What Is The Bulkhead On A Plane (And Should You Sit There)?

Many of us have our go-to seats on a plane. Frequent travelers often swear by the aisle seat and believe it's the best choice for its easy access to the lavatory and a bit more elbow room. Meanwhile, fans of the window seat claim it's the best for cranking out some work or just enjoying the view. Conversely, there are some seats that are universally dreaded and advised to be avoided at all costs, with a bulkhead seat being among them. Then again, whether a bulkhead seat is a blessing or a curse ultimately depends on your travel style and who you're flying with.


To the uninitiated, bulkhead seats are right behind the partitions that divvy up the plane's sections. These partitions, known as bulkheads, offer a bit of a mixed bag. Some airlines tout these seats as semi-premium and even charge an additional fee for booking them thanks to the extra legroom they sometimes provide. But on smaller planes, the supposed added leeway is pretty much non-existent.

And sure, being in the first row of a cabin section sounds like a sweet deal. But the true value of a bulkhead seat is all about context. Traveling with a toddler who needs a bassinet? Bulkhead is your new best friend. Flying solo and want to keep your stuff easily accessible? Steer clear and save yourself the hassle — unless you want to be situated near a fussy infant crying for half the flight.


A bulkhead seat is good for people flying with infants

Besides acting as the partitions that slice up the plane's sections, many bulkheads have another nifty function: They're the foundation for bassinets for infants. Generally, children under 2 are "lap children," meaning you don't have to buy them a separate ticket, and they can spend the flight on your lap (although the Federal Aviation Administration still recommends kids to be placed in car seats). But let's be real — your lap isn't exactly the coziest place in the world. Your little one would be much happier stretching out in one of the plane's bassinets, especially on long-haul flights where everyone — including you — needs some decent shut-eye.


Not all airlines, however, offer this child-friendly amenity. Southwest Airlines, JetBlue, and Frontier, for instance, don't have any specifics about bassinets on their websites — so don't hold your breath. Meanwhile, American Airlines, Delta, and United do provide bassinets, but you'd better call ahead and secure one since they are usually first-come, first-serve.

One more thing about bulkhead seats when traveling with kids: The armrests in these seats usually don't lift. TikTok mom influencer @where.is.briggs pointed out that if your kid needs to lie down across two seats, doing so may not be comfortable for them. The silver lining? Bulkhead seats are situated closer to the bathrooms, which can be a lifesaver since many plane bathrooms have changing tables. Quick access to the facilities can make a world of difference during those in-flight diaper emergencies.


Avoid bulkhead seats if you want to keep your personal items close

Perhaps the biggest downside of bulkhead seats is that you've got no seat in front of you — just a wall. This means zero under-seat storage. Unlike regular seats where you can stash your bag under the seat in front, bulkhead dwellers have no choice but to make do with the overhead bins or, worse, be forced to gate-check luggage when they fail to get precious overhead bin space. This becomes a real pain on long-haul flights when you need to retrieve something from your bag. And let's not forget, you're probably sitting next to infants who might treat the entire plane to their wails and parents desperately trying to soothe them.


On the plus side, if your bulkhead seat comes with extra legroom (pro tip: Check the seat plan before you book), you can stretch out a bit every now and then. But don't be too shocked if random people invade your personal bubble. Even though you paid for that legroom, some people may assume that it's a communal aisle. As one Reddit user put it, "They aren't that great. Legit. People come up and do stretches and stuff their arse into your face and worse. A lot worse." Another added: "They will change their kids s***ty nappy at your feet. Back to the stretching. Just f***ing stop it." So, proceed with caution if you're considering a bulkhead seat, and maybe keep some earplugs handy.