In the Good Seats

April 30, 2014
Fares from Washington DC:

    Q. Which airlines have the best seats (more comfy, more leg room) and which airlines have the least comfy seats? When is it worth it to pay for the extra leg room? And how much more should you pay?



    A. There can be a vast difference in legroom (or knee room really). Some Spirit Airlines planes have just 28 inches between rows whereas JetBlue planes have at least 33 inches between rows, without paying extra.

    However, seat width remains the same unless you upgrade to business or first class. And for many people, seat width is even more important than legroom.

    If you’re tall, it probably is worth it to splurge for extra room on longer flights. If you’re 5 feet 9 or under, maybe not. And if you’re wide then it may pay to upgrade to business or first. What’s surprising to me is that if you’re willing to buy a non-refundable business or first class fare, it won’t cost that much more on some routes. It used to cost 5 or 10 times more to fly in first vs. economy, but now you might only pay double if you’re willing to buy a non-refundable fare. As in the example below, for LA to Chicago there are $380 and $409 one-way fares on some flights and $717 for first class.

    Also, airlines are offering last-minute upgrades for very little compared to the original purchase price. I was offered a $350 upgrade to business class on a LA-NY flight from my original $189 economy fare recently. Had I paid in advance, that business class seat would cost $2500.  So always ask if there are last minute paid upgrades. And of course, it’s always a good value to use your miles to upgrade. 15,000 miles one way to upgrade to a $2500 seat is a bargain relative to using miles for a cheap economy class seat.

    We also see last minute upgrade offers from regular economy to “economy plus” (as United calls it), main cabin extra (as American calls it) and “economy comfort” (as Delta calls it). Fees vary depending on route and airline. These seats also include priority boarding.

    Before you fly, it's always a good idea to check out your airline's seat sitch on SeatGuru.com.

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