Book Better Airplane Seats: 4 Tips to Get More Legroom

Hey Rick, How Do I Get a Better Seat?

I get a lot of questions, and here’s a good one for anyone who’d like more room on a plane:

Q: Hey, Rick; I have some physical challenges and need more room on a plane. The airlines used to hold bulkhead seats for folks like me, but not anymore. Anything I can do to get a roomier seat without paying first class prices?

A: The days of preferential boarding for families and those who need “a little extra time” have pretty much come to an end in domestic aviation.

Airlines have long considered the relatively roomy bulkhead and exit rows seats as premium seating for their elite loyal travelers, and in the new airline fee generation we are now part of, airlines are doubling down by offering these prized seats as an up-sell, even before they offer them to elite customers.

The best way to snag the bigger seats is to achieve elite status with an airline miles program, and if that is not possible, try these suggestions:

Four Best Tips to Get Better Airplane Seats

  1. Check-in and select seats early: Some airlines assign free seats beginning 24 hours before departure, so make sure you go online at 23 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds to get a shot at those seats.
  2. Pay an upfront fee: Airlines like American, Southwest and many others offer passengers a chance to “cut in line” and grab a premium seat for a fee that can range from $10 to $40. Basically, they are asking you what a better seat is worth to you.
  3. Look for discounted seats at the airport: In some cases, airlines discount their paid seats (especially if they are not moving) and you may see this discounting at kiosks during the boarding pass check-in process. So even if you already printed your boarding pass at home, check with the airport kiosk to see if they have any “good seats” on sale. We will see this on the airlines’ branded mobile apps shortly so be sure to download them.
  4. Fly less busy days: Try to fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday, the days with the lowest volume passenger traffic; good times to fly due to less traffic include first flights out, and lunch and dinner time flights. This is when you’re more likely to have some empty seats to provide you with a little extra comfort, plus these days and times are typically the cheapest days and times to fly.

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Published: July 7, 2011