Chart: What it costs to select your seat location

March 23, 2010
Fares from Washington DC:

    After checked baggage fees, probably the most disdained airline fee is the one for selecting your seat. Long a perk that came without charge--and one that costs the airline nothing extra to provide--it's now just another profit center. Here's what several airlines charge, if anything, for advanced seat selection.

    Earliest available

    Charge?

    Can you pre book an exit row?

    Premium Services

    Airtran

    During booking, before purchase

    $6-$20

    $20, book anytime

    Upgrades to business class available at set prices $49-$129.

    Alaska

    During booking, before purchase

    No

    Yes

    Some seats at front of economy section and aisle seats for premium customers

    Allegiant

    During booking, before purchase

    up to $75

    Yes, for a fee

    No

    American

    During booking, before purchase

    No

    Reserved for premium customers

    $4-$59 for preferred seats (window/aisle toward front); $8-$118 for Main Cabin Extra (more leg room).

    Free for certain frequent fliers and full fare tickets.

    British Airways

    Free at check in or from 24 hours before departure. Fees apply to choose seats at booking up to 25 hours before departure.

    Depends on class of service; For international economy and domestic UK, £10/$15 to choose seats from time of booking up to check-in, 24 hours before departure up to £60/$90 for other classes of service (First Class free)

    £50/$75 for economy/World Traveller Plus

    N/A

    Delta

    During booking, before purchase

    No

    Reserved for premium customers

    $9-$99 per segment for Economy Comfort (more leg room); $9-$59 per segment for preferred seats (window/aisle toward front).

    Free for certain frequent fliers and full fare tickets.

    Frontier

    During booking, before purchase

    No

    Request at check in

    $5 for select seats; $5-50 for stretch upgrades.  Free for certain frequent fliers.

    Hawaiian

    During booking, before purchase

    No

    Request at check in

    No, but upgrades available for sale

    JetBlue

    During booking, before purchase

    No

    Yes, from $10, depending on flight length

    $10-$65 for "Even More Room" seats. (more leg room)

    Southwest

    At boarding

    No

    No

    $10 for preferred boarding (“Group A”)

    Spirit

    During booking, before purchase

    $1-$50 depending on route

    Yes, for a fee

    $12-$199 for “Big Front Seat” in advance; $25-$75 for onboard upgrades.

    United

    During booking, before purchase

    No

    Request at check in

    $9-$179 for Economy Plus.  Free for certain frequent fliers.

    US Air

    During booking, before purchase

    No

    Request at check in

    $5-$99 for Choice Seats (window/aisle toward front).  Free for certain frequent flyers.

    Virgin America

    During booking, before purchase

    No

    Sold as “Main Cabin Select” seats for hefty fees

    Exit rows and bulkheads sold as “Main Cabin Select” for variable fees, includes free premium TV and meals

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