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Can You Put the Premium in Economy With an Extra Seat?

Woman reading newspaper on airplane. Female traveler reading seated in passanger cabin. Sun shining trough airplane window.

Should flyers buy a second seat for additional comfort on long flights? While airlines will gladly sell you the additional space on your flight, it may not always make sense to do so – especially if the cost of an upgrade costs less than double airfare that you may not get the full benefit of.

Every once in awhile, forums come together in order to solve the pressing problems of the day. On June 22, 2019, that just happened when FlyerTalkers found a Reddit discussion about purchasing a second seat in economy for comfort.

FlyerTalker Wombelero found the question about purchasing a second seat in economy for better comfort…and then wondered it was not entirely a bad idea. “[It’s] Certainly cheaper than buying business (sometimes),” they wrote on the forums. “I like the idea and will look into that next time flying longer time.”

Is it possible to purchase a second seat for extra comfort on international travels? More importantly, should you make the expense when flying solo? The airline policies allow it, but it could cost you extra.

Airline policies on purchasing a second seat

In many cases, travelers can purchase a second seat if they would like a comfort zone between themselves and others in the row. But it all depends on your carrier of choice and their sales options.

Aboard Alaska Airlines, the practice of purchasing an extra seat while traveling is known as buying a “Comfort Seat.” Travelers in the main cabin can purchase a seat for themselves, followed by an adjacent main cabin seat for additional comfort. Flyers can also use a non-refundable ticket to get a second seat, such as a ticket originally purchased for a companion who now can’t travel. On the downside, travelers can’t book a “Comfort Seat” online. Instead, they have to call Alaska Airlines for assistance. But at least the standard ticketing fee will be waived.

American Airlines also has a second seat purchase policy, but is more for those who can’t fit in the standard seat. According to their website, flyers can call American to book a second seat for the same rate each. However, American reserves the right to offer flyers an upgrade, but flyers are responsible for covering the price of the upgrade. And if flyers need a second seat for health reasons, American offers the right to purchase two seats on a different flight for the same price as their original seats.

At Delta Air Lines, there is an option for a “Personal Comfort” second seat purchase. However, there are many more restrictions for purchasing extra space on the aircraft. “Personal Comfort” seats can’t be purchased with a Basic Economy fare because the seats need to be selected during booking. If the traveler’s seat goes wholly unused, travelers can only use the value of the extra seat for a new flight for themselves, because the extra seat ticket is non-transferrable. Finally, the extra seat does not allow travelers to take up more carry-on space. While the traveler has two seats, they are still allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item.

Although Southwest Airlines does not allow travelers to select their seats at booking, they still have a policy for “passengers of size” that allows them to book a second seat. However, it does not explicitly state you have to be a “passenger of size” to book two seats. Instead, you simply must understand how to purchase a second seat. Southwest provides instructions on their website, but second seat bookings can also be made on their website.

Finally, United Airlines offers a similar policy for travelers of size to purchase a second seat prior to departure. If a person cannot fit into a standard seat, they must either purchase an upgrade to a bigger seat, or purchase an additional seat through their reservations group. Unlike Delta, United allows travelers who book a second seat to have a greater checked bag allowance but not additional carry-on luggage.

But is purchasing a second seat a good idea?

Airlines will gladly let flyers purchase a second seat if they feel like they can’t fit in a standard one, or just want a little more room between them and their neighbors: that much is certainly clear. But is it worth spending double the airfare to have a little more room in the air? Unless absolutely necessary, FlyerTalkers are torn on if you should.

“I think in certain scenarios it’ll work out better than others,” FlyerTalker OskiBear writes on the forums. “As an example, traveling alone in a 2-seat configuration (A330/A340) would be great or in a 3-seat configuration when traveling as a pair.”

“It can be vastly cheaper than first and almost as comfortable,” offers Nhilar. “However, I have witnessed purchased second seats not being honored.”

And FlyerTalker Ihrsfo offers another caution to purchasing double seats: “It will inevitably be shared with another person, even if you have bought it.” That is: the third person in the row will probably use it for either temporarily storing items or the area underneath the seat for their items – not necessarily yours.

Bottom line

Before purchasing any seat, it always makes sense to look for paid upgrade opportunities. While travelers shouldn’t use their miles for first-class upgrades, it may make sense to see if upgrades are available for less than the price of a second seat. In certain situations, travelers can get the wider seat, complimentary beverages and a questionable meal for less than the price of buying another seat.

But if you must purchase an additional seat, be sure to know the airline policy and how it may affect you as you travel. By purchasing a seat upfront, you are guaranteeing extra space at a price. And sometimes, that price may not justify the comfort level.

What is your opinion on purchasing second seats? Share your thoughts on the FlyerTalk Forums now!


[Featured Image: iStock]