How to snag a better airline seat without paying too much more (or what)

Most of us only see the chairs like this in our dreams.


Recently, there have been a number of talk about making airline seats smaller. The good news is that after the ceos of American and Delta short squeezed their six-foot-plus frames in coach seats, the talking stopped (on that airline, anyway).

But let’s be honest, many of the coach seats are not as comfortable as we would like. In the past, passengers were much more likely to gripe about the price of the ticket, but these days, good deals are plentiful, so complaints tend to focus on the difficulty of getting an aisle or a window, especially now that some airlines make you pay a fee for something that is not a middle seat.


Let’s look at ways to better places for free, or at least without paying an arm and a leg.

Check your miles

Some people are airline mile enthusiasts, and can tell you exactly how much they have accrued at any given time. But I suspect that most of us have no idea. The next time you fly, contact the airline, you could bump yourself up to a better seat. At the very least, join your airline miles program. After all, if there are two passengers compete for a premium seat and one of the passengers is a member and one not, who do you think will be for the upgrade?

Check your credit card

If you have an airline-branded credit card, you may get some nice perks for free, including a checked bag, maybe early boarding, and maybe even a seat. If you’re not sure, call the card people and ask them to clarify.

Check your body type

If you what some airlines refer to as a “Customer of Size” and a chair will not do well, some providers recommend that you proactively purchase two seats. If you choose to do this, consider flying Southwest, because they allow these travelers will receive a full refund for one of the seats once the trip is completed.


Looking for a better place to 24 hours before departure

That is at the check-in for your flight starts: exactly 24 hours before take-off. At that moment, go on your trip and starts to check whether there are better seats are released (and this is quite common). If you are not yet your ideal chair immediately, change your seat to the best; eventually you may get the seat of your dreams. Or you can live with.

Consider paying a little bit for a better chair

Many airlines offer different tiers of seats for different prices. For example, the Us provides ‘preferred’ seats on certain flights from $4 to $139, while the Main Cabin Extra seats can range from $20 to $280. Then there is Ghost, who sells seat assignments start at $5, while a number of are Great Seats going for as little as $35 or so. Look at the seat price tags; maybe it will be worth it, maybe not.

But then again, maybe.



Your argument is in-person

Sometimes gate agents work wonders and if you are friendly and polite when you request a better seat. I am sure that many of these airline employees will tell you it is impossible (and they may even laugh at your audacity), but I have seen that such a request is honored. Never hurts to ask.

Rick Seaney is an airline travel expert and the co-founder of an airline ticket comparison shopping website

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