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Domestic Airlines: The Cost of Pre-assigned Coach Seats

The majority of seats on most of these airlines can be reserved at no charge, either during booking or check-in. Booking a pre-assigned premium seat (including exit rows and window and aisle seats near the front of the aircraft) will incur a surcharge. Elite frequent-flyer members are usually exempt. All pre-assigned seats on AirTran incur a fee.

Airline: AirTran
Program: (no name)
Fee (per flight): Exit row: $20. All other seats: $6.
When To Buy: Available from booking up to airport check-in.

Airline: JetBlue
Program: Even More Legroom
Fee (per flight): Exit row and other roomy coach seats: $10–$20.
When To Buy: Available at booking or online check-in.

Airline: Northwest
Program: Coach Choice
Fee (per flight): Aisle, window, exit-row seats near front: $5–$75.
When To Buy: Any time within 24 hours of departure.

Airline: Southwest
Program: EarlyBird Check-in
Fee (per flight): Early boarding fee: $10 (Early boarders choose the best available seats.)
When To Buy: Anytime up to 36 hours before departure.

Airline: Spirit
Program: (no name)
Fee (per flight): Exit row: $15. Aisle/window: $12. Middle Seat: $7.
When To Buy: Available at booking or online check-in.

Airline: United
Program: Economy Plus
Fee (per flight): Exit rows are considered Economy Plus seats: $9–$109.
When To Buy: Available from booking up to airport check-in.

Airline: US Airways
Program: Choice Seats
Fee (per flight): Aisle and window seats near front: $5–$30.
When To Buy: Available within 24 hours of departure.

Airline: Virgin America
Program: Main Cabin Select
Fee (per flight): Exit rows and bulkhead seats, plus perks: up to $500 at booking; $25–100 if you upgrade during online check-in.
When To Buy: Available at booking or online check-in.

At press time, the following airlines don’t charge for any pre-assigned coach seats: Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, Frontier, Hawaiian, Midwest*.

*Charges extra for “premium economy” seats, but not for exit row or other preferred coach seats.

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