|(Photo: Wayne Slezak, United Airlines)|
Air travel today can be a cramped mess, but who wants to pay an arm and a leg for a spacious spot in business class? On the bright side, a few extra bucks can often get you a few extra inches of legroom and even a single inch of seat pitch (the distance between the seat in front of you and your own) can make a difference.
If you’re on an airline that allows you to choose an economy seat for free and that’s all you care about,
SeatGuru has seating maps for every carrier’s aircraft. The only problem is airlines can sometime switch planes at the last minute, so your aisle up front could disappear.
Sometimes, a few extra bucks can be worth it. Here's what some airlines charge for a better seat in economy.
American: Starting at $4 (and up), you can get a more advantageous seat such as an aisle or window. But an extra $20 or more nets the real payoff of up to six more inches of legroom. Warning: Prices can rise to close to $200 per seat, depending on the route.
Delta: Extra comfort in the form of up to four more inches of legroom over regular economy need not cost a fortune. Example: On a Los Angeles to San Francisco flight in April, extra legroom was priced at $19 each way, but again, prices vary.
JetBlue: This airline already offers a comparatively good deal, space-wise, with 32 to 33 inches of legroom (compared to 28 on many Spirit flights), plus an 18-inch-wide seat. But you can get even more starting at $10 one-way by purchasing the Even More Space seat.
Southwest: You get a lot of freebies when you travel on Business Select (including totally refundable tickets, free drinks and free TV) but these tickets can cost 10 times as much as the cheap Wanna Get Away fares and all seats are the same size. If you want the comfort of an aisle or window, or a seat close to the front, EarlyBird boarding is your best bet. The ticket add-on is just $12.50 per flight no matter where you fly and because of Southwest's open seating policy you can be among the first to choose where you'll sit.
Spirit: The ultra discounter gives you no choice of seats if you do not pay; you’ll simply be assigned one randomly. Basic seat selection costs from $1-$50 or get a Big Front Seat (additional legroom, no middle seat) for $12-$199, depending on the flight.
United: Book an Economy Plus seat for a single flight from $9 to $299 or if you fly a lot and fly far, book a subscription form $499 to $1,099. You can also book Economy Plus packages that provide other goodies.
Rick Seaney, Special for USA TODAY