Is Four Inches Worth $39?

I’m not sure if it’s just my imagination, but the seating and legroom on airplanes seems to be getting smaller and smaller.  Let’s admit to ourselves that having a ‘B’ seat or an ‘E’ seat printed out on our ticket is always a nightmare when you haven’t planned in advance for a trip that has three seats on each side of the airplane.     You never really know whether or not your flight is going to be full. But when dealt one of these boarding passes at the checkout stand then it’s time to start thinking about plan B.   That is unless you really want to chance being stuck within two very large people with nubby like arms so you understand the true meaning of being a sardine for the next three hours.   I know what it is like as I have been there before.  With more and more airlines trying to squeeze profitability out of every flight, is it worth the cost of ‘upgrading’ from your normal coach seat to the new economy comfort class?

According to delta.com, economy comfort on domestic flights can let you stretch out with an additional 4 inches (10cm) of legroom and also offer priority boarding so you can get yourself on the plan before the masses cram themselves into the economy seats.    I’m not really sure that 4 inches of legroom is really worth it, although people who are six feet plus will attest that it makes all the difference in the world.   The key many times on full flights with these seats is having the priority boarding feature as it can be difficult finding space in the overhead cabin for your overnight carry on if your zone is boarded towards the end.   The economy comfort upgrade can cost from $9 to $99 according to their website, but practically it has cost me between $29 and $49 when I have taken advantage of this offer.    Never let the trick of free booze or free movies try to sway you into these types of decisions.  I promise you that you just won’t drink that much.

The easiest way to get one of the ‘economy comfort’ seats is to pay for it when you check in at the terminal.   If you haven’t pre-selected a seat for the flight, you’ll get your options when you begin the check in process.    If your only option is to get a middle seat, then you might want to take your chances and wait to get a seat at the gate.   If the gate agent needs to fill out the seats, it’s possible you can snag yourself one of these juicy premium seats at no charge.   There doesn’t seem to be any reason to sign yourself up for middle seat misery before you exhaust all of your options.  Obviously being medallion status or traveling with someone who may be medallion status can help as well to get a free upgrade.

The fact is that nobody likes being in the middle seat on the airplane.  You are constantly apologizing for trying to grab your seatbelt from underneath the buttocks of the person next to you and feverishly squirming to get your knapsack up on your lap just so you can find something to read.    Forget about getting any sleep as nobody wants snoring or post nasal drip pointed in their direction.   The best thing to do is to plan in advance and get yourself a window or an aisle seat so at least you’ve got a little bit of room.   Is $39 worth an extra 4 inches of leg room?  Unless you like being in a Ted Williams cryogenic like state, you can bank on this being some of the best 4 inches of space you ever paid for in your life.   Just ask the middle seat guy!

Written by:

Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®

Co-CEO and Founder of oXYGen Financial, Inc – The Leaders in Gen X & Y Financial Advice and Services

Ted Jenkin  is one of the foremost knowledgeable professionals in giving financial advice to the X and Y Generation.

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About the author  ⁄ Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves

Ted Jenkin @ Your Smart Money Moves


My friends and family all think I’m a workaholic, but I say I’m just a guy that loves to help people do better in life.

My mother is still the only one that calls me by my real name Theodore Michael, my wife calls me Teddy, but for the rest of you it is just plain old Ted.

Ever since I was a little kid, I always loved money and being an entrepreneur. In fact, I still have cassette tapes of me talking to my grandmother at the age of five and my mother tells me all the time how much I played with money as a kid...

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Ted Jenkin is a frequent guest columnist for the Wall Street Journal and Headline News Weekend Express. He is the co-CEO of oXYGen Financial. You can follow him on LinkedIn @ www.linkedin.com/in/theceoadvisor or on Twitter @tedjenkin.

Securities offered through Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Kestra IS), member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisory services offered through Kestra Advisory Services, LLC (Kestra AS), an affiliate of Kestra IS. oXYGen Financial is not affiliated with Kestra IS or Kestra AS. Kestra IS and Kestra AS do not provide tax or legal advice.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect those held by Kestra Investment Services, LLC or Kestra Advisory Services, LLC. This is for general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment advice or recommendations for any individual. It is suggested that you consult your financial professional, attorney, or tax advisor regarding your individual situation. 

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  • Avatar
    December 8, 2012

    I always try to book the exit row. It is the best seat on the plane!

  • Avatar
    December 9, 2012

    I have always tried to get the aisle seat. It’s the most comfortable, with the most flexibility to get up. Now, paying $39 for it? Probably not. The only way I’d pay a premium is when traveling with kids, but I’ll deal with it when traveling alone. The money motivates me well enough :)

  • Avatar
    December 11, 2012

    Nice video, Ted, as usual! As a tall guy I hate the middle seat. The other great point about waiting to check your carry on–sometimes they’ll check your bag under the plane for free at the counter. I’ve had that happen several times while flying recently.

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