How to Get That Precious Exit Row Seat

Most FareCompare readers know the allure of the exit row seats, the oasis in the harsh desert of cheap flights. These seats usually have extra legroom, and better yet, the row in front of the exit row often has non-reclining seats, so you may avoid having someone’s head in your lap during the flight. Some airlines have begun charging extra for the privilege of sitting in an exit row, but not all do.

5 Exit Row Seat Tips

1. Five days before your flight, start checking for better seats. A few airlines let their preferred members start upgrading to first class or business class five days prior to departure. Some of these folks may leave behind choice seats, so checking for better seats in the five days before your flight can pay off.

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2. Join the airline’s frequent flyer program, even if you don’t fly often. You may qualify for perks like priority boarding and the best airfares.

3. Make sure you’re eligible for an exit row seat, particularly when traveling as a family. Unaccompanied minors and children under 12 (and sometimes under 15) are barred from these seats, as are infants and passengers with physical or mental limitations that could keep them from coping with the emergency door if necessary. Passengers traveling with pets or service animals are ineligible, as are passengers who don’t speak and understand the languages used by the flight crew.

4. If you can select your seat during booking, do so. Some flyers call the airline and speak to a live agent if they don’t see a seat they like listed online, because sometimes what’s shown on the website differs from what’s actually available.

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5. Check again 24 hours before your flight. Certain airlines don’t let passengers reserve seats until 24 hours before departure, and if this is the case, be ready: set an alarm for 15 minutes before that 24-hour window opens and be ready to pounce. You’ll be amazed at how fast the good seats go.

6. If you manage to grab an exit row seat ahead of time, confirm your seat when you check in. Usually you can check in 24 hours before the flight departs. Set an alarm so you can check in as soon as the site lets you. You can confirm the seat you have, and if you don’t have an exit row seat, you may have the opportunity to change to one at check-in if someone has canceled or upgraded.

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7. When booking Southwest airline tickets, check in early to maximize your chances of claiming a decent seat. You could pay $10 for Southwest’s EarlyBird check-in, which allows you to check in before flyers using the traditional check-in method. However, there is no limit as to how many passengers can use EarlyBird check-in and it doesn’t guarantee you an “A” boarding pass.

8. Arrive at the airport early. Reach your gate too close to departure and you could lose your seat.

As of this writing, here are the exit row fees charged by each of the major airlines:

Fees for Exit Row Seating

$20 each way
No fee
No fee
Fees vary by flight
Free for Gold Medallion members 24 hours before departure
No fee, but must check in at airport
$10 to $20 each way
No fee
No fee if you’re a 1K Customer
No fee if you’re a Preferred Member
$25 to $100 at online check-in

 

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Published: May 3, 2012