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June 2006 Vol. 32, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The Right Seats for the Long Haul

from the June, 2006 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Those long flights to the South Pacific can eat up a dive day if you arrive exhausted. Usually, foreign carriers provide more economy class comfort that American airlines, but there are ways to get more comfortable economy class seats, reports Wendy Perrin in the April issue of Conde Naste Traveler.

Boeing 767: They have a 2-3-2 seat configuration, so your chance of getting a middle seat is only 14 percent. On Boeing 737s and 757s, your chances are 33 percent.

Compare Seats: Choose your seat before you pay: Certain Web sites --Travelocity, e.g. -- offer a seating chart at the start of the booking process. Suppose you are trying to choose between two aisle seats, 26B and 26C, on an American MD-80 plane. Go to, click on American, and check the layout of the MD-80 to find out the pros and cons of the two seats. You’ll learn that 26B has less leg room and limited recline. Seats in the same cabin can vary significantly.

Emergency-exit row: Seats in these rows typically provide an additional 4-5 inches of leg room. Sometimes you can snag an exit-row seat by requesting one at check-in. Occasionally you can buy one.

Try switching: Does anyone in your family or traveling party have elite frequent flier status with the airline? Ask that person to call the customerservice desk for elite-level fliers, and you may get help. Or head for an airline ticket office to plead your case. Employees are often more sympathetic in person than over the phone. Try to change your seat at check-in, and if that fails, at the gate.

Join the carrier’s lounge club. A day rate is usually $25 to $50. Once in the club you’ll have access to the club’s powerful ticket agents, who can move mountains.

Book premium economy class: Available on some international carriers, these seats provide several more inches of pitch and width than regular coach seats, and cost 30-50 percent more than the cheapest economy fare. United sells access to the seats for $299/year. A companion booked under the same reservation record can join you.

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