Chart: Upgrading your seat for surprisingly little

George Hobica, March 12, 2010
Fares from Washington DC:

    If you fly a lot, you've probably been offered a business or first class upgrade for surprisingly little extra when you check in at the airport. But some airlines sell upgraded seats for fixed prices when you book your ticket, even on the lowest fares available. The chart below shows what's available on five US domestic airlines.

    Airline

    Price, short haul

    Price, medium haul

    Price, long haul

    Extra leg room

    How far ahead to book?

    Extra perks you get

    Airtran

    (business class)

    $49 per segment over Y class fares only

    $69 per segment over Y class fares

    $99-$129 per segment over Y class fares

    37 inches, 2 by 2 seating

    At time of check in (web or at airport)

    1st and 2nd checked bag fees waived, priority boarding, complimentary cocktails

    Spirit

    (Big Front Seat)

    Depends on route and time of purchase, but starts at approx. $25 over any fare

    Depends on route and time of purchase

    Depends on route and time of purchase

    36 inches, 2 by 2 seating

    At time of booking or at gate

    Priority boarding

    US Airways

    (first class or Envoy [international business] Class)

    Varies depending on route but can range from as little as $50 each way for a first class upgrade on short domestic routes to $500 on international fares; offered on any fare

    Varies depending on route but can range from as little as $50 for a first class upgrade on short domestic routes to $500 on international fares

    Varies depending on route but can range from as little as $50 for a first class upgrade on short domestic routes to $500 on international fares

    Depends on aircraft

    24 hours before departure

    Full first class service (meals, extra room, free drinks, priority boarding)

    Virgin America (first class)

    $70 on any fare

    $110

    $270

    55 inches

    6 hours before departure (used to be 24 hours)

    Full first class service

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