Economy Upgrades: Worth it, or not so much?

Tracy Stewart, January 07, 2009
Fares from Washington DC:

    Here's a real feather-ruffler that's been filling up our inbox recently: Those last minute Economy Upgrades. Surely you've noticed the prompts creeping in at almost every step of the trip, from online purchase to self check-in kiosks. "Great news! Seats are available in Economy Plus! Would you like to upgrade, and enjoy blahblahblah extra inches of legroom near the front of the Economy cabin, for an additional blahblahblah dollars?" For an upcoming flight of our own, the price for those additional five inches of legroom is $64, or $12.80 an inch. Ok, now imagine a corndog lined up lengthwise at the tip of your left foot. Now swing your right foot out, careful not to exceed the length of that imaginary corndog. Ah, yes, exhilarating, isn't it? Having all that wriggle room? Isn't this something you'd be willing to pay for? The length of a corndog, for $64? Of course, the price varies from flight to flight, airline to airline, but eh. It would probably have to be priced like a corndog before we'd even bother to consider.

    And sometimes, apparently, you don't even get the extra 5 inches. You get nothing. Just another seat, a few economy rows up from where you were sitting in the first place. From our mailbag:

    On January 1, my husband and I flew US Airways for the first time. Upon checking in online, I noticed that they offered a "Choice Seat" for an additional $15 per flight/person. What a misnomer! I thought I was paying for a seat with more legroom (as I had seen on our previous flights with United). Well, our seats were not at all 'choice'. In all cases, we got exactly the same kind of seat as we had previously selected. The only difference was that we paid to move further up the plane, closer to the exit. In one case, we were 'lucky' to move from Row 21 to Row 16. Also, in both cases, we had screaming babies next to us for these 'choice' seats. Please alert your subscribers of this ridiculous offer.

    And of course, sometimes an economy upgrade just means an exit row seat, but not all airlines charge for those. Yet, at least. Check out our guide to snagging exit rows.

    Have you purchased economy upgrades on any of your recent flights? If so, what'd you think? Worth it, or not so much? Let us know in the comments section below.

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