

British Airways A321 European

The order of cabins in the aircraft is always: First, Business, Premium Economy, Economy

Not necessarily! Airlines will prioritise efficient use of cabin space over keeping the ordering. For example, the British Airways Boeing 747-400 Layout 1 has First, World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy), Club World (Business), World Traveller (Economy) from front to back.

Aircraft seats always face forward

Half of Business class seats in the cabin often face backwards. Business Class and First Class seats can also be positioned at an angle.


British Airways Boeing 747-400 Layout 1

Seat rows are numbered with consecutive numbers

Some airlines skip row numbers, especially row number 13.


Ryanair Boeing 737-800

Seats in a row are numbered with consecutive letters

The "I" letter is often not used to avoid confusing it with the number 1.


Virgin Atlantic Boeing 747-400

Seat rows always have the same number of seats in a single cabin

Sometimes, seats are missing, especially near emergency exits or in the tail section.


British Airways Airbus A321neo Layout 2

The seat in front or behind always has the same letter

Sometimes, when there are fewer seats in a row, the letters of the aisle and window seats are preserved, and only middle seats are removed. This is often the case in Business Class or when there are fewer seats in a tail section.

Lots of seat map displays make the mistake of aligning the seats in columns by letter, which leads to misrepresentation of what the row really looks like!


American Airlines Boeing 777-200

Toilets and galleys are always placed before or after blocks of seats

Sometimes toilets and galleys are placed where seats would normally be. This often occurs in the tail section which has narrower sides but can still provide more seats in the middle.


American Airlines Boeing 777-200

Seats are aligned in rows in a cabin

In wide-body aircrafts, the seats between the aisles are often "staggered" in respect to the seats near the windows in the same "row" to fill cabin space more efficiently.


American Airlines Boeing 787-8

Seats are aligned in columns in a cabin

Sometimes, when a seat is missing in a row, the remaining seats will be shifted by half a seat to keep them centered.


American Airlines Airbus A330-200

Seats are aligned in columns in a cabin or shifted half a seat

Not even that! In tail sections, rows with missing seats can start out aligned with the other rows and slowly converge towards being shifted half a seat across multiple rows.


Eurowings Airbus A330-200

Duffel Seat Map API

Aircraft seat maps are very complex. At Duffel, we have a Seat Map API which allows you to display complex seat arrangements like these in a very simple and intuitive way. See the documentation for more information.

We have also have a drop-in Seat Selection Component which you can include in your website directly and we'll handle all the displaying of seat maps for you. Learn more about Duffel Components in our blog post here.

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