Every time I book a flight, my default seating preference is always by the window. It may not be everyone's favorite spot on a plane, especially those with 3-seats abreast (double "excuse me" to the loo and back!). Despite that setback, the window seat gives me a more "private" feel, with no meal carts or butts hitting my shoulders. But what makes this truly more appealing is what I see through this oblong window, increasing anticipation for that much closer look below later on. It could be a distant view of a mountain, a river, a city or thanks to an American Airlines pilot who announced a flyover - a great preview of the Grand Canyon.
Some pilots are like tour guides, reminding luckily seated passengers of earthly sights to behold below them. On a trip to Foz du Iguacu in Brazil some years ago, the TAM pilot merrily announced just before our descent to peer below and see what he considered was his favorite in Brazil - the Iguassu Falls. The pilot was so in the mood for a show-off, banking the plane left and right to allow equal viewing for everyone! My nose got so glued to the window it developed condensation. Later on, I visited the falls and literally got soaked in the process.
In the past, there were times when the window seat I've requested turned out to be a dud - 1. it's too far to lean out for someone who's not a giraffe 2. it's right smack where the wings and engines are 3. it has scratches perhaps from someone's fingernails 4. worse, there are no windows at all on a particular row of an airplane. Here comes Seatguru and Seatexpert to the rescue. These are two websites that tell me the best seats (and the worst seats) in the house.
Of course, snagging these coveted window seats is helped by being an elite member of an airline's frequent flier miles program. The premium seats - those at the front of the main cabin - are usually blocked and are available only to elite members making reservations. On many airlines now, non-elite passengers can pay extra for this privilege. A good way to elite membership, and thus get priority in seat selection, is to always stick with one airline (preferably on one with alliances to other airlines for more mileage earning potential).
After all that sightseeing and cultural immersion in some foreign land, flying back home and looking at it it from above as the plane descends is another sublime treat. It doesn't matter whether I'm landing back in New York or Davao - when I see the familiar outlines of the city and its buildings or parks or roads, I feel an instant connection. I feel a sense of having returned . . . back home again.