Flying these days is a legendary pain in the butt. Delays, poor service, annoying searches and all the rest are bad enough. But the cramped seats are the worst. No normal person feels comfortable with the amount of legroom offered in a standard airline seat these days.
The good news is that a savvy shopper can exploit a few simple tricks to get a seat that's far better than the norm. Here's what you need to know.
1) How can I get more legroom on United?
If you're flying United Airlines and want some more legroom, you are in luck. They are happy to give you a more spacious coach seat in exchange for some extra money. The product is called Economy Plus and if you value legroom you should use it.
2) How can I get more legroom on American?
If you're flying American Airlines and want some more legroom, you are in luck. They are happy to give you a more spacious coach seat in exchange for some extra money. The product is called Cabin Extra and if you value legroom you should use it.
3) How can I get more legroom on Delta?
If you're flying Delta and want some more legroom, you are in luck. They are happy to give you a more spacious coach seat in exchange for some extra money. The product is called Economy Comfort and if you value legroom you should use it.
4) How can I get more legroom on Southwest?
Southwest is ruining my snark by not offering an exact parallel to the "coach seat with more legroom" product offered by the other three major US carriers. However, Southwest's Business Select product is both less-luxurious and less-expensive than the business class products sold by the other airlines. If you want some extra legroom, consider paying up.
5) Why should I have to pay more for comfort?
Because the cost of flying an airplane — in terms of staff, fuel, etc. — is largely fixed regardless of how many human beings are actually seated on the plane. Consequently, the price of operating the plane needs to be divided up among the passengers. The more people who fit on the plane, the cheaper each ticket can be. The more space a person wants to take up, the more expensive each ticket can be. Charging less for smaller seats and more for larger seats makes good sense.
6) I'm tall, isn't this unfair?
Tall people have a lot of advantages in life, including earning more money. Indeed, the correlation between height and income is even stronger than most studies show because efforts to calculate a pure "height pay premium" normally control for gender and men earn more than women across the board. One great thing about having extra money is that you can use it to ameliorate a wide variety of problems — for example by buying more spacious seats on airplanes.
7) Are you seriously defending these greedy airlines?
They're not really that greedy. As of 2011, "in the entire recorded history of the US airline industry, cumulative earnings have been negative $33 billion." Airlines lost some more money in 2012. They've been mostly profitable in 2013 and 2014 but it's not clear that will last past the next spike in oil prices or a new recession. It's a kind of miserable business to be in, and that's why the people in it need to try to be smart about charging customers for taking up space on planes.
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