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Two seats together on a plane? Be ready to pay fee
Air travel » More windows, aisles going to passengers willing to shell out extra.


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Summer brings passengers traveling in larger groups and fewer empty seats. Last July and August, a record 86.4 percent of seats were filled by paying customers. Planes will be "slightly fuller this year," said John Heimlich, chief economist at the industry’s trade group, Airlines for America. Add in seats occupied by off-duty airline staff and passengers who redeemed frequent-flier miles, and on many flights there won’t be a spare seat.

On a July flight from Dallas to San Francisco on American, a recent search showed only 28 of 144 coach seats available for passengers unwilling to pay extra. Of those, 21 were middle seats. There were five spots where a couple could sit together; groups of three or more were out of luck.

At a glance

What families can do

New seat assignments can be snagged for free starting five days before departure as some elite fliers are upgraded to first class.

Another block of seats is released 24 hours in advance when online check-in starts.

Gate agents can sometimes put families in seats set aside for disabled passengers or ask others to move.

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It was dramatically different for elite frequent fliers. They could pick from 75 seats, including nine rows with four or more seats together.

Another flight — New York to Los Angeles on Delta — offered its most loyal fliers almost twice as many seats for free, 111 versus 60.

Booking through sites such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity can add complications. If somebody inadvertently selects an elite seat or one requiring a fee, airline reservation systems won’t hold a seat. Passengers should confirm selections with the airline.




Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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