Northwest's Coach Choice Seats Are A Complete Waste Of Money

Reader Chris wrote in to warn us off Northwest’s “Coach Choice” seat upgrade. On a recent trip, he was offered the opportunity to upgrade to a “Coach Choice” seat for an extra $30 per seat. He eagerly forked over $60 for two upgrades, and was shocked and angry at what that Northwest gave him in return. See what a “Coach Choice” seat means to NWA, inside.

Hi Consumerist,

I just noticed The 10 Most Annoying Airline Fees and I had to tell you about Northwest Coach Choice Seats. You think United Economy Plus is bad? I personally am ok with it. You pay some extra money and they give you some extra legroom. It’s kind of like how fare classes have always worked. But check this out: Northwest has such a program and it’s a genius idea: you pay extra money, and they give you NOTHING THAT YOU DIDN’T REALLY ALREADY HAVE.

That’s right! They’ll sell you seat assignments (mine were $30 each, $60 for the pair) for which no extra investment has been made! No more legroom! No extra width! No better service! Hell, they’re not even at the front of the cabin! (Mine were row 28).

The trick is, they tell you the program is “designed to provide added choice and comfort!” That’s a laugh. And then the other trick is that by the time you discover that “added comfort” is a meaningless phrase and they are not exchanging anything in return for your fee, they tell you that whatever you paid is non-refundable.

Ok, fool me once. Correspondence with NWA Customer Care below.


While Chris bears some responsibility for assuming he knew what he was buying instead of making sure, it looks like “Coach Choice” is NWA’s way of pocketing an additional fare in exchange for nothing. In the airline’s words,

I am truly sorry that you found these seats to be the same as the other seats, however, these domestic Coach Choice seats are primarily a combination of exit row and aisle seats and are preferred by most of our customers not necessarily meaning that they have more leg room.

Chris went back and forth with the airline for a while, attempting to get his money back. Here’s another excerpt from near the end of the exchange:

I am very sorry you did not understand what you were purchasing at the time you agreed to these terms.

That said, we must again decline your request for refund of the purchased seats. The choice and comfort that most of our customers (that were surveyed) deem as important is aisle seats and exit rows. I am truly sorry to disappoint you, as I understand this was not the answer you were expecting.

For the record, customer response for Coach Choice seats at Northwest has been strong and has exceeded our expectations. It is clear that many customers value this choice, especially late booking business travelers. As a result of customer feedback, we introduced many enhancements in 2007.
We are looking at other modifications as well and appreciate your input. Keep in mind, only about 5% of domestic coach seat assignments are saved for Coach Choice; however, this program is an important revenue stream for our company and we are glad that you allowed us the opportunity to further explain our position.

As a gesture of apology for your disappointment, I have added 5000 WorldPerks bonus miles to your account. Please allow three business days for the miles to appear as deposited.

So NWA thinks what the consumer really wants in the opportunity to pay an additional fee for an aisle or exit row seat, though a certain number of people have already been assigned an aisle or exit row seat for free. Is the “choice and comfort” worth your cash? Leave your thoughts in the comments.