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Some airline seats may cost more

If you don't want to pay the exorbitant price for a first-class ticket, your only chance to avoid the bone-crunching crowding of the airlines' coach / economy cabins is to wangle a coach seat with extra legroom. Rather than dole out those choice seats first come, first served, more airlines have taken to selling access to them.

Typically, you find extra legroom in exit rows, and in bulkhead rows at the front of a cabin section (the ones with no other seats in front of them). The extra space can be as much as seven or eight inches (but often is less) - the real benefit of bulkhead seats is not having anyone in front of you to lean back into your face.

Continental is the latest convert to selling extra-room, exit-row and bulkhead seats. Prices depend on the route, market conditions and - of course - ticket price and frequent-flier status.

Other lines have been selling those seats for some time.

The following charges apply for flying on cheap tickets (elite frequent fliers and travelers on high-priced tickets can usually access these seats without paying extra).

AIRTRAN Charges $6 to reserve any seat. Extra-legroom "priority" seating is more ($20 for a one-way trip from Atlanta to Los Angeles, for example).

FRONTIER $25 a flight segment for extra-legroom seats.

JETBLUE Extra-legroom seats range from $10 for short trips to $40 for transcontinental.

SPIRIT Charges extra for advance seat assignments: $7 for a middle, $12 for aisle or window, $15 for an exit row.

UNITED Has extra-legroom "Economy Plus" seats. You can buy eligibility by the trip or the year. Seat assignments are made at departure and are subject to availability.

US AIRWAYS Charges a fee for several rows of "choice" seats in the front of the cabin.

VIRGIN AMERICA Calls its exit-row and bulkhead seats "Main Cabin Select" and charges $35 to $110 for the extra legroom plus other, less valuable, features.


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