The middle seat — it’s the one every traveler dreads, and now you may have to pay to avoid it.
Airlines figured many passengers are willing to pay fees to reserve one of these premium seats (don’t even start on exit row seats, those are in a league of their own) and are cashing in. “It’s a way to compete,” Max Rayner, a partner at Hudson Crossing consulting firm, told The New York Times. “If you want to go at premium times, there will be far fewer seats available at the lower end of prices.”
The price for the luxury of an aisle or window seat varies by airline. Here’s a breakdown of seat assignment fees for some of the most popular carriers out there.
This airline doesn’t issue assigned seats, so choices are on a first-come, first-serve basis when online check-in opens 24 hours before takeoff. Passengers can purchase an early-boarding pass for $15 (up from $12.50 in March) that’ll increase their chance of getting the seat they want — but it won’t guarantee it.
Last year, Delta introduced its Basic Economy fare that reduces base ticket costs (around $20-$40 per ticket). Of course, this comes at a price for consumers who choose this option since their seat assignments can’t be made until after check-in. That leaves more opportunity for those with an economy, first class or business class ticket to claim a preferred seat when they book.
On two of Frontier’s newest aircrafts, the Airbus A319 and A320, middle seats are about an inch wider than window and aisle seats, an attempt to combat dreaded middle seat problems. The carrier still charges a fee for booking a preferred seat (starting at $6 each), and if you don’t choose one, you’ll be assigned whatever’s left at check-in.
Spirit passengers have the option to pay for seat assignments in advance, starting at $5 per seat. Otherwise, the ticket agent will assign them based on availability at check-in.
American Airlines/United Airlines
While neither airline has officially announced a plan to increase prices or charge a fee for window or aisle seats, analysts said it’s likely to happen later this year due to competition from other carriers.
If you’re open to paying for a premier seat, there are other ways to save on flights. Check out some credit cards that reward travelers here. And be sure to check your credit score before you apply; you can view your two free credit scores on Credit.com.
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