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It is our mission to make sure we get the best seat for you at all times. Sadly, we`ve found that over the past few years, airlines are monetizing nearly every onboard service or amenity. That, in tandem with the introduction of new technologies, has made seat assignment an issue that is now more complicated than it used to be.

It is important to keep in mind that for those of you who end up not receiving seat assignments, this does not mean there are no seats for you on the plane. Airlines routinely narrow down the eligible pool of seats that can be reserved for free. Nowadays, you`ll find that approximately one in three seats are blocked off for specific groups of customers, such as frequent fliers and people with special needs. When these seats are available for selection, a fee may be required to reserve them.

Back in the day, checked bags used to be free of charge and the first row of coach seats were first come, first served. That meant that passengers back then could expect a fair level of comfort on every flight. Now, `comfortable flights` will cost you -- more than any published fare touted by the airline. Budget travelers who book ahead end up being denied the small benefits travelers once took for granted, say, 20 years ago.

What can be done?

1. During the recap portion of the booking process, you will navigate to a screen which gives you the opportunity to reserve specific seats for you and whoever else is traveling with you. We can`t offer this option for every airline, sadly, and note that the seats that are offered are not guaranteed. There can be dozens of people looking at the same flight you want at the exact same moment in time; they may have very well snagged your choice of seat even though you thought you were first. If you are confirmed for the seats of your choice, you will see the correct seat assignment on your airline voucher.

2. If you happen to fly on an airline on which seats cannot be selected, we have a robot which scours our reservations and is commanded to select the best seats available. We continue on with another robot which looks for unconfirmed seats grouped together in the same row.

All other seats are tagged separately and given to our Seat Assignment Team. This process can be drawn-out: First, if your flight is operated by a carrier that isn`t the same as the one shown on the reservation, the team will have to make the proper adjustments. Second, some carriers don`t allow for seat modifications until a certain amount of time before departure. In a portion of these cases, check-in `time` is actually a place -- check-in at the airport the day of the flight.

When we are done working on your reservation, we will let you know the outcome via e-mail.

We advise strongly that you visit the airline`s website yourself to see which seats are available for your flight (you will need your reservation code). Among other factors, you may want to look at seats with extra legroom and pay the fee accordingly.

Seat issues are not uncommon between finding, holding, booking, and the time period between booking and flying. This can happen for various reasons.

The flight might be close to capacity.

There are certain capacity guidelines set forth, and once a flight has reached capacity, no further seats will be assigned. This allows the gate staff and other airport employees to deal one-on-one with special needs travelers, people with delayed connections, no-shows, etc.

An equipment change is required.

Sometimes the information technology used by the airlines can be very inefficient. For example, you may be an elite on one airline and had reserved the Main Cabin Extra, but if your flight`s aircraft is swapped out for any reason, the row number and seat that once corresponded with a Main Cabin Extra seat might now be a middle seat in the back of the plane. Aircraft substitutions or `downgauging` (swapping out a 767 for a 757, for example) may occur, leaving you with a seat you did not envision for yourself.

A Federal Air Marshal (`FAM`) may be a passenger on your flight.

FAMs are generally accommodated in the highest class of service, in seats that are often very popular with passengers. These accommodations may occur at any time, and by law airlines must both comply and not reveal to passengers the reason for their seat loss or change.

How to Snag the Best Seats

Select a seat at the time of booking.

If you want a specific seat on the plane, it is important to get that seat preference reserved as early as possible. TripMasters allows you to select your seat at the time of booking whenever we can. Select the best avaialble seat by comparing the airline or booking engine seat map to the corresponding seat map on If you find your first-choice seat is not available, reserve your second choice; if you`re lucky, you can change it later and you may get your ideal seat assignment.

If your seat selection is not available when booking online, call the airline directly.

Time is of the essence so call the airline immediately after you complete your online booking so you can reserve the seat you want with a telephone agent. Again, if your seat is not available at the time of reservation, go with your second-favorite option and try changing it again at a later date.

Confirm your seat assignment the week of departure.

Airlines sometimes switch the aircraft type close to the departure date due to load factors and maintenance. Pre-reserved seats are re-assigned when these changes occur, leaving you without the seat selection you wanted. In addition, airlines will also release certain blocks of seats that may not have been available to reserve while you were finalizing your reservation. Check back on your flight and aircraft often; you may be able to snag the seat of your dreams if it becomes available!

Be sure to check in online.

Many airlines only allow exit rows and bulkhead seats to be booked on the day of flight. By checking in online, you can secure a better seat without having to arrive at the airport hours and hours before your flight. If you have bags to check, you can still check in online and pay your bag fees before arriving at the airport.

Express seats will cost you.

Some airlines have now announced a new seat level called `Express Seats`. Travelers now have the option of selecting seats in the front of the plane so boarding and exiting the plane can be done easier than ever. This level also includes the people boarding in `Group 1`, meaning not only do they sit in the front of the plane, they are also the first coach travelers to board. This is especially important for the travelers who want to board first but have never done so before now. Keep in mind, though, that this will cost you: Introductory fees start at $19 each way and prices vary based on the length of the flight.

What is premium economy?

`Premium economy` is a new class of service, an alternative to economy class that isn`t as expensive as an upgrade to first class or business class. These `premium` seats are usually situated at the front of the economy seating area. You will find that the seats are spaced further apart and in some cases the seat pitch will be wider than a regular economy seat. Other amenities `premium economy` customers can enjoy include free or `premium` beverages, priority check-in, additional checked bags, earlier boarding, and other services. Read below to learn about the amenities offered by a host of airlines that offer `premium economy` fares.

Premium economy offerings by airline

How much extra legroom you get can vary even within the same air fleet, depending on aircraft type and age, and whether or not the flight is a codeshare. Here`s an outline of what you can expect from premium economy by airline, including, in many cases, an estimate of how much you will pay on top of your economy fare to get these perks.

Alaska Airlines Preferred Plus Seating
•As many as eight extra inches of legroom
•Early boarding
•Free premium in-flight drink
•There is also a `Preferred` level, only available during the booking process.
•$15-$50 extra depending on length of flight.

American Airlines Main Cabin Extra
•As many as six extra inches of legroom
•Group 1 preferred boarding
•There are also `Choice Essential` and `Choice Plus` levels.
•Choice Essential offers a free checked bag and Group 1 boarding.
•Choice Plus gives the ticketholder additional miles, a beverage, and same-day flight changes with no fee.
•$20-$159 depending on flight length

British Airways World Traveller Plus
•Extra legroom
•Wider seats
•Personal entertainment screens
•Two free checked bags
•Amenity kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, eye mask)
•$165-$1400 more than regular economy trans-Atlantic fares (one way each)

Delta Comfort+
•Priority boarding
•Overhead space for your bags
•Extra legroom
•Free snacks and drinks
•Complimentary premium entertainment (TV and movies)
•$19-$180 depending on flight length

JetBlue Even More Speed
•Four to eight extra inches of legroom
•Early boarding
•Expedited security screening (select cities only)
•Similar seat pitch to economy (but still larger than competing airlines at 33-34 inches)
•$19-99 depending on flight length

Lufthansa Premium Economy
•Seven inches of additional legroom
•Two free checked bags
•In-seat amenities (separate armrests, large personal TV screen, complimentary water bottle)
•$250-1500 extra each way

Singapore Airlines Premium Economy
•Six inches of extra legroom
•Half-inch of extra width
•Special food menu
•Priority boarding and check-in
•Amenity kit
•$237-$1000 extra each way

Southwest Airlines Business Select
•Priority boarding (guaranteed A1 - A15)
•Fly By (expedited security lines in select cities)
•Premium in-flight beverage
•Refundable fares
•Same-day changes
•Double Rapid Rewards on the flight in question.
•Two free checked bags (standard for all Southwest fares)

United Airlines Economy Plus
•Additional legroom
•Priority boarding, screening and other amenities are available a la carte.
•$19-$200 depending on flight length
•Annual subscription for unlimited upgrades starts at $499

Virgin America Main Cabin Select
•Additional legroom
•Priority boarding and security screening
•Free live TV
•Free food and beverages
•One free checked bag.
•$39 - $159 depending on flight length

As you have noticed, some airlines offer quite a few benefits for a premium economy seat and others offer more limited perks. Make sure you are aware of what is offered on your flight before you finalize your reservation.

Not all premium economy seats are equal.

Premium seating can vary not only based on airline, but even on the same airline and on the same airplane. Many airlines place the premium seats directly in front of the economy seats, but these same airlines may very well not make a distinction between an aisle seat, a window seat, or even a middle seat, even though travelers can attest that those three seats offer three different experiences. Also, some premium seats may be placed in front of an exit row; you may not be able to recline these seats, but since they offer more legroom, they will be given a `premium` designation.

The good news is that many airlines do price middle seats, limited recline seats, etc. a tad cheaper than the normal `premium economy` fare. Thankfully, many airlines price these a bit differently, and you can save a few dollars on a limited recline seat or a middle seat.

One final thing to note: Many premium economy seats are bulkhead seats, which means you can`t keep your belongings under the seat in front of you; they must go in the bin. Note where you are assigned and look out for things like bulkhead seats, which you may not have thought about initially.

Your `purchasing window`

We suggest booking premium economy fares closer to your departure date. The base fare goes up closer to the departure date, allowing the upgrade fee to decrease and become an even smaller part of your ticket`s overall cost. Many airlines will also discount their premium economy seats the day of travel, in the hope that people will snatch the deals up last-minute. Check for these seats 24 hours before departure and in the hour you depart from your house or hotel to the airport.

Other Considerations

Here are some other reasons why people may be persuaded to purchase premium economy fares.

•If you need to run to catch your connecting flight.
•Sitting closer to the front of the plane usually means you get to board first. If you have fragile items in your carry-on, this may be important so you can have assured access to the overhead bin.
•If you know you`re going to work for a while on your laptop, those extra few inches of space will make the difference between being productive and doing nothing.
•For those who like to take naps, extra room can only help make you feel more comfortable. Also, if you`re tall, you may want to invest in the upgrade and the extra legroom.