Airline Leg Room At What Cost

Airline ancillary fees for extra legroom and exit row seats are out of control. Hawaiian Air is the latest airline we reported to join the “unbundled seat charge fray.”

I’m all for more space on claustrophobic airplanes. And I’ve even been known to splurge for first class upgrades and round-the-world fares in order to avoid being in the back. I definitely prefer the quieter and less visually cluttered feeling of sitting near the front.

Paid Economy Seats

When it comes to premium seats in standard economy, however, I for one am not too sure that they’re always a good deal. Let me know your thoughts on that too. On the other hand, when I flew from Sydney to Honolulu on Jetstar last December, the $50 per person fee for the exit row seats was a fabulous deal.


  • Reserve seats immediately when booking. As you may recall, I reported that when Hawaiian Air would not reserve seats, I was unwilling to click the “pay now” button until they agreed to the seats I wanted. And they did.
  • Remember the best non-paid and paid economy seats will always go first. So the earlier you can book, the better your options.
  • Check Seat Guru before buying an upgrade to see what they report on specific seats for your flight.
  • Print the receipt for the upgraded seats you paid for and keep it handy at check-in. Sometimes seats may have been reassigned and you need proof of payment. This happened to me at JetStar. The upgraded seats I paid for were assigned to another couple. My receipt allowed us to obtain the seats we were entitled to.


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4 thoughts on “Airline Leg Room At What Cost”

  1. @Melissa
    I was on a United flight where the armrest controller wasn’t working…it was the one that had the numeric digital readout at the top with membrane push-button up and down controls for volume and channel selection.
    I was able to remove the whole thing from the arm rest (it was just held in with a set-screw that was already loose). I disconnected the ribbon cable to the controller that went into the armrest and plugged it back in and viola it worked after that…I guess it was kinda like a reset by unplugging the cable and plugging it back in again.
    Here’s a picture of the console I took apart:

  2. I flew Continental a few years ago to Hong Kong by way of EWR and didn’t purchase an upgrade for that 15+ hour flight. It wasn’t bad and the flight attendants were very liberal in letting you wander the cabin as long as the fasten seatbelt sign was off. Plus, I brought plenty of entertainment to keep me busy and really, Continental treated me well. When I had to take that same trip again, I didn’t bother with the upgrade because of the prior experience and again, it was no problem…
    But I do fear for my upcoming trip to Hawaii in 6 months on American Airlines…they are notorious for cramped seats…maybe I should look into upgrading…Boy do I miss the days of the 747!

  3. We tried to buy upgraded economy seats for our last hawaiian trip. By the time I hit “submit”, there was only one upgrade left, and it was automatically purchased. We decided to go ahead that way, but then my husband (of the tall shoes) discovered that the seat he got was at the bulkhead– not OK. So he was reseated. Before the plane had landed we had two apology messages from hawaiian, assuring us that the charge had been reversed. meanwhile, the crew gifted us with free drinks, free dvd players, and extra snacks. So we were oddly ok with the whole arrangement. But I wish they would fix it so that if you are in the process of purchasing the upgrade, you actually get it.

  4. With all the fees for headsets, DVR movie machine rental, and a meal…along with bag check fees…is it too much to expect for the airline to have the overhead light working over the seat? On a recent flight, my overhead light (and those of several rows around me) were not working therefore I could not read the book I brought along or use my e-reader. The $15 for the movie rental was a lot of money for a listing of either old (tired) movies along with a few undesirable titles. On top of all that, at the end of the flight, my e-reader was missing – go figure…

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