American Airlines To Charge Extra For Seats Closest To Exit

In a move that’s sure to screw cast members of The Amazing Race, American Airlines is now charging extra for seats that are closer to the exits. They’re calling this money grab “express seating.”

MarketWatch has the scoop:

Starting at $19, American Airlines customers can purchase seats in the first few rows of coach, which includes the bulkhead seats just behind the galley, usually popular for the extra legroom.

You can purchase these seats at the self-serve kiosk beginning 24 hours before your flight.

Is this something you’d actually pay for?

American Airlines to charge for ‘express seats’ [MarketWatch]


Edit Your Comment

  1. grumpskeez says:

    I thought this was SOP. Are they the last airline to implement this now?

    • badachie says:

      Agreed. I’m baffled that this is news. I flew AirTran over a year ago and they had this in place.

      • grumpskeez says:

        You know – i read that as emergency exit probably because of the mention of legroom . TFA reads “customers can purchase seats in the first few rows of coach” which is different from the emergency exit seat purchasing that we’ve already had offered. My first pass reading comprehension is apparently set at fail today.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        I flew them last weekend and got my seat in that row without paying extra. Don’t know how that happened.

  2. wrbwrx says:

    More fees to keep from the airlines from having to pay the government its due share of ticket prices.

  3. DariusC says:

    “Is this something you’d actually pay for?”


  4. Hoss says:

    $19 is a small price for the potential entertainment value to watch the next airline employee that rides the slide

  5. c!tizen says:

    Second class?

    • dolemite says:

      I guess we have 1st, 2nd and now 3rd class (those of us peons that sit in coach but don’t want to pay $20 for a few more inches of room).

      Just give me an oxygen mask and winter coat and I’ll ride in the luggage compartment for $50.

      • ajmccoll says:

        That oxygen is the purest air offered in the world, so that’ll be another $50.

      • Liam Kinkaid says:

        For only $20, we’ll slap a priority sticker on you, so you get offloaded before the baggage!

      • Buckus says:

        You’re not even necessarily paying for extra room. Technically you’re paying to be closer to the exit. I guess on most airplanes (737, A320) that means you can exit about five-ten minutes before the last person. On the other hand, is 5-10 minutes worth $19 to you?

    • dreamfish says:

      You want to travel as something other than freight? That’ll cost you.

  6. tbax929 says:

    I never rush to get off the plane, since I inevitably just end up waiting at the baggage carousel anyway. I know some folks bring all their stuff as carry-on, but I’m one of those suckers who still pays to check my luggage. I just take too much stuff with me to fit it all in one small carry-on bag.

    • laffmakr says:

      Same here. I’m usually one of the last people off the plane. Why stand there in the aisle and look stupid if you’re not going anywhere.

  7. Grogey says:

    I think ill take the extra 4 days of vacation and start riding the trains… This is becoming so asinine.

    • IphtashuFitz says:

      My girlfriend has always flown from Boston to NY or Washington to visit friends in the past. Just a few weeks ago I convinced her to try the train to NYC when she took me there for a birthday mini-vacation. She was absolutely floored at how relaxing the train trip was when compared to flying. No security checks, no fighting for overhead space for your bags, tons of space to get up and walk around in, etc. I have a feeling we’ll both be doing the train a hell of a lot more in the future.

      • Etoiles says:

        Amtrak is great for BOS/NYC or NYC/WAS. Not so great, unfortunately, for the full haul BOS/WAS. Just takes too damn long. Next year when I get bumped up to the 15 vacation day bracket maybe I’ll go back to the train.

      • Rickdude says:

        Amen, bro. We just did the train for a weekend to DC and had the same experience.

      • Lisse24 says:

        Started taking the train places this summer. I’ve relegated air travel to emergency-only.
        We live in a free market and I plan on informing the airline industry on how ludicrous this all is by moving my business elsewhere. I’m done with plane travel.

      • bkdlays says:

        The train is never on time. It takes forever due to 100 stops. If you aren’t in a hurry then I suppose.. but I like to get there!

    • bkdlays says:

      Or you could just not choose the OPTIONAL fee and nothing has changed

  8. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Right, right Then when the plane is delayed just enough to make it almost impossible to get to the next flight (this happened to me at Dallas recently), the people out first might make their connection, and the people who are too mature to fall for “me first” tricks might miss theirs. Then the airline would have just one more thing to use to disclaim responsibility… after all, you could have paid for a “first out” seat.

  9. joe23521 says:

    I would pay $20 for extra legroom, but not for proximity to the exit.

  10. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    express seating. first in, first out? especially in emergencies…

    • fsnuffer says:

      Usually your chances of survival are greater in the back of the aircraft and remember in the event of an emergency, the nearest exit may be behind you.

  11. dcarrington01 says:

    How about all us tall people unite and file a class action lawsuit on this! I am 6’6″, and hate having to cram into a tiny seat that a midget/little person has trouble fitting in! Flying on military contracted planes, they have signs stating that the bulkhead seats are reserved for tall people that need extra legroom!

    • Mike says:

      I agree 100% I am the same height as you and if I don’t get an exit row or bulkhead it is like torture on long flights.

    • Silverhawk says:

      Amen! I’m 6’5″ and it’s hell to fly anywhere now.

    • jurupa says:

      While I also dislike seating that is designed for 5’5″ people, I am not about to go all gun ho over a merit less class action lawsuit. Trust me I feel the pain other tall people go thru when it comes to flying. But there is not much you can do when airlines try and sardine can everyone into as much airplane as possible.

    • stanfrombrooklyn says:

      I’m 6’2 and usually have to fly with my knees under my chin. Delta is the absolute worst. I avoid Delta flights if at all possible. I don’t mind paying more actually for long-leg flights but this is obviously just a money grab.

  12. Economists Do It With Models says:

    I mistakenly interpreted “exits” as “emergency exits” and decided that this was simultaneously morbid and awesome.

  13. Cyniconvention says:

    In a move that’s sure to screw cast members of The Amazing Race,American Airlines is now charging extra for seats that are closer to the exits. They’re calling this money grab “express seating.”

    That’s if opponents cutting in front of you doesn’t screw you over first.

    And isn’t there only one legit way out of a plane to begin with? The front door? This “express seating” sounds like “if we go down in the ocean, you get out first” kind of thing.

    • Cyniconvention says:

      Fantastic skimming skills ahoy.

      “Starting at $19, American Airlines customers can purchase seats in the first few rows of coach, which includes the bulkhead seats just behind the galley, usually popular for the extra legroom. “

      That doesn’t sound very much like a big ‘exit deal’, however. More like ‘the non sardine can space on the plane’.

    • LACubsFan says:

      You can also exit from the back

  14. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    I know that airlines were charging extra for the actual exit rows.. but charging for rows NEAR THEM? WTF.

  15. cvt2010 says:

    Heck no. You can’t keep anything with you since you don’t have a seat in front of you, and the overhead bins there are usually packed full of first air kits, equipment, etc. Therefore, if you have any bags (or even a purse, for us ladies), you’ll end up putting it up a few rows behind you, and you have to fight to get to it getting off the plane anyway.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      Yep; I got into it with a bitchy flight attendant over the purse thing when I had a seat up front. It was on my arm, under my coat and she made me put it in an overhead bin. So I took everything out of the purse and put it in my pockets, just to kind of show how retarded it was (oh, small purse, too, not like one of those giant tote purses)

  16. coren says:

    So you have to go to the airport to do it?

    And I’m guessing AA only sells you a seat at random, not an assignment?

    • wetrat says:

      AA holds the first two rows of coach for airport assignment. So they are now going to start selling them instead of just assigning by the whim of the ticketing/gate agent.

  17. Juhgail says:

    They are doing everything they can to pry every last friggin dollar from us. When will this stop!!!!!

  18. dulcinea47 says:

    I might actually pay $19 for some legroom. I don’t care about proximity to the exits, though I do prefer not being next to the lavatory either.

  19. MikeB says:

    I would be fine with charging more for a front seat if they charged me less the further I get back. Starting at $19 the last few rows are cheaper for AA customers, with the row outside the bathroom being the cheapest.

  20. WorkingDad says:

    Next up: $5 to page a stewardess, and $1 for a barf bag.

    • Whiskey Tango Foxtrot says:

      Don’t give them ideas!! I could see how this would pan out:

      Seating fee : $5
      Seatbelt fee : $10
      Saftey speech fee: $3
      Window/Middle/Aisle seat fee: $8
      Overhead oxygen bag fee: $1
      Oxygen fee: $25
      Service fee to pay other fees $5

      Credit cards only please.

    • zxo says:

      I’d pay $1 to make sure my neighbors have barf bags.

  21. sirwired says:

    WTF? The Bulkhead is the final row of coach right behind the barrier separating you from 1st/business. Yes, sometimes the exit happens to be near there too, but not always.

    They are NOT charging extra for seats near the other exit rows on the plane. (Although the seats actually in an exit row do often go for more.)

  22. Brink006 says:

    Continental has been doing this for a while.

  23. segfault, registered cat offender says:

    “Is this something you’d actually pay for?”

    Only if I get to steal alcohol and deploy the inflatable slide.

  24. ericschmidt says:

    Well, to call it charging for being closer to the exits is your/MarketWatch’s interpretation of it. Some call it having extra legroom. Someone else could call it charging to be closer to the cockpit. You could call it any number of things.

    Other airlines already have this, and no one calls it a charge for being close to exits. I think you’re off the mark here..

  25. Mr.Grieves says:

    What happens on a full flight where no one opted to purchase these seats? Will they try to extort the people randomly placed there? What a dumb fee.

    • squirrel says:

      I left on a surprisingly light UA flight that had a few empty “economy plus” seats.

      I am used to hearing the attendants say that people are free to move to empty seats, but these would have nothing to do with it. They announced that they were paid upgrade seats and we could purchase access to them via their handy card readers.

      Surprisingly, no one took the bait.

  26. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Good. Keep tacking on those fees, AA. Things like this just reinforce my belief that Jet Blue and Southwest are the only two decent airlines left anymore.

    AA, Delta, United, Continental and US Air can all suck it.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      Yeah, because JetBlue never charges more for better seats. Oh, wait…

      And Southwest would never charge more for priority boarding. Oh, wait…

      • Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

        Apples and oranges, bub.

        There’s a big difference between paying for more leg room and paying more for a tiny seat just because it’s closer to an exit. Standard Jet Blue seats have more leg room than standard AA seats. If you want more leg room you have that option, but when purchasing a ticket you can choose to sit closer to the exit (front of the plane) WITHOUT paying extra. If AA is charging more for exit seats because they have more leg room I still think it’s stupid. What if these are the only seats left? Are they going to force you to pay more? A douche bag move any way you look at it.

        As for Southwest, paying for early boarding is kind of silly. As long as you check in online as early as possible you’ll end up at the front of the line anyway, at no extra cost. I doubt many people even pay for this ‘early bird’ boarding option. If they do, they’re suckers.

        • NeverLetMeDown says:

          So, your whole point is “JetBlue and Southwest do charge more for what some people think are better seats, but because I don’t think that what’s AA’s offering is necessarily a better seat, then it doesn’t count.” Got it.

          Personally, I wouldn’t pay more for these seats either, but other people might.

          • Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

            This is my point:

            AA looked around and said, “Let’s see, what else can we charge a fee for…? Hmm… Oh! How about these seats that are closer to an exit/the exit? Let’s charge extra for those.”

            No, that is not the same as paying extra for more leg room on Jet Blue. Why? 1) Because the extra-leg-room option on Jet Blue is designed for added comfort; it’s not like they said, “Hey! We can charge more for seats closer to an exit/the exit!” 2) Because the AA fee didn’t exist before. They pulled it out of thin air. If they made extra room in certain rows and wanted to charge more then fine, go for it. But those seats used to sell for the same amount as any other on a first come, first served basis. It’s another way for them to bleed more money from their customers. What’s next? Charging more for window seats? Then window AND aisle seats? I guess you’d be okay with that, too. Hey, works for me. You keep on flying with AA — makes more room for me on Jet Blue.

        • textilesdiva says:

          For my flight two weeks ago, I checked in

          That was the point at which I decided to pay for early bird check-in for my return: I had two flights, and was going to be carrying my cat with me. It was TOTALLY worth $10 to ensure that I’d get to board sooner to get her settled with fewer people aboard, in a seat that’s as comfortable as possible for the both of us.

          (And I totally felt like a crazy cat lady, bringing a cat aboard a plane, but she had to get from NC to CO somehow, and she Does. Not. Like. car rides. When I drove NC to CO, it took me 3.5 days. I get no paid vacation time.)

          • textilesdiva says:

            Heh. I should review my posts immediately after I make them.

            I used a less-than symbol, and oops! HTML.
            It should say: “For my flight two weeks ago, I checked in less than 2 minutes after check-in opened. I was boarding position B28. Hardly front of the line.”

  27. ma1234 says:

    This is something that was previously reserved for elites. It is making an elite benefit available to the poor masses. Of course, the Consumerist article, as always, doesn’t mention this. It spins it otherwise.

    • Employees Must Wash Hands says:

      Exactly, for at least the last two years or so, AA has been blocking off these seats just for elites and people with full fare coach tickets. Now they’re just giving those people first crack at those seats before trying to get a few extra bucks out of anyone else.

  28. Buckus says:

    I can’t wait until there’s a fee for the A/C, and Oxygen, and seatbelts. Pity the poor sucker who didn’t opt for seatbelts and hits turbulence.

  29. masso says:

    I could have sworn airlines are already charging extra for these seats.

  30. balthisar says:

    Actually, I’m almost always offered the $99 first class upgrade, and I usually take it. Sometimes they try to spring $199 on my, but then I don’t take it. At 6’2″, it’s worth it, and it’s usually cheaper than booking first class in the first place (which is also against company policy).

  31. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    hang on, what about people who need the bulkhead seats for their guide dogs?

    doesn’t this indicate a probabilty that the disabled will be charged extra on a regular basis?

  32. jim says:

    next they are going to start charging more to sit in the tail section, where you are more likely to survive in a crash. also more to sit in a side seat near the emergency exits, where you can get out of the plane sooner in an emergency, also to charge more for….

    • SwoonOMatic says:

      Airline will look at your flight profile and see what your preferences are and automatically charge you more based on your preferences.

  33. David in Brasil says:

    I’ve read analyses of plane crashes in which survivors are mapped according to their seat assignment. For real crashes, the people in the back of the plane often fare better than those sitting forward. For fires, however, people within 3 rows of the exit fare much better than those farther away. So, in effect, you’re paying for survivability here.

  34. SwoonOMatic says:

    You know, I love the Amazing Race – being a geography junkie. But so often the winner of the race or a particular leg – simply comes down to who got a better seat on the plane, or who got the clueless cab driver. I wish some of that “Randomness” could be taken out of the mix.

  35. bkdlays says:

    I just booked a Jetblue ticket for the first time and they show all exit rows and a few other rows with “more legroom”

    It says *starting at $10 more per seat, but every one I clicked was $35 per seat

    Since its only their second day of flights out of my airport Ill wait and just move to that seat if it doesn’t sell out.

  36. isileth says:

    Once I was on an American Airlines flight and though the speakers came a message to go on channel 67 to know how to operate our seat.
    I went there and there was a very nice explaination of how the first class seats worked (the only thing missing seemed to be the flight attendants giving you massages during the flight), i.e. nothing to do with the cramped normal seats.
    After this, in the catalogue there was an offer for a step to put under your seat, if you didn’t reach the floor with your feet.
    Since I spent most of the night standing, to avoid getting “economical class syndrome” due to the lack of legroom for those of us who have long legs, when I went home, I wrote them an e-mail telling them that this was a big leg-pull.
    They didn’t answer, of course, but I felt a lot better.

  37. Blious says:

    These people in the airline industry must sit there every day and ask themselves….how can we get more people to NOT want to fly?