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.



Edit Your Comment

  1. Megladon says:

    Dont most travel adgents let you pick if you want a window or an aisle seat anyways?

  2. Bladefist says:

    I unconsciously blurt out “NO” every time I hear the word “upgrade” “service contract” “extended warranty”

  3. Invalid_User_Name says:

    So 2/3 of the existing seats are now deemed “preferred” and “an important revenue stream” for Northwest? What were they last year?

  4. kcrusher says:

    Can’t you just, you know, ASK for an exit or aisle seat when booking?

    Another gouge for the uninformed consumer, IMHO…

  5. Row 28? Unless that was an exit row (unlikely), he got screwed. The normal coach choice seats are usually not too bad of a price, generally exit rows, so they have extra leg room, you get to board earlier than others since you’re in an exit row.

    A little tip – check out the layout of the plain before you go. You can see which type of plane you have if you check your reservation online. SeatGuru helps you to choose which seats you want, and the seats are reviewed by those who have used them.


  6. bohemian says:

    Does anyone who travels frequently know if the non US airlines are any better on service or are they flying Greyhound busses to?

  7. Dobernala says:

    chargeback the $60 and see how far you get doing that.

  8. bluebuilder says:

    @Bladefist: Add, “Anything a Best Buy employee is about to say.” to that list and you pretty much got it covered.

  9. APFPilot says:

    best part is that the seats we more than likely on a 40 year old dc-9 anyway

  10. Hogan1 says:

    Coach Choice is plainly labeled as just being based on location, not additional legroom. I’ve flown Northwest a half dozen times so far this year and its clearly stated when it’s offered at check in on the website. If you don’t read the description, and it doesn’t meet your expectations, you have only yourself to blame.

  11. Cogito Ergo Bibo says:

    Ridiculous. Mind you, I only travel for pleasure and always book ahead of time, allowing me to pick aisle forward seats for no extra feel. If I were traveling at the last minute for work (or an emergency) and the trip were long enough, it might be worth something to me to pay for an aisle seat, IF I knew exactly what I was paying for. Sounds like Chris didn’t. Sure, he should have asked more questions, but I can see how he’d presume it would be similar to what he received on other airlines. At least they gave him something, even if that only came down to miles. The way the automatic minimums for miles are drying up, 5,000 miles is actually a decent award.

  12. petrarch1608 says:

    i love flying Southwest, they allow you to choose your own seat, they have flexible cancellations/rescheduling, a pretty good rewards program and on top of that they are CHEAP.

  13. holocron says:

    Sorry, you’re a fool for having purchased this in the first place. While it is a dumb fee, there’s no way you can make a mistake about what you are getting.

  14. nedzeppelin says:

    wait until you randomly draw an exit or aisle seat – and sell it on ebay or someone else waiting in line for 20 dollars each. you just switch seats when you get on the plane

  15. MissTicklebritches says:

    Perhaps that was the fee for a urine-free seat.

  16. BuddyGuyMontag says:

    He did get 5000 miles out of it though… that’s not too shabby.

  17. Jeff_McAwes0me says:

    I usually fly Northwest and they have the coach choice seats labelled on the map of the seats where you can select your seats online.

    They are usually in the first 2 rows of the plane, they are slightly better because you get off the plane faster. Some of them don’t have any seats in front of them so you do get more leg room.

    I’ve never seen a seat in row 28 be a coach choice seat though.

  18. ianmac47 says:

    Of course business travelers probably enjoy this because it isn’t their money.

  19. blong81 says:

    @BuddyGuyMontag: I’m not in the know about these “miles”. What does this equate to? About $3.82?

  20. dustincimino says:

    Northwest is horrible, rude staff and every time we have flown with them our plane gets delayed, breaks or something goes wrong. Hell they made us stay at BWI for 3 days because they wouldn’t fly our dogs because it was 1 degree over (81) They also lost one of our bags and gave us vouchers for some crappy hotel. I would advice the OP to contact somebody on the high ups to get your money back.

  21. Jesse says:

    This company always makes me chuckle. The name reminds me of the rap group.

  22. sprocket79 says:

    I’m flying NWA next week and the seat assignments I have are crap. I had to pick a middle seat because the only other ones available are seats you have to pay for. Ridiculous. I’m hoping that on the day of the flight that I will be able to get a different seat assignment because this is stupid. Luckily the aisle seat next to me isn’t filled because it’s a “choice seat” and no fool has bought it yet. God willing no one does if I’m stuck with the middle!

  23. uncle_fluffy says:

    @blong81: 20% of a free domestic roundtrip. Not too bad, if you ask me.

  24. dmuth says:

    It sounds to me like Northwest misrepresented the product. I think this would be worth dropping a note to the Attorney General’s Office.

  25. blong81 says:

    @uncle_fluffy: Thanks. Yea, that’s not too bad. They could have just completely blew him off, but I would suspect that they want his money in the future so they gave him a little something.

  26. m1k3g says:

    “For the record, customer response for Coach Choice seats at Northwest has been strong and has exceeded our expectations.”
    Marketing Speak for “We never realized that there were so many stupid people out there”…

  27. muffinpan says:

    Bottom Line they are just sucking extra money out of you and offering what they should give you for free. A seat assignment. What a bunch of crap. Forget the 10 most anoying airline fees. Every fee ties for number one on that list. What happened to I buy a ticket on your airline you fly me to where I need to go. That’s it. And hey, charge me whatever you think that the service is worth. I’ll then make the decision to buy the ticket or not.

  28. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    @petrarch1608: Everything else had better be good, considering how they’ll think nothing of putting you on a plane with a cracked fuselage.

  29. @ianmac47:

    I fly weekly for business and my company (and the client they bill my travel expenses to) won’t pay for this kind of a la carte stuff.

    I ended up flying NWA for the first time in a while a few weeks ago and got stuck with the choice between paying out of my own pocket, or enduring a middle seat for a 6 hour journey. Ugh.

  30. ReverendDrGladhands says:

    Last month, I flew from O’hare to Logan on United. I requested an exit row seat at the gate, since I’m 6’5″, and have long legs, even for a man of my height. I was told that I had to purchase an Economy Plus upgrade. Since my fiancee and I were traveling together, I paid for two upgrades.

    What the gate agent failed to tell me, is that there were only TWELVE people on the flight. After we boarded, the flight attendant actually walked through the plane and ASKED other passengers to fill in the exit rows.
    The attendant allowed me to de-board to request a refund.

    I requested a refund at the gate and was denied. the agent said “Our policy states that we have to charge extra for premium seats”. I asked if they thought that making me pay for the upgrade, when there were only 12 people on the flight was good customer service, and the woman at the gate actually had the gall to tell me that it was, in fact, good customer service.

  31. @Jesse: Except NWA, the rap group, would probably be far easier to deal with than NWA, the airline.

  32. petrarch1608 says:

    @A.W.E.S.O.M.-O: Southwest is still one of the safest airlines in the country. They haven’t had any fatal crashes except that time a piece of landing gear fell and killed that kid in chicago.

  33. MrEvil says:

    One more reason to take the train I guess. Amtrak’s coach seating is like an airline’s first class, and don’t get me started on the rooms for long trips.

    I only wish there was more Amtrak coverage throughout the country, but instead the feds seem hellbent on bailing out “shitty airrines” If the DoT took all the money they were shoveling on Delta, AA, and the other legacy carriers and put it into Amtrak people wouldn’t worry about flying anywhere.

  34. badgeman46 says:

    @MrEvil: Au contraire! The fed has been continuously bailing out Amtrak by subsidizing at a loss since probably close to its inception.

  35. ptkdude says:

    by “added comfort”, they mean sitting on a thinner wallet in your back pocket, though that wouldn’t work for me since I’m a front-pocket guy.

  36. KernelM says:

    I have to admit I was impressed with United’s Economy Plus the one time I tried it. I bought the upgrade when I checked in and was able to get front row bulkhead seats that had a lot more legroom than I’m used to. And since there were cutouts at the bottom of the bulkhead to stow a bag, I could still have my laptop down by me, so I didn’t have to be paranoid about it getting jostled too much overhead.

    It was probably helped though by the fact that I was flying one of their smaller routes, ORD to DFW. I normally flew AA but for some reason that particular trip, AA’s price skyrocketed.

  37. n301dp says:

    RoachChoice has been around for at least a year and a half. Want extra legroom without paying the fee? Put yourself in one of the (E) seats at the ticket counter or using online check-in. I seriously doubt the popularity of the seats as the RoachChoice seats on most of the 30+ flights I flew with them last year were filled by elites who get them for free or non-revenue passengers who wait for seat assignments until the last minute.

  38. Hogan1 says:

    I’d actually consider them one of the better airlines. My flight got canceled from La Guardia while I was en route in a taxi, they met me at the front of the line, gave me vouchers for free food, an upgrade, and a $50 voucher. Flew out 2 hours later, got delayed by blizzard at connection, got another voucher. 15 hours for LGA->PHX but their service made up for it. I Haven’t had any other delays on the other half dozen flights I’ve had on NWA this year, even when flying to London. Everyone’s going to have a mixture of good and bad experiences for airline, but they’re only going to tell everyone about their bad ones (and exaggerate)

  39. consum3rist says:

    I might get trashed for first one to blame the op, but lets be fair!

    First few things, I never flew on North West and hardly fly domestic (my domestic to international fly ratio is 1:20)

    Aisle seats are absolutely different than middle/inner seats and there is significant group of people who prefer aisle seats – for the convenience.

    If airline wanted to charge extra for those seats, its nothing wrong. (I hate all domestic airlines anyways)

    Looks like you made uninformed decision or your expectation were different (more leg room?), but reading the response from airline they have made it clear – preferred seats not necessarily mean extra leg room – there are other attributes to it.

  40. humphrmi says:

    @petrarch1608: Um, that piece of landing gear didn’t “fall” on the kid, it was connected to a plane that slid off the runway and into traffic on a nearby highway and crushed him.


  41. Bobg says:

    I wonder if NWA realizes that they lost more money than the $60 in that extended exchange between Chris and the CSR (that is, unless the CSR is working for nothing.)

  42. JustThatGuy4 says:


    Nope. They reserve the better seats for people who either pay or are their elite flyers. You might get lucky and get one if they plane fills up, or you might be in a middle and get to move over if noone takes the choice aisle seat, but those are gambles.

  43. velvetjones says:

    @bohemian: I have flown on Jet Airways in India. The seats were average but in coach, – everyone got juice or water prior to the departure, then a full breakfast that was very nice, then they passed around a basket of CANDY. I was beside myself.

  44. JustThatGuy4 says:


    You got what you were promised. The fact that United chose to give that product away to other people isn’t really your concern.

    Let me ask you something, out of curiosity; you’re clearly angry at United over this. All else being equal, how much cheaper would United have to be the next time you fly to make you willing to fly them?

  45. JustThatGuy4 says:


    How is this a problem?

    Option 1: Ticket is $300, choose any seat
    Option 2: Ticket is $285, with a $30 fee for a good coach seat.

  46. AT203 says:

    Wow that rep comes off as a total condescending dick. No amount of citing explanatory data will cure the fact that they ripped you off. Oh well, enjoy the publicity NWA.

  47. JiminyChristmas says:

    Judging by this story as well as every other BS airline fee we’ve heard about recently it’s going to take the airlines a couple of years to figure out how to run a viable business without pissing off their customers while doing it.

    Mark my words, in the near future one of the big airlines will score a huge marketing coup with their No Extra Fees! ad campaign.

  48. Sanveann says:

    Northwest sucks.

    We just flew NWA for a trip to visit my DH’s family in England. Not only were the seats uncomfortable and the food awful, but on the way home, I was waiting in line for the bathroom and heard one of the stewardesses bitching at length about a man who had somehow gotten signed up for a dairy-free meal, which he didn’t need or want. (He ate it anyway, though.) She then proceeded to complain about how the SAME family wanted a meal for a “lap child.”

    Guess who the family was? Yup … mine. The man was my father-in-law, and the child was my son. (For the record, when we bought the tickets, we were asked if we wanted a child’s meal for him — we weren’t asking for one at the last second or anything.)

    The worst part is that when she saw me standing behind her, she didn’t even have the grace to look embarrassed.

  49. billhelm says:

    i have to confess that I do buy coach choice exit rows sometimes because I am tall and not a frequent flier. worth the money for me. prior to the implementation of that, scoring exit row was almost an impossibility.

  50. lihtox says:

    @JiminyChristmas: Mark my words, in the near future one of the big airlines will score a huge marketing coup with their No Extra Fees! ad campaign.

    I just saw a Southwest commercial on that exact theme: a stewardess saying “Snacks, $5; Pillows, $2; Bathroom, $1” etc.

  51. calvinneal says:

    Coach choice seas last year were $25.00. The were only in the coach front rows in the emergency row and had a foot more legroom. Well worth the money from Anchorage to MSP/

  52. petrarch1608 says:

    @humphrmi: well the point is that southwest is a safe airline. And it wasn’t a highway it was a city street as long as we’re being pedantic here.

  53. thesabre says:

    I had a good experience with Air France and Alitalia. I flew Air France from Paris to Boston and they gave my wife and I a great breakfast with a pastry, juice, and fruit. Then they gave us a lunch with shrimp and rice, which I wasn’t too crazy about, but it wasn’t horrible. And free soda/water/iced tea whenever requested.

    It was better than any domestic flight I’ve ever taken. They did manage to mess up something with my luggage. My flight number (airline change, not me) got changed and the luggage ended up going to Philadelphia the next day on what was my original flight number. No harm, no foul.

  54. snakeskin33 says:

    I’m not a fan of Northwest AT ALL, but in this case…it sounds like the assumption was, “I don’t know exactly what’s different about these seats, but something about them must be better, so here’s my money.” Notably, nowhere does the OP say what he specifically believed the seats would be like, or what false information he received. He seems to have operated on the assumption that they’d be like the ones on United.

    Aisle seats do, in fact, offer more room than middle or window seats. People are getting bigger; seats are getting smaller. That puts aisle seats at a premium. If people prefer them enough that they have greater value, then you’re going to see the airline charge more for them. That could not happen if people didn’t value them. Commenters in this very thread have said they pay for these seats with a perfect understanding of what they are.

    I’m not blaming the OP for the situation, but I think the solution here is to know what you’re purchasing before you pay for it. Don’t pay for something simply because it’s called “Coach Choice” and assume that it’s going to be better in some yet-to-be-named way.

    You got 5000 free miles as an apology for the fact that you didn’t understand what you were getting and paid for it anyway. I think they’ve actually been pretty fair.

    With that said, there are many good reasons not to fly Northwest, and their service in most areas is, indeed, atrocious.

  55. bobfromboston says:

    You’re paying to be assured of an aisle or exit-row seat. AirTran (and maybe others) does this already, and you can bet the others will follow suit.

    Your other choice will be to gamble that the seat of your choice will be available when you check in.

  56. toddy33 says:

    @bohemian: Air New Zealand service pretty much rocks on their NZ Domestic flights. Mind you this was about 4 years ago, and I hope it hasn’t chaged much… Even a 1-hour morning flight from Auckland to Wellington gets you a hot breakfast followed by passing around the basket of candy. And an evening flight from Dunedin to Christchurch had excellent wine (in real glasses) with cheese and crackers for a snack.

    They have (current) magazines and newspapers on a rack by the gates in the Auckland domestic terminal that you can just pick up at your leisure.

    Oh, and they treat you like a person when you check in, too.

  57. pragakhan says:

    Why is this even news worthy? NWA has offered seats “up front” for years… Just because someone is new to something and didn’t know about it before, it’s news worthy?

    What’s next, someones going to buy some spam, eat it, hate it and call it a waste of $3?

    Seriously, who’s filtering this trash?

  58. JerseyJarhead says:

    This is really a new standard for fucking thievery. I actually give these cocksuckers props for inventiveness in stealing. May NWA rot in hell. And they will, to be sure.

  59. Consumer007 says:

    Not that I like or trust Northwest, but just for fun, I just called their reservation number and asked one of their agents “What exactly do I get if I choose Coach Choice and why would I want to?” He totally confused me, changing his story everytime he explained it, and of course then he had attitude.

    So I hung up, called back and got a nice lady who explained it like this:

    Coach Choice only applies within a narrow time frame of the day before a flight, and there is a reserved pool of “special” or “upgrade seats” marked on the website with $ sign. If you opt for that seat, you have to pay the CC fee, and then it is guaranteed. She did tell me there is no difference in the seats other than location. She said in the call center, they only mention this to people calling within that time window if they are trying to seat them and someone requests window or whatever and that type of seat isn’t available anywhere else.

    Based on the first call I did and your story, I would say you got a stupid peon with attitude who told you what you wanted to hear, or told you something wrong to get you off the phone. I hope you got their name, and should go after them, and stick by your request at least for a discount for the extra price you paid for nothing on a future flight.

    Also their webpage explaining it is here:

    Btw, I also heard while on hold that if you book on the phone, there is a “call center ticketing fee” of $15.00. Great, another way to sock it to us. Screw them. If I remember correctly, these a-holes were the first one to try extra ticket counter fees etc. several years ago. Greedy bastages – may they crash and burn (when there are no consumers on the flights, of course.)

  60. hamsangwich says: is your friend…

  61. LosersHaveCreditCardDebt says:

    I suspect the horrible airline business will soon require passengers to bring their OWN chair to sit on the plane.

  62. @AT203: Wow that rep comes off as a total condescending dick.

    I disagree. The rep gave a surprisingly through and honest explanation. It wasn’t what the customer wanted, but explained the situation accurately, was polite, and even uttered the mythical words “apology” and credited him 5000 miles (a value of at least $30 when used).

    Also, you’re imagining this “no amount of citing explanatory data” part, because it’s not here. I’m curious about what he said.

  63. rochec says:

    Ya being from Detroit I fly NW all the time. The coach choice upgrade clearly states that it isn’t additional leg room or anything just preferred seats, like exit rows, as they stated.

    I think he was looking for business class or whatever United has close to the front of the coach cabin that has a bit more leg room.

    The coach choice just basically ensures you get something like an exit row, since you normally can’t pick that seat when you make your reservation.

  64. @APFPilot: best part is that the seats we more than likely on a 40 year old dc-9 anyway

    I’m of the impression that it’s not the age of the airplane that matters to the passenger, but the age of the interior. If there are no ashtrays, this aerospace engineer is usually content that the airline is keeping up with the times.

  65. Sanveann says:

    @toddy33: Oooh, I flew ANZ once, and it was awesome! (It wasn’t a domestic flight, though — it was the LA-Tahiti-Rarotonga leg.) They were fabulous … definitely the comfiest coach seats I’ve ever been in.

  66. @rochec: Yup. Seems pretty clear to me what you’re getting if you read the rest of the paragraph that Chris quotes:

    Q: What is Coach Choice?
    A: Coach Choice is designed to provide added choice and comfort, particularly to late-booking business travelers, by saving some preferred coach seat assignments until check-in. For a modest fee, customers can confirm reserved exit, aisle and window seats at or Self-Service Check-in Kiosks 24 hours prior to departure. []

    One could also look at their seat selection map, which leaves me mildly confused about how he used Coach Choice without seeing what he was getting when he picked his seat.

  67. synergy says:

    My first thought was that it would probably allow you to pick front or back or aisle or window. That’s really the only choice you WOULD have?? I mean, has this person heard that planes lately have been redesigned somehow?? Yeah right.

    If “Choice” customers got to pick their seats and everyone else got to sit in whatever was left over, then it would possibly be worth it.

  68. balthisar says:

    @bohemian: Also Aviacsa and Aeromexico have both been excellent!

  69. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Learn to spell, you morons. It’s “plane” NOT “plain.”

  70. yevarechecha says:

    “Is the choice and comfort worth your cash?”

    Yes. I fly NWA all the time and often use the Coach Choice option. I’m not normally claustrophobic and I don’t care about legroom, but something about sitting by the window or in the center makes me feel trapped and nervous, so I’m more than willing to fork over extra dough to be guaranteed an aisle seat. I know I’m being ripped off as I’m paying for it, but it’s about peace of mind. It’s worth $30 to me not to feel tweaky and uptight for the whole flight.

  71. ogman says:

    “this program is an important revenue stream for our company”

    That’s all we really need to kmow, right there.

  72. ogman says:

    @Bladefist: Me, too!

  73. humphrmi says:

    I predict soon this will become the norm. Every airline (except Southwest, which I predict will stick with the cattle-call seating) will start to sell the higher value seats and people who pay just the fare without an extra fee will get the middle seats.

    And the kicker is, this is a great way for airlines to raise fares without pissing off the travel approvers at companies that fly their employees a lot. The corporate travel depts. can still pay the lowest fare and it’s up to the employee to decide if he or she wants to pay for an aisle or exit row seat out of their own pocket.

    That said, I think a lot of companies are cutting back big time on travel, and will continue to do so as long as fares keep going up. 30 years ago before dereg, only businesses that *had* to fly people around did so. In the last five years companies got into the mentality that they should send their staff traveling for a lot of silly reasons. Now technology like videoconferencing is catching up and companies can make a good case to their customers (cost savings) for having a video link instead of sending sales & tech staff to the customers office.

    My point is, the airlines rely on business, not leisure, to sustain them through the hard times, and I don’t think that’s going to pan out for them this time. They are going to screw their leisure passengers, the biz pax will dry up, and they’ll end up going back to carrying mail for the USPS to pay for gas.

  74. EricaJoy says:

    This is similar to the BS JetBlue fed me when they started charging extra for exit row seats.

    “…there’s value in the seats. We’re not interested in shorting the experience but recognizing that added value is important.”

    Can we have a high speed rail system in this country and get rid of the stupid airlines already?

  75. cametall says:

    That CSR must have gotten an A+ in their business writing course.

  76. girly says:

    It doesn’t sound like the OP agreed to any terms but rather was not told what the terms were and agreed based on the implication that it would be something they actually wanted. Pretty shady of Northwest!

  77. Daniels says:

    The fed has been continuously bailing out Amtrak by subsidizing at a loss since probably close to its inception.

    I think if you compare the amount of money given the airlines vs. the amount of money given to Amtrak it would work to like eleventy kajillion to one.

    Besides, it’s only fair as the government is primarily responsible for taxing the private passenger railroads to death.

  78. RoboSheep says:

    5000 miles!?! The normal “Sorry we messed up” from NWA is 500 miles.

  79. Grive says:

    @bohemian: In my experience. Much, much better. Bizarre fees? Nope. Draconian regulations? nope, either. Rude staff? well, sometimes, but that’s not always fully in the airline’s control (bad day for the ticket lady?). Food in the plane? Usually a decent snack, and if a full meal is offered, it’s somewhere in the vicinity of edible. Peed seats? Unheard of.

  80. farker says:

    So airlines used to let you pick your seat, and they exploit this fact to make money….sounds fair enough, they’re the ones flying the planes. If people don’t want to fly, they’ll vote with their wallets!

    I might be willing to pay for an aisle seat to get the extra legroom, I don’t understand what this OP’s problem is.

  81. MT says:

    I don’t know what the big deal is about aisle seats, I love the window seats. My mom would always make me sit in the aisle seats and I hated it. In fact, the next flight I’m going on, I reserved all window seats (and didn’t have to pay an extra dime!)

  82. parrotuya says:

    Clever marketing! Northwest Airlines should be the next one in bankruptcy. I hope management doesn’t get a bonus. And waterboard the CEO!

  83. @bohemian: I preferentially fly non-US airlines when flying transatlantically, and I have tended to have better experiences with them when flying in-country as well than I have on US airlines in-country. We paid $80 extra (per ticket, I think) to fly BA instead of AA last time; the premium was worth it to us. (Although we also had a second leg on that trip that HAD to be BA, so the $80 was also putting our luggage all the way through on one airline.)

    I’ve always had very good service on BA and Aer Lingus, and it’s just a much more comfortable transatlantic flight.

    I took a 50-minute hopper on BA in 2006, one of those flights where you’re only at altitude for like 20 minutes before you start going back down, and not only did they SERVE US A HOT BREAKFAST (it was a 6 a.m. flight and I was super-jet-lagged, so I was extremely grateful for something hot!), but it was actually DELICIOUS. Not just good for airline food, but really really really good! Some kind of breakfast sandwich. I would buy it on purpose at a restaurant.

  84. aikoto says:

    Isle seats are better? Who are they kidding? Granted you can get to your bags up there, go to the bathroom easier etc., but you don’t have as much arm room as between you and the window, you have nothing to look at to distract you and you’re surrounded by people. Not to mention the cart that comes down to smash your elbow and the waves of people getting up to go potty that brush past you. No thanks.

  85. wgrune says:


    Chargeback? On what grounds? He paid for something wihtout explicitly asking what he was getting in return. If you buy a “mystery paper bag” from me for $60 and don’t ask me what’s in it, am I entitled to give you a refund?

  86. henrygates says:

    I usually fly Continental and when you check in online the night before the flight, the computer lets you change your seat and provides a map of the plane so you can pick which one you prefer. It’s a nice service, but not something I’d pay $30 for.

  87. humphrmi says:

    @wgrune: You’re always entitled to give anyone a refund; no one will stop you from doing that.

  88. wgrune says:


    Good call. “Required” would have been a better word choice.

  89. milk says:

    Whenever I book flights online, I’m given a choice of which seat I can have. They give you a seating chart with available seats highlighted, and I pick what I want. Only once have I not been able to do that, but it was on a small plane leaving a small city in PA. I haven’t flown in a long time, though. I guess options like this are going in the shitter.

  90. girly says:

    @wgrune: But it was called ‘coach choice’ and was said to be for your comfort.

    So it wasn’t really a ‘mystery’ paper bag. There was something implied.

  91. Grive says:

    @aikoto: Sorry if I’m too forward, but I’m guessing you aren’t very tall, are you?

    In long, packed flights, the ability to easily stretch your legs is wonderful, as well as the feeling of space. You don’t get as cramped as the poor chap in the middle seat or on the window seat. It’s more boring than the window seat, yeah, but that’s why airports sell cheap paperback books.

  92. bdgbill says:

    Die Northwest Die!

    Don’t like Northwest’s service? Write your congressmen and let them know you are opposed to the Delta / Northwest merger.

  93. ninjatoddler says:

    I thought Coach was Economy. That was a problem I had with Northwest too. They canceled my seats because it was a “coach” and I had to pick another spot as I was erroneously given a “more expensive” seat in the economy section.

  94. MercuryPDX says:

    I have to agree. For vacation travelers it’s not worth it.

    An aisle seat is less of a luxury when you’re sitting next to Tom or Tina Teenybladder who need to get up and pee every 30 minutes.

    Exit row is OK for the small bit of extra legroom, but what happened to all the health and safety restrictions that are required to open the door in the event of an emergency? Are they waived for $30?

    As to front of the plane/back of the plane, we all get there at the same time so what’s the extra 10 minutes? And if you checked a bag you’ll discover that Baggage Claim is the great equalizer; Front Row passenger bags come out just as randomly as Back Row passenger bags. This clearly isn’t a vacation traveler benefit.

    I’m a little disappointed that the airlines collective brain-trust could not come up with more appealing perks to make the “upgrade” worthwhile to a wider range of travelers.

  95. mike says:

    @Dobernala: I came here to say charge back too.

    The airlines need to make money so everyone (even Southwest customers) should expect to be raped with fees.

    It sucks…but they’ves got to get paid.

  96. KaliButes says:

    What’s wrong with being able to pay for the seats you want or just a
    more comfortable ride (i.e., aisle – any aisle in my book – or exit row
    seat)? It’s nice to have another option besides having to fork out the
    cash for biz/1st class, which I can almost never afford to do. Though,
    once on an international flight I had no choice; only thing left in
    coach was middle of 4 seat row :-( odds between getting two cute (or
    handsome for the other 1/2 out there) seatmates or two extremely
    overweight bruisers….i forked out the cash for biz class. Look,
    airlines really just need to raise fares; if you’re losing money it
    ain’t rocket science. We, the flying public, balk over every $5 fare
    raise so what do we expect? These are for profit companies, not the
    sisters of mercy. I personally like the “choice” in these fees. If I
    don’t want to check a bag (and I haven’t checked a bag in a couple of
    years) why should I pay to fly someone else’s crap across the country?
    If I was a starving college kid for whom an extra $20 bucks for beer was
    more important than being crammed in the middle seat then I’d be happy
    to have the $20 bucks. But I want comfort and I’m willing to pay for it,
    and again, it’s nice to have another choice besides biz/1st class.
    Actually a better choice for airlines would be to start reserving some
    of these for their best frequent fliers, a small give back to those of
    us who keep them in business by flying with them all the time. I think
    AirCanada has the better model, they sell you a ticket and then if you
    don’t want stuff they (no changes, checked bag, etc) they *deduct* money
    from the fare. I don’t want food, I don’t want to make changes, I don’t
    want to check a bag, but I do wan to pick my seats. Viola I get a fare
    that is less than what I was originally quoted. If I want everything
    then I get the fare I was originally quoted. The whole process takes a
    couple of seconds and I can click to have the same options for the
    return or change the return options. Brilliant. I don’t get charged
    until I pick seats so if I look at the seating map and see that the
    plane, which leaves tomorrow morning, is empty than I can un click the
    “pick seats” option. Again, brilliant.

    The one nit I would pick with Northwest is not showing you the current
    seating chart before selling you the upgrade. That is bullsh** Every
    place I’ve seen the for-charge seat selection you’re shown a map and
    then given the choice of clicking through to buy or opting out without
    being charged. What Northwest is doing is not offering choice (if the
    info is correct and you can’t see what you’re buying) they’re doing
    nothing but piss*** off customers.

    Airlines have the responsibility to get you from point a to point b, in
    safety, as close to on time as possible, and with a minimum level of
    comfort. The rest is optional. If you want glamour, or peanuts, you’ve
    got to expect to pay.

  97. redheadedstepchild says:

    @kcrusher: I’ve been bumped from requested seats. I think b/c people paid for the upgrades.

    @MercuryPDX: I travel light. If I’m going somewhere for less than 2 weeks, I’ll have an overhead bag. A real overhead bag, not one of those ginmormous rollers that people try to stuff in.

  98. jfischer says:

    The exit rows are supposed to be filled with people who are physically and mentally able to open the emergency doors in the event that the cabin crew is dead or injured in a crash scenario, not the highest bidder!

    I am an expert at appearing at gates slightly early and looking like the sort of physically and mentally solid guy who can manhandle a door under pressure. In return, I get some extra legroom at no charge. That’s the deal, and I’ve held up my end of the bargain for decades.

    Except for reminding the stew^h^h^h^h flight attendant to remove the “Remove Before Flight” safety pins in the door once or twice, I’ve never had to do anything at all, but I’ve earned my legroom by being ready. “We also serve who only sit and wait.”

    Good luck with Caspar Milquetoast gettin’ that door open for ya when the frame is bent and the explosive bolts refuse to ignite, Northwest.

  99. FrankReality says:

    Wow, you get to pay extra for the pleasure of getting clobbered by a beverage cart and a flight attendant spilling a drink on you.

  100. dazzlezak says:

    Southwest, no upgrades, no perks, on time (most of the time).


    Happy Customer!

  101. rattlecan says:

    One problem is that people are already paying different prices for seats, based on when they purchase them. This simply adds another choice to be made when buying a ticket- which makes this all the more difficult.

    What I like about Southwest is the relative simplicity and predictability of their fare structure and boarding. Not perfect, but I don’t feel like I’m somehow being cheated.

    And, for those who haven’t flown with a overseas carrier (like Cathay Pacific), you are missing what air travel can be.

  102. rattlecan says:

    “Actually a better choice for airlines would be to start reserving some of these for their best frequent fliers, a small give back to those of us who keep them in business by flying with them all the time.”

    Fortunately, they do do this. Any 1K members wish to chime in?

  103. LUV2CattleCall says:

    @petrarch1608: @humphrmi: @petrarch1608:

    The irony in the situation was that the family in the car that got planestruck was driving back home from MDW…and their inbound flight on another airline was delayed! So really….it was the other airline’s fault in a way!


    You summed up why in my opinion, jetBlew is just another airline…atleast Airtran/Southwest don’t blow sunshine up your ass about great customer service..we’ll pamper you..we’re “putting the humanity back in air travel…” etc.

  104. cjstephens says:

    I don’t have a problem with airlines charging extra for extra legroom (as long as the policy is clearly defined, which NW failed to do here). I do have a problem when the airlines use this as an excuse to reconfigure the planes so that you have to purchase the more expensive seats if you’re over 6′ tall. I’m not NBA-material, but I resent the $54 I was asked to pay for a flight on United from Denver to LGA last month just so that I would have enough leg room to sit without injuring myself. Not extra legroom, enough legroom.

    Here’s hoping that the airline industry collapses because of its hostility to its customers, and for once the feds don’t bail them out.

  105. mariospants says:

    WHAT? Back in the day, they had to practically BEG people to sit in the exit rows (“have to be strong, in good health” etc. not to mention the lack of being able to recline the seat back). Now they’re SELLING those seats?

    Aisles are great for some, but you also get your elbow bumped and you’re constantly having to get up for the old biddy who has to take a piss every 30 seconds.

    Is this shit for real? People PAY for this?