Age, politeness, and alcohol all appear to be key factors in seat choice.

For many people, the choice between a window seat and aisle seat is a no brainer. Who wouldn’t want the opportunity to look down upon the Earth from a height surpassing that of Mt. Everest?

A majority of Japanese people, that’s who, according to a survey by the Japanese branch of travel website Expedia. The site held a poll of over 18,000 people in 23 countries and found that Japan was the only place where a majority of people preferred the aisle seat to the window seat.

That being said, Japan slid into the number one spot by a slim margin, with 53 percent enjoying the freedom of movement provided by sitting next to the aisle. Nevertheless, Japan was the only country above 50 percent, followed by Singapore with 47 percent and America with 40 percent. India proved to be one of the most aisle-hating countries, with only 14 percent opting for this position.

Percentage of respondents who would choose an aisle seat in an airplane

Japan (53%)
Singapore (47%)
USA (40%)
Hong Kong (39%)
South Korea (38%)
France (27%)
Spain (26%)
Brazil (19%)
Mexico (18%)
India (14%)

One reason why Japan leans towards aisle-seating may have to do with another question posed by Expedia: When you want to get up, do you wake up your neighbor and get them to move?

Percentage of respondents who would wake a sleeping neighbor and ask them to move

Hong Kong (60%)
Brazil (59%)
Singapore (58%)
Mexico (55%)
India (52%)
South Korea (44%)
USA (36%)
Spain (33%)
France (27%)
Japan (24%)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Japan came in last among the top ten nations for this scenario, with only 24 percent saying they would wake the sleeping passenger. Hong Kong fliers were shown to be the most upfront, with 60 percent saying the best course of action would be to wake your neighbor and ask them to move.

How do Japanese people get to the aisle?

Climb past a sleeping passenger with back facing them (38%)
Wake them up and ask them to move (24%)
Wait until they move (20%)
Climb past a sleeping passenger with front facing them (19%) 

When faced with this situation, the preferred method of Japanese passengers is to attempt to climb past with their back facing the sleeper. Interestingly enough, passing with the front facing the sleeper is much less common, with only 19 percent opting to give a view of the groin over the butt.

Percentage of respondents who would negotiate with strangers to sit near family and friends

India (41%)
Spain (33%)
USA (30%)
France (28%)
Brazil (25%)
Mexico (24%)
South Korea (18%)
Singapore (17%)
Hong Kong (16%)
Japan (6%)

Japanese fliers are also one of the least likely, by far, to ask other people to move so they can sit closer to their friends and family. Only six percent said they would be willing to negotiate a seat exchange with strangers, 10 percent lower than the next lowest in the top ten, Hong Kong.

By now you might be thinking, “Wow, Japanese flight passengers sure are courteous!” However, Expedia also has some stats which may dispel that illusion.

Percentage of respondents who would go completely barefoot on the plane 

Japan (16%)
Brazil (11%)
Spain (11%)
Singapore (10%)
France (9%)
India (8%)
South Korea (6%)
Mexico (6%)
Hong Kong (5%)
USA (3%)

Japanese passengers are most likely to go completely barefoot in the cabin, at a rate of 16 percent. This would be to the annoyance of American fliers, only three percent of whom would be willing to do the same.

Percentage of respondents who would have over two drinks in the airport and airplane 

South Korea (38%)
Japan (36%)
India (34%)
Mexico (24%)
Brazil (24%)
Hong Kong (22%)
Singapore (20%)
USA (17%)
France (17%)
Spain (13%)

Japanese people ranked highly here, with 36 percent admitting to enjoy over two drinks per flight, both in the airport and on board. They were second only to South Korea’s 38 percent and far removed from Spain’s 13 percent of travelers being of the libation-loving variety.

Percentage of Japanese respondents who would have over two drinks in the airport and airplane by age

Over 50 (44%)
35 to 49 (32%)
18 to 34 (26%)

Among the Japanese passengers who like to tie one on while flying, nearly half were over the age of 50.

Percentage of Japanese respondents’ seat preferences by age

18 to 34
Window Seat (58%)
Aisle Seat (41%)
Middle Seat (1%)

35 to 49
Window Seat (49%)
Aisle Seat (49%)
Middle Seat (2%)

Over 50
Aisle Seat (61%)
Window Seat (39%)
Middle Seat (0%)

Given the age and alcohol consumption, frequent lavatory visits would be a near certainty for these fliers, and thus an aisle seat would be understandably ideal. Sure enough, the over-50 age group is actually the only one which showed a clear preference for the aisle seat and ended up pushing the national average towards it.

By the way, the full list of countries surveyed were: United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.

Apologies if your own country didn’t show up on Expedia’s graphs, despite being surveyed. It isn’t entirely clear why they chose those ten particular countries, but my best guess is that the ones not mentioned all just hovered around the middle and didn’t have an impact on the range of scores. The ones mentioned could also be the ones who frequent Expedia Japan the most, or perhaps their sample sizes were insufficient.

In closing, on a real or virtual flight, should fate place you next to one of the minority of Japanese passengers who prefer the window seat, rest assured that, statistically speaking, they will probably not wake you up when they want to stretch their legs. But also be aware that a drunk old barefoot guy may try to climb over you while sticking his butt in your face.

Sources: Expedia Japan, Hodo Kyoku
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Expedia Japan