FLY – Is it Worth Buying Extra Legroom?

This week I was forced to fly to lovely Charlotte, NC on not so lovely US AIR (I call it US SCARE…I prefer not to land on rivers).  When doing my seat selection online I noticed all the seats up front has different prices on them, $6 for a middle seat??  $25 for just a regular aisle seat, but close to the front.  $35 for an emergency exit seat.  This is crazy!  I mean all the seats are the same, I didn’t see any difference when boarding with the exception of the emergency rows.

I decided to do some research on this.  As an almost exclusive Delta flyer, I had never heard of such a thing.  Here is what I found about various airlines:

  • AirTran charges extra for extra-legroom “priority” seating—$20 for a one-way trip from Atlanta to Los Angeles for example. Because AirTran charges $6 to reserve any seat, the extra $14 seems like a reasonable amount. Charges may vary depending on schedules.
  • Frontier is installing several rows of extra-legroom seats in its A319s and E190s, which you can buy and reserve starting when you check in, as early as 24 hours before departure, for $25 per flight segment.
  • JetBlue has installed several rows of extra-legroom seats in its A320s and one row of its E190s, which you can buy and reserve at the time of original booking. The price ranges from $10 on short trips to $40 on transcontinental flights.
  • Spirit charges extra for all advance seat assignments: $7 for a middle, $12 for an aisle or window, and $15 for an exit row.  Jeez, I’ll pass on this airline.
  • United has installed extra-legroom “Economy Plus” in all mainline aircraft. You can buy eligibility by the trip or by the year, but actual seat assignments are made at departure, subject to availability, and you may not actually get into the “Plus” section—a feature that severely degrades the attractiveness of the deal.
  • US Airways charges a fee for several rows of “choice” seats, based on being the front of the cabin rather than extra legroom. I didn’t notice any difference when boarding.
  • Virgin America calls its exit-row seats “premium economy,” and charges a fortune for the extra legroom plus a bunch of other less valuable features. It’s a bummer.

Alaska, American, Delta, and Hawaiian don’t charge for advance exit-row seating on their websites.  These seats are held for their frequent flyers.  You would think there was a way to buy a seat, but it doesn’t look like it. Continental doesn’t list pricing but states that they do charge for “premium” seating.

On a final note, I did pay the extra few dollars on my way down…and was allowed to go through the Elite line at security.  That was nice.  When I got to my seat, I had so little room I could not even use my laptop.  I think I’ll save my $6, and next time just fly Delta.

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