If you're worried about getting a bad airline seat, it pays to check multiple sources before booking. Picture: Pexels.

Ask Clayton Conway about the worst seat on a plane, and he'll tell you about the time he flew from Denver to Seattle on Frontier Airlines.

"It was the worst flight experience I've ever had," said Conway, who manages a digital marketing agency on Camano Island in Washington. "I was seated in a bulkhead seat that not only didn't recline, but was also kitty-corner to a restroom. So every restroom visitor would inadvertently waft the nose-wrecking toilet stench directly toward me. It was horrific, and there was no escape."

If you're worried about getting a bad airline seat, it pays to check multiple sources before booking. Consult SeatGuru or another site, such as SeatMaestro, or talk to a travel adviser. 

Here's a short list of "don'ts":

Don't buy the cheapest ticket. "Step back from the computer and the thirst to score the lowest fare," said Jeff Klee, CEO of CheapAir. Instead make a list of "must-haves" when picking a flight. Do you need an assigned seat? Do you need a window or an aisle? Extra legroom? Make sure the flight you book has all of your must-haves. Sure, you'll have to pay extra. "But you'll be glad you did on your travel day," Klee said.

Don't wait until the last minute to book: If you buy a cheap ticket at the last minute, you're practically asking to end up in 30B. Exception: If you book an unrestricted economy class or business class seat, you're in luck. Most airlines set aside a few choice seats for big spenders.

Don't forget to vet your carrier: "Not all airlines are the same," said Tim Leffel, author of "The World's Cheapest Destinations." For example, domestic airlines such as JetBlue and Southwest have reputations for providing more legroom. For some trips, Leffel also suggests looking at a low-cost airline such as Mexico's Interjet that's "known for not jamming in so many seats."

If you don't have a seat assignment, mind your manners: "Don't dress badly, be rude, loud or otherwise self-important," said frequent flier Matt Woodley, who writes a blog about international moves. According to Woodley, nothing says "I belong in the middle seat" like "traveling in your jammies, being loud and obnoxious or incessantly bugging the gate agents about how important you are, how long you've been waiting or how important your appointment at the other end is." Ticket agents can and do judge you based on your appearance or behavior. They're only human.

Airlines use our collective fear of the worst seat to prod us into paying extra for seats that have the same amount of legroom we had on that Tarom flight. They know we'll fork over more money to avoid the 30Bs of the world, or to avoid being separated from our kids. In short, our fear of getting stuck on the worst seat on the plane is a powerful tool for increasing profits. But now you know how to avoid it.

The Washington Post.