While doing some research, I stumbled across an interesting fact. Back in the 1970s, British charter airlines would number all the seats sequentially from one onwards. If you flew on something like a Dan-Air Comet 4 for example, you would experience this.

This is different to the accepted practice we are used to, where seats are designated by numbers and letters. You find your row number and your seat is one of the letters.

British Charter Airlines Seat Maps

For starters, apparently British charter airlines originally had no assigned seating. The letter below painstakingly points out that seats are now being assigned, “to beat the infamous ‘tarmac scramble’ to board aircraft.”

Clearly being assigned a seat in the charter segment was something new at this point. Even so, the actual seating plans themselves are different to what we are used to.

Each seat has a number and that is all. It must have been relatively annoying trying to find your seat. Just where is seat number 61? Is it in the middle? Down the back? Who knows!

Perhaps It Was Like That Back Then?

Apparently not. Looking at seat maps from the dawn of the jet age reveals this is not the case. Major airlines were using the number and letter combinations as standard.

Seating plans for the Boeing 707, like the one from Qantas above, illustrate this. You will also find it on American Airlines 707 seat maps and so on and so on. So that is not the reason.

Overall Thoughts

The question remains, why did British charter airlines number the seats sequentially? I honestly have no idea why they would do this, especially as the row number and letter system had been in use for years previously. I’m also curious how long this lasted.

These charter airlines also did other unusual things, such as the innovation of seat back catering. That was not without its issues and was done away with relatively quickly.

Does anyone have the answer? Do you know of any other airlines that had the seats numbered like this? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Steve Fitzgerald on Airliners.net via Wikimedia Commons.
Qantas Boeing 707-138B seat map via the excellent VH-JET#1 & Her Sisters.
Letter and Seat Maps from an aviation forum online, but alas I don’t recall where.