Chart: Airlines sell extra legroom (for a fee)

November 10, 2011
Fares from Washington DC:

    Back in the old days, comfortable airline seats came free with your fare. Now you have to pay extra for them. Here's what's on offer.

    Airline

    What's it called?

    Cost

    What you get

    Refundable?

    Who gets automatic upgrades?

    Available on all flights?

     Where/when to purchase

    American

    Choice Express Seats

    Per flight segment, varies with route and length of flight

    Seating in "first few rows" of economy and Group 1 (i.e., early) boarding

     Yes

    Active duty military and their family members traveling on the same reservation, customers traveling on a Y or B fare

    All travelers on flights operated and marketed by American Airlines and American Eagle

     Only at self service check in machines, 50 mins. to 24 hrs. before flight

    Delta

    Economy Comfort

     Cost varies with route and length of flight. Gold Medallions and their travel companions will receive a 50 percent discount; and Silver Medallions and their travel companions will receive a 25 percent discount, respectively from the published one-way fee.

    4 inches extra legroom, priority boarding; free adult beverages

     Yes

    Diamond and Platinum Medallion members and those with Y, B, and M class fares.

    Long haul international flights only

    At time of purchase of economy fare or at online check in.

    Frontier

    Stretch Seating

    From $15 each way, each segmen

     Up to 5 inches of extra legroom, plus exit row seating

     Yes

    Free for those purchasing "Classic Plus" fares

     All flights

     At time of purchase or check in, online, by phone or at airport

    JetBlue

    Even More Room

     Varies by length of flight (typically $10-$80 per flight)

     Up to 36 inches of legroom, early boarding, priority TSA lines at some airports

     Yes, unless you're a no-show

     None

     All flights

     At time of purchase online or by phone

    Spirit

    Big Front Seat

     Varies by length of flight and route

     2 by 2 seating in first few rows, extra legroom, early boarding

     Yes

     None

     All flights

     At time of purchase

    United

    Economy Plus

    Varies by length of flight, route; annual option from $425 (from $499 effective Jan 2012)

     Up to 5 inches extra legroom, seats at front of economy class

     Yes

    Mileage Plus elite members and Continental OnePass elite members qualify for complimentary Economy Plus seating on every flight with an Economy Plus section.

    All mainline jets plus many regional jets worldwide

     At time of purchase or at check in by kiosk or with agent

    US Airways

    Choice Seats

    Varies by length of flight and route

     Window and aisle seats near front of economy class; may include exit row seats

     Under some circumstances but not if you change or cancel flights

    "Preferred" frequent flyers

     Except US Airways Shuttle

     At time of purchase up until check in by phone, in person, or kiosk

    Virgin America

    Main Cabin Select

     Varies by length of flight and route; cheaper upgrades available 6 hours before flight

     Exit row and bulk head seats with extra legroom; free food, drinks, in flight entertainment

    Yes under some circumstances

     None

     All flights

     At time of purchase by phone, online or in person; up until time of check in.

    Comments