Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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Is more leg room worth the extra cost?

March 2, 2015

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For most of us who travel in coach, a first or business class seat is only a dream, largely achievable through miles. The travelers who pay for those seats are the ones the airlines chase for their dollars.

But as airlines came up with ideas to bring in more revenue, seats were among the places that seemed a bonanza. Now, many have begun offering seats in economy with extra legroom, and some with even more benefits — for a price.

Is it worth it? Think about the frequency with which you fly and the comfort level you want to have on board. If you’re in a hurry to get on and off the plane, an early boarding feature might be among those that appeal most.

Legroom matters to many travelers, too. For taller passengers, it’s a must. For many passengers, it’s important to stretch frequently to avoid health concerns. Everything else depends on what you’re willing to pay for.

Here’s a look at some airlines and their extras.

Aeromexico’s product, AM Plus includes four extra inches of legroom, priority boarding, check-in at premier counters and priority baggage tags. The cost is a relative bargain, at $11 for domestic flights and $30 for international flights.

Passengers on Air Canada are offered Premium Economy across its entire fleet. Seat pitch in premium economy ranges from 34 inches on its smaller jets up to 37 inches on its bigger jets. Premium frequent flyers get the seats for free, while everyone else pays between $19 and $99 on North American and Caribbean flights and $69 to $199 on international flights.

American Airlines sells Main Cabin Extra, which offers up to six extra inches of legroom, seats at the front of the plane and priority boarding. Prices start at $20, and can be bought when a ticket is purchased or upon arriving at the airport.

Delta Air Lines unveiled its Comfort Plus in December. Passengers receive up to four extra inches of seat pitch, early boarding and seating at the front of the plane, dedicated overhead space, free drinks and premium food and snacks, and better inflight entertainment, starting at $99.

Hawaiian Airlines offers Extra Comfort on its large Airbus A330 jets. Passengers get an extra five inches of legroom, access to a priority security line on selected flights, priority boarding and personal power outlets on some aircraft.

On international flights, travelers get free Unlimited TV & More entertainment pack, a pillow and blanket, an upgraded meal and a comfort kit. The cost ranges from $60 to $100.

JetBlue features Even More Space Seats, with the cost based on the route flown. Seats feature 38 inches of pitch, along with early boarding, better access to overhead bins and entry into its Even More Speed airport security checkpoint lane at select airports.

Spirit Airlines has Big Front Seat. For prices ranging from $12 to $199, travelers can get 36 inches of pitch and six extra inches of legroom.

United Airlines has Economy Plus, which offers seats at 37-inch seat pitch and early boarding, with the cost depending on the distance of the flight. Travelers also have the chance to buy an Economy Plus subscription. Starting at $499 a year, you get guaranteed Economy Plus seating for a year.

Virgin America offers Main Cabin Select, where travelers receive 38 inches of seat pitch, priority security and boarding, a free checked bag and free select food and drinks. Prices range from $39 to $159, depending on the route.

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RESOURCES

Air Canada Premium Economy

American Airlines Main Cabin Extra

Delta Air Lines Comfort Plus

Hawaiian Airlines Extra Comfort

JetBlue Even More Space Seats

Spirit Airlines Big Front Seat

United Airlines Economy Plus

Virgin America Main Cabin Select

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