Continental Airlines is now charging non-elite coach passengers to reserve a seat with a few more inches of legroom. Seats designated as “Extra Legroom” seats, such as an exit row seat, have at least seven inches of extra space. The option to purchase a premium seat assignment with extra legroom is only available to passengers at check-in and the price will vary according to the length of the flight and route. For example, a premium seat on a Houston to New York flight may cost $59 one way. Elite members and their traveling companions can choose seats with extra legroom at no additional charge and Platinum and Gold members are eligible to pre-assign Extra Legroom seats prior to check-in.
Continental’s policy is not a new concept and several carriers have adopted similar programs. US Airways charges for passengers to reserve its “Choice” seats and United Airlines offers Economy Plus seats, which are located in the front of the plane and feature extra legroom. JetBlue’s “Even More Legroom” seats have an extra four inches of seat pitch and are available for a fee.
Bottom line: For elite OnePass members, this change will have little impact. Silver elite members, who are not able to pre-assign a premium seat, may fare better with the change since fewer non-elite members will be competing for the seats at check-in. For non-elite members in coach, say good-bye to the possibility of getting a few extra inches of legroom for free.