Exit Row Seating Chart

George Hobica, June 12, 2013
Fares from Washington DC, District of Columbia:

    Most economy class airline seats are pretty cramped, but not those coveted exit row seats. Here, in chart form, we tell you how to nab these extra legroom seats.

      Advance booking
    At the airport Good to know
    First come, first served – can reserve exit row at time of booking.  $20

    Whatever’s left is sold at the same price as advance.

    Whatever’s left is sold at the same price as advance.

    Alaska Elite MileagePlan members and customers who purchase FullFlex tickets or redeem FullFlex awards. Everyone else You wish.
    No Have a look when you check-in, either online 24 hours before departure or via kiosk. If there’s anything left (and we’ve never, ever seen this happen), it could be yours. Flying Alaska without status is the worst. Really.
    American Elites (AAdvantage Alaska and oneworld) and active-duty military get access to exit row free of charge; AAdvantage Gold members qualify as well through 12/13. Everyone else has access to the seats for a fee.
    Varies based on length of flight – a recent flight from LAX to JFK was going for $39.
    First come, first served up until check-in cut-off time – same rules apply as for advance purchase.  
    American long held exit row seats nearly exclusively for its best customers; with the democratization of the process, don’t wait too long to book if you want one.
    Delta Available at time of booking to Medallion members and Y or B Economy ticket holders;
    M Economy ticket holders may reserve at check-in. Non-Medallion SkyMiles members may purchase 24 hours prior to departure.
    No charge to qualifying passengers, otherwise expect to pay $9-$29 for domestic flights and $39-$59 for international. You can try your luck, but better to log on 24 hours ahead like most others will to see what’s left. With every SkyMiles member qualifying for access ahead of time, commoners ought not to hold out hope for last-minute availability.
    Frontier EarlyReturns Summit members can reserve free at time of purchase, Ascent members can request for free at check in if pre-assignment not available. Everyone else can upgrade at time of purchase. These seats now fall under the "STRETCH Seating" designation; from $15 on up each segment for economy fares, from $5 for "Classic" or free for "Classic Plus", each way depending on length of flight. Yes, but with seats going free to many and cheap to everyone else, don’t wait. Exit row seats are open to everyone, at all times – just a question of how much you’ll pay.
    JetBlue Seats are sold as part of the airline's "Even More Space" priority seating program; there’s no such thing as a free exit row seat. From $10-$65, depending on the length of the flight. Can be purchased at time of booking, or on day of travel or at online check-in if any seats remain. Passengers buying these seats have priority boarding privileges as well.
    Southwest After all this time, nothing’s changed – still no seating assignments. N/A First boarded, first served Southwest doesn't assign seats, but if you buy a higher-priced "Business Select" fare you get to board the plane in the first portion of the 'A' boarding group, so your chances of grabbing an exit row are greatly enhanced. Those who purchase the $12.50 “Early Bird Check In” often have a good chance of ending up in the ‘A’ boarding group as well, but no promises. 
    Spirit Available for purchase any time, but like all Spirit seats, don’t get crazy – these aren’t all that spacious. $25 First come, first served If you’re bothering to upgrade, look into the airline’s Big Front Seats, which are often quite reasonably priced, at which point they offer a better value.
    United Part of the airline’s  “Economy Plus” scheme, anyone can buy a seat at any time from booking onwards. MileagePlus Premier Platinum and Gold have anytime, complimentary access; Silver members wait until check-in. No fee for elites. For everyone else, fee charged is based on distance traveled; the average is around $40; some international flights are much higher. Economy Plus is sold until it’s full — you may buy all the way up to the gate. After the merger with Continental, competition for the exit row and other priority coach seats can be tough.
    US Airways Held back for Dividend Miles Preferred members, even though the airline’s ChoiceSeats program, which sells off the better seats for a small upcharge, ostensibly does include “in some cases” exit row seats. We’ve never gotten lucky. ChoiceSeats are sold based on length of flight -- $15 from LAX to PHX, $45 from JFK to PHX and so forth. Try your hand at the airport on the day of travel. Why the airline would state that exit row seats are sometimes available when they really aren’t is beyond us. Oh well – they’ll be gone soon enough.
    Virgin America Exit rows are part of the "Main Cabin Select" section; fares are significantly higher than economy.
    Often ridiculously expensive – sometimes double the original ticket price. Though you do get free food, booze and other perks. Can upgrade at airport based on availability. Not worth the extra money, unless you need lots of leg room on a transcontinental run. VA lays on the bells and whistles, but the fact is you're overpaying for an economy seat. No amount of free movies and sandwiches can take the sting away.