with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

Looking for a Good Seat on an Airplane?

I recently found two articles packed with information on how to choose a seat, and how to get that good seat, on an airplane.

Microsoft Small Business – Business Travel – 5 Secrets to Getting the Best Seat on a Plane had some very good advice.

Your airline’s own Web site is one of the best resources for finding a good seat. The air carriers keep the most up-to-date seat maps of their planes. If you have questions, you can always call the airline and ask if you’ve selected a comfortable seat. Odds are, the phone agent you’re talking with has some first-hand knowledge of which seats are comfortable.

I’ve always hated being smashed in the stomach when the person in front of me leans suddenly backwards and my tray table practically dices me. Article author, Christopher Elliott, has this tip, that he hopes won’t get him into trouble.

Lower the traytable, fold the inflight magazine and wedge it between the traytable and seat. (See, those inflight magazines are useful after all!) There’s also a product called the Knee Defender that works the same way and keeps the person in front of you from reclining.

Frank Boosman in “How to Get an Exit Row Seat” tackles similar issues like leg room and vying for that precious exit row seat.

If you have elite status with an airline, it’s easy. Most (if not all) US airlines allow their elite travelers to reserve exit row seating at any time prior to 24 hours before departure. You don’t need super-elite status; any will do. So focus enough of your flying to get at least the lowest level of elite status with one airline — preferably the airline most convenient to your travel needs.

If you can’t do that, or if you have to fly on another airline, here’s the secret: most (if not all) US airlines allow Web check-in, and treat it just as if you were checking in at the airport — in other words, those exit row seats that were formerly unavailable except to elite travelers become available to anyone who meets the safety criteria. And most US airlines allow Web check-in beginning 24 hours prior to departure of the first flight of your trip. So set a reminder for yourself 24 hours prior to departure. When that reminder sounds, go to the airline’s Website and check in. You should be able to grab an exit row seat then — it’s your best shot.

Unfortunately, many newspapers and agencies are reporting recently that airlines are charging for exit row or aisle seats soon.

Northwest Airlines last week began testing a program to charge domestic coach passengers $15 extra to book aisle- and exit-row seats.

…Ebenhoch gave several reasons for the fee: to get more revenue; to accommodate customers who book late and pay more, only to find good seats are gone; and to keep fares low to compete with low-cost carriers. He compared the fee to hotels charging more for rooms with ocean views.

Airlines that have similar fees include Virgin Atlantic, which since 2002 has charged $75 at the airport for exit-row seats, and Air Canada, which charges $12 for seat selection for passengers choosing its lowest fare, called Tango.

Let’s see, no free food, no free drinks, payment for 2 pounds overweight on luggage, paid exit and aisle seats, what’s next? Pay toilets?

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