Best airlines for extra legroom in coach
Yes, you can escape from the knee-crunching confines of regular economy class. And you can do it without raiding your financial portfolio to pay for first or business class. Several big North American airlines plus KLM offer "semi-premium economy," or several rows of regular economy seats with added legroom.
You generally get the same cabin service as regular economy, with a few extra perks on some lines. As an ordinary traveler, you can buy your way into these extra-legroom seats when you reserve your ticket or just before departure, on a standby basis. If you're a high-ranking frequent flyer or you paid full-fare economy, you might get in for nothing extra or at a discounted price.
(Sample fares listed are based on a comparison for midweek flights in February 2013. Seat measurements were found on SeatGuru or the airlines' websites.)
United has installed Economy Plus seating on all pre-merger mainline planes and expects the installation on former Continental planes to be completed by the end of 2012. The seat pitch is 34 to 35 inches, compared with the regular pitch of 31 to 32 inches.
Economy Plus adds no extras. United pioneered the idea of semi-premium economy in North America, and its long-haul planes typically have at least twice as many semi-premium seats as other lines' similar planes.
Sample Price: The base economy fare between Boston and Los Angeles is $338 round-trip; Economy Plus adds $79 each way.
Delta has installed Economy Comfort seating on all its mainline planes. The seat pitch is 34 to 35 inches, compared with a regular pitch of 31 to 32 inches. The flyers in Economy Comfort seats also get priority boarding on all flights and complimentary beverages on some international flights.
Sample Price: The base economy fare between New York and Seattle is $360 round-trip; Economy Comfort adds $79 each way. The biggest problem with Economy Comfort is that you can't see the price of the upgrade until you actually buy your regular economy ticket, a condition no other line imposes.
(Photo: Virgin America)
Virgin America calls its extra-legroom bulkhead and exit-row seats Main Cabin Select, and they're available on its entire fleet. The seat pitch is 38 inches, compared with a regular pitch of 32 inches. Main Cabin Select includes priority check-in, full meal and beverage service, and one free checked bag.