A Comprehensive Guide to Bulkhead Seats in Airplanes

Bulkhead seating refers to the seats immediately present behind the walls or bulkheads of a plane that serve to divide different classes. For example, a bulkhead can serve as a partition separating business class seating from coach seating. On the other hand, it is important to note that seats situated in front of bulkheads are not called bulkhead seating, but are considered the “last row” of that particular section of the airplane.

In aircraft, bulkheads have the purpose of separating different cabins into sections to separate them into different service classes like first class, business, and economy seating. These dividers enable the installation of lavatories, galleys, and crew areas.

Small planes or aircraft primarily used for short-duration domestic flights usually have only one bulkhead, which can often be found located between business and economy class seating. These partitions are typically present as a form of a visual divide like a curtain, and in bigger planes or those used for longer duration flights, there can be multiple bulkheads that are affixed between different sections of the aircraft.

While one might think that there is no significant difference between bulkhead seating and standard seats in an aircraft, there are quite a few differences. The first considerable difference is their provided view. In standard seats, you are positioned directly behind other passengers and are always facing the backside of their seats. Though, when in a bulkhead seat, you directly face a wall. Additionally, space that can be used for luggage and extra legroom is missing in bulkhead seats, and they typically do not come with moveable armrests featured on standard seating.

However, in general, bulkhead seats are nearly identical to regular seats and provide the same level of comfort to passengers with the inclusion of tray tables, and more. For standard seats, tray tables are attached to the seat in front of a passenger. As there is only a wall in front of a bulkhead seating, accompanying tray tables are stored along the fixed armrests. Though, when in use, tray tables applied to bulkhead seating are often closer to the abdomen, which can be inconvenient.

If a flight offers in-flight entertainment to its passengers, then passengers in bulkhead seating will also get a TV screen for their entertainment. The TV could be mounted on the wall in front of the bulkhead seat or it could be a part of the seat's armrest; however, depending on the particular IFE’s (inflight entertainment system’s) location, passengers may have to keep their screens in their resting position during  take-off, landing, and taxi procedures. This means that passengers in bulkhead seats often have less inflight entertainment in comparison to passengers in other seating.

While you might think that bulkhead seats come with extra legroom, this is not necessarily true, and it entirely depends on the aircraft and the airline operating it. There is an important reason why passengers in bulkhead seating are asked by crew members to stow all personal belongings in the overhead compartment at the time of take-off and landing. This is done as a safety precaution by the crew to keep evacuation paths vacant for those situated at or near bulkhead seats. It is also so that belongings do not freely move about the cabin.

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