Airline Seat Savvy
With all the extra fees and security checks, flying can be quite a hassle these days. To make it worse, some airlines are trying to squeeze in more seats on their planes. That means less leg room and space for passengers. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com gives tips on what you can do to not end up feeling like a sardine.
Compare carrier amenities. If prices are close, consider checking cabin amenities on a site like SeatGuru.com or SeatPlans.com. There's a 5-inch difference in legroom on Spirit, which has the least, and some jets on Southwest and JetBlue, which have the most. Some also offer seat-back or shared TVs and Wi-Fi, which can help you ignore the sardine effect.
Review seat ratings. Those same sites rate individual seats, which can help at booking. They note which seats don't have windows and whether they recline, as well as other compromising factors like the proximity to bathrooms. Seats at the very back of the plane are also narrower than the rest.
Weigh paid upgrades. Fees for picking a seat range from $1 to $99, but what you'll get for that cash varies. On a few airlines, there's a charge simply to pick a seat at booking rather than be assigned one at check-in, and even premium assignments may not come with extra legroom. Experts say consumers are likely to get the best upgrade values with United, Delta and JetBlue, whose upgraded seats include extra legroom and in some cases, additional recline.
Angle for a free upgrade. Some travelers might not need to pony up for a better seat after all. Airlines often upgrade elite frequent fliers to premium economy seats if there aren't any in business or first class seats available. "Special class" customers like active-duty military or honeymooning couples may also be able to snag an upgrade.
Once you've booked, check back periodically as your trip approaches to see if a better seat has opened up. If you only check back once, do it 48 hours before departure. That's when many elite fliers get their upgrades, which could free up some great economy seats. There may also be paid upgrade opportunities at check-in, for less than full price.
For more information on snagging a good seat on the plane and other consumer tips click here.
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