The right seat on a flight can make the difference between a good and bad journey. But what do you do if you can’t get the seat you want?

First, check again online before you fly, or try calling the airline. Some seats may have become available since you bought your ticket. Currently all fights booked with Qatar Airways offers free seat allocation, whereas some other airlines can charge up to $50

If that doesn’t work, try changing seats at the gate right before you board. You could even ask for an upgrade, although these are usually only given to frequent flyers.

Your last chance to change seats is on the plane. “Most flight attendants don’t mind if passengers change seats,” says Michael, cabin crew member on a US airline.

However, even if there are empty seats, don’t just take one – sit in your own seat until the doors close and wait to see if another passenger sits in it.

If the seat you want is far away, politely ask a member of cabin crew if you can have it. As they may save it for you if someone else asks for it. But don’t expect to get a seat by the emergency exit. As most airlines charge extra for these seats, and flight attendants don’t think it’s fair to let people move there for free.

If the seat you want is beside you, don’t change until you’re sure nobody else is coming, or ask the passenger if they mind changing when they arrive. Passengers in middle seats are more likely to trade if you offer them a window or aisle seat.