Chart: Airlines sell extra legroom (for a fee)

November 10, 2011
Fares from Washington DC, District of Columbia:

    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.


    What's it called?


    What you get


    Who gets automatic upgrades?

    Available on all flights?

     Where/when to purchase


    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


    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


    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


    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.


    Stretch Seating

    From $15 each way, each segmen

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


    Free for those purchasing "Classic Plus" fares

     All flights

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


    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


     All flights

     At time of purchase online or by phone


    Big Front Seat

     Varies by length of flight and route

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



     All flights

     At time of purchase


    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


    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


     All flights

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