How Much It Costs to Choose Your Seats on Each Airline

How much does it cost to select your seat on a major US airline?

Like many things involving airlines, it’s not always super straightforward when it comes to how much things will cost.

But in this article we hope to clear up some confusion!

We will give you a breakdown of how much you can expect to pay when selecting a seat for different classes such as basic economy, economy, economy plus, and also premium cabins.

We analyzed data points for both domestic and international flights since the prices can vary quite a lot and we will break everything down for you so that it is easy to digest.

When can you choose (and pay for) your seats?

When you first begin to search or book a flight, the airline may allow you to view the seat chart to get a sense of what seats are available.

However, you typically cannot view the price for selecting your seat until after you have chosen your fare class and input your personal details. (This can make “shopping” around for cheaper seat prices a bit time consuming so it is best to login to the airline so that you don’t have to re-enter your details every time.)

Note that if you are booking through a third-party such as Amex Travel or another travel portal, be careful about the seat selection displayed because it does not always line up with what is actually available.

Also, sometimes when using an online travel agency, you may not be able to select upgraded seats when booking.

Instead, you will have to wait until that flight populates in your frequent flyer account and then contact the airline or initiate the process online via the airline’s website.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

Delta first class

What prices to expect when choosing a seat

Business/First class

Business and First Class seats are found in the top cabin in the front of the plane. On domestic flights you typically have a standard recliner seat with a lot more width and legroom. You’ll receive free food and drinks, priority boarding, and other perks.

On longer flights, you might be able to enjoy a fully reclined seat known as a lie-flat seat.

Every major US airline allows you to select your seats for free whenever you purchase a business or first class ticket.

Premium Economy

Premium Economy is a special class just behind Business Class that offers you a wider seat with better recline and more legroom than economy. Sometimes you also have a nice little foot rest. You also may get additional perks like free drinks.

Premium Economy is usually only found on long-haul international flights — your average domestic flight will not likely include a Premium Economy cabin.

Every major US airlines should allow you to select your premium economy seats for free.

Note that some online platforms equate Premium Economy with Economy Plus but this is a mistake and should be avoided because it causes confusion.

Not accurate! (From Expedia).

Economy Plus (extra legroom)

Economy Plus seats are standard economy seats that come with extra legroom. These could be located near the emergency exit rows but they could also be placed in rows closer to the front of the Economy cabin.

The amount of extra legroom offered is different based on the airline and where exactly the seat is located but you could be given several inches of extra legroom which makes these seats very desirable. This is especially true for people over 6 feet tall.

Sometimes you will be given extra perks when selecting an Economy Plus seat such as free drinks, priority boarding, dedicated overhead storage bin space, etc.

To get the seats you typically will select Economy as your fare and then simply select to pay more for an Economy Plus seat. However, some airlines such as Delta treat economy plus like its own fare with Delta Comfort Plus.

If you are purchasing Economy Plus on a domestic flight you’re looking at spending around $30 to $50 typically.

But on an international flight such as a transatlantic or transpacific flight, selecting Economy Plus could cost you a couple of hundred dollars.

If you have elite status, even if it is a lower tier, you may be able to receive an upgrade to Economy Plus on a pretty regular basis.

Preferred Seats

Preferred Seats are economy seats located in more desirable parts of the plane such as toward the front of the plane, in rows of two, etc. They also may include window and aisle seats.

Typically, to choose a seat like this you don’t have to pay that much extra and elite members may be able to select these for free. (Elite members may also be able to see free seats available that other non-elites cannot even see as available.)

For a domestic flight, choosing a Preferred Seat could be as cheap as around $13 but for longer international flights you could be paying closer to $50.

You can expect to have to pay a little bit more for window or aisle seats versus the middle seats if they are all considered Preferred Seats.

Keep in mind that not every airline offers Preferred Seats. Or put another way, not every airline forces you to pay extra for seats that don’t suck.

Economy

Unless you have booked with an ultra low-cost carrier, you should be able to select certain economy seats free of charge. These will typically be located in the back half or back third of the plane.

If you are flying with an ultra low-cost carrier like Frontier or Spirit and you want to select your seat, you can expect to pay about $25 per seat selection (though that will depend on the route).

Basic Economy

A Basic Economy seat will be the same as a standard economy seat but when you book this fare you will lose the privilege to select your seat for free (among other lost benefits).

Sometimes you can still pay an extra fee to select a seat but other times you will have to pay to simply upgrade to an economy fare in order to select a seat. You can expect this upgrade fee to the range from about $15 to $70.

Airlines seat prices broken down

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines offers something called “Premium Class” which is kind of a cross between Premium Economy and Economy Plus.

It is similar to Premium Economy because it has its own dedicated cabin area right behind Business Class but the seats resemble something you would find in Economy Plus.

They give you 4 inches more legroom than standard Main Cabin seats and allow you enjoy free beer, wine, and cocktails on flights over 350 miles. You also get early boarding privileges.

If you want to select your seat in Basic Economy they offer you the option to upgrade for around $20-$30.

Business/First Class

  • Domestic (SFO – ANC): Free
  • Mexico (LAX – GDL): Free
  • Canada (SEA – YEG): Free

Premium Economy/Economy Plus (Premium Class)

  • Domestic (SFO – ANC): $54
  • Mexico (LAX – GDL): $34
  • Canada (SEA – YEG): $36

Economy (Main)

  • Domestic (SFO – ANC): Free
  • Mexico (LAX – GDL): Free
  • Canada (SEA – YEG): Free

Basic Economy

  • Domestic (SFO – ANC): $15 upgrade fee
  • Mexico (LAX – GDL): $30 upgrade fee
  • Canada (SEA – YEG): $20 upgrade fee

American Airlines

American Airlines allows you to select Main Cabin Extra seats which will provide you with extra legroom (up to 6 inches), preferred boarding with earlier overhead bin access, and even complimentary beer, wine and spirits.

They also offer a special product called “Main Plus,” which has its own fare basis and includes Main Cabin Extra seats  (if available) along with other perks like 1 more free checked bag.

Interestingly, the price to upgrade to Main Plus was sometimes more and sometimes less than the price to select a Main Cabin Extra seat.

Business/First Class

  • Domestic (ORD – MIA): Free
  • Europe (JFK – LHR): Free
  • Asia (DFW – NRT): Free

Premium Economy

  • Europe (JFK – LHR): Free
  • Asia (DFW – NRT): Free

Economy Plus (Main Cabin Extra)

  • Domestic (ORD – MIA): $27 – $30 *upgrade from Main Cabin to Main Plus $42
  • Europe (JFK – LHR): $93 – $103 *upgrade from Main Cabin to Main Plus $90
  • Asia (DFW – NRT): $129 – $166 *upgrade from Main Cabin to Main Plus $125

Related: American Airlines Main Cabin Extra 737-800 Review

Preferred seats

  • Domestic (ORD – MIA): $14 – $17
  • Europe (JFK – LHR): $62 – $69
  • Asia (DFW – NRT): $86 – $93

Economy (Main Cabin)

  • Domestic (ORD – MIA): Free
  • Europe (JFK – LHR): Free
  • Asia (DFW – NRT): Free

Related: American Airlines Basic Economy vs Main Cabin (Key Differences)

American Airlines seat map

Delta Airlines

Delta does their Economy Plus a little bit different because it treats it like its own fare called “Delta Comfort Plus.”

So instead of selecting Economy and then choosing to pay for a seat with extra legroom you simply select Comfort Plus as your chosen fare. This means the seat selection is technically free but you are paying more for the ticket.

Some of the perks you will enjoy include more legroom (up to 3 inches), dedicated overhead bin space, complimentary beer, wine, and snacks.

Some of the prices we found for Preferred Seats were a bit on the high side but that could’ve just been the routes we chose. Also, Delta allows you to upgrade from Basic Economy to Main Cabin if you want to select your seat.

Business/First Class (Delta One)

  • Domestic (ATL – PDX): Free
  • Europe (BOS – LIS): Free
  • Asia (DTW – ICN): Free

Premium Economy (Premium Select)

  • Europe (BOS – LIS): Free
  • Asia (DTW – ICN): Free

Economy Plus (Delta Comfort Plus)

  • Domestic (ATL – PDX): Free
  • Europe (BOS – LIS): Free
  • Asia (DTW – ICN): Free

Preferred seats

  • Domestic (ATL – PDX): $79.99 – $149.99
  • Europe (BOS – LIS): $44.99 – $59.99
  • Asia (DTW – ICN): $24.99 – $38.99

Economy (Main Cabin)

  • Domestic (ATL – PDX): Free
  • Europe (BOS – LIS): Free
  • Asia (DTW – ICN): Free

Basic Economy

  • Domestic (ATL – PDX): $30 upgrade fee
  • Europe (BOS – LIS): $75 upgrade fee
  • Asia (DTW – ICN): $40 upgrade fee
Delta seat map

Frontier Airlines

Frontier Airlines does not offer First Class or Business Class seats nor do they offer Premium Economy.

However, at the front of the plane and in the emergency exit rows they do have what they consider Economy Plus seats that offer recline and more legroom that can be up to 7 extra inches. You can expect to pay about $35 for these.

Otherwise, if you want to select a standard seat expect to pay around $20-$30.

Economy Plus (Stretch)

  • Domestic (MCI – LAS): $35
  • Mexico (DEN – PVR): $35

Economy (Standard)

  • Domestic (MCI – LAS): $18 – $28
  • Mexico (DEN – PVR): $18 – $28
Frontier airline seat map

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines offers an Economy Plus called Extra Comfort that provides more legroom (5 inches or more), priority boarding, priority screening (at select airports), and in-seat A/C power plugs.

For a domestic route Extra Comfort may only cost you about $60 but for international routes you may be paying closer to $125 to $150.

On certain flights, you can also upgrade from Basic Economy.

Business/First Class

  • Domestic (OGG – SAN): Free
  • Asia (HNL – HND): Free

Economy Plus (Extra Comfort)

  • Domestic (OGG – SAN): $54 – $64
  • Asia (HNL – HND): $111 – $141

Preferred seats

  • Domestic (OGG – SAN): $19 – $23

Economy (Main Cabin)

  • Domestic (OGG – SAN): Free
  • Asia (HNL – HND): Free

Basic Economy

  • Domestic (OGG – SAN): $40 upgrade fee
Hawaiian Airlines seat map

JetBlue

If you book a JetBlue Mint seat you can select your seat for free.

JetBlue calls their version of Economy Plus “Even More Space” and it provides more legroom (up to 7 inches), group A boarding, and expedited security lanes (where available). For domestic flights, these may run you about $30 but you can be paying in the triple digits for international flights.

It doesn’t look like they provide Preferred Seats but you can upgrade from Basic Economy in order to select a seat, sometimes for as cheap as $7.

Business/First Class (Mint)

  • Europe (JFK – LHR): Free
  • Mexico (LAX – CUN): Free

Economy Plus (Even More Space)

  • Domestic (FLL – DCA): $29 – $37
  • Europe (JFK – LHR): $129 – $149
  • Mexico (LAX – CUN): $82 – $94

Economy (Core)

  • Domestic (FLL – DCA): Free
  • Europe (JFK – LHR): Free
  • Mexico (LAX – CUN): Free

Basic Economy

  • Domestic (FLL – DCA): $7 – $61
  • Europe (JFK – LHR): $10 – $179
  • Mexico (LAX – CUN): $9 – $114
JetBlue seat map pricing

Southwest Airlines

When you fly Southwest, you do not get to select your seat ahead of time, such as at the time of booking.

Instead, at check-in you will be issued a boarding position and that boarding position will dictate when you get to step on the plane. Once you’re in the cabin, you’ll be able to select any seat that is open so it is essentially a first come, first serve process.

Purchasing Business Select is a nice way to increase your odds of securing one of the best seats on the plane.

Business Select is the most expensive fare offered by Southwest and it provides you with a number of benefits including:

  • Guaranteed A1-A15 boarding
  • Fly By lane access
  • Free premium drink
  • 12 Rapid Rewards per dollar spent
  • Fully refundable fare
  • Standby

Guaranteed A1-A15 boarding means that you will be among the first to board the plane and so you will be able to choose from a large selection of seats.

If you do not purchase a Business Select fare you can also upgrade to it. You won’t receive all of the Business Select perks but you will get the guaranteed A1-A15 boarding.

The cost to upgrade to Business Select varies from $30 to $50 per segment, depending on the route. You should be able to upgrade at the check-in counter or at the gate of departure.

You can also purchase Southwest EarlyBird for $15 to $25 (one-way) which automatically checks you in 36 hours before departure.

EarlyBird will help you get a window or aisle seat but generally will not get you a boarding pass low enough to secure one of the best seats mentioned above.

Tip: Some Southwest credit cards now come with two credits for EarlyBird.

Spirit Airlines

Spirit Airlines does not have a true first class in the sense of it being a special fare with its own cabin.

But they do have a couple of rows upfront with significantly more space similar to what a first class seat offers. These are known as the “Big Front Seats” and you can select the seats by paying around $60-$130 depending on the route.

They also have premium seats which could run you around $40-$50 and the seats will offer you up to 10 inches of extra legroom. Typically, these premium seats will be located in the emergency exit row.

Business/First Class (Big Front Seat)

  • Domestic (ATL – MSP): $60
  • Mexico (DFW – CUN): $128

Economy Plus (Premium)

  • Domestic (ATL – MSP): $50
  • Mexico (DFW – CUN): $42

Economy (Standard)

  • Domestic (ATL – MSP): $18 – $42
  • Mexico (DFW – CUN): $9 – $26
Spirit airlines seat map pricing

United Airlines

United Airlines has one of the most straightforward seat selection processes.

Premium cabins are free to select seats, and the prices to select an Economy Plus seat or a Preferred Seat are within the normal range. You can also pay to select seats if you have a Basic Economy ticket.

Business/First Class

  • Domestic (IAD – IND): Free
  • Europe (EWR – CDG): Free
  • Asia (IAH – NRT): Free

Premium Economy

  • Europe (EWR – CDG): Free
  • Asia (IAH – NRT): Free

Economy Plus

  • Domestic (IAD – IND): $45 – $54
  • Europe (EWR – CDG): $154 – $209
  • Asia (IAH – NRT): $205 – $267

Preferred seats

  • Domestic (IAD – IND): $13 – $23
  • Europe (EWR – CDG): $33 – $43
  • Asia (IAH – NRT): $33 – $43

Economy

  • Domestic (IAD – IND): Free
  • Europe (EWR – CDG): Free
  • Asia (IAH – NRT): Free

Basic Economy

  • Domestic (IAD – IND): $13 – $38
  • Europe (EWR – CDG): $27 – $77
United Airlines seat map pricing

Final word

As you can tell, selecting your seat can involve paying a lot of different prices.

When selecting seats for premium cabins such as First Class, Business Class or Premium Economy, generally you can select your seat free of charge.

If you just want a standard economy seat towards the back of the plane you can choose that for free but if you want to get closer to the front you may have to pay, especially if you want an aisle or window seat.

And if you want that extra legroom you’ll definitely have to pay and that amount can differ a lot based on whether you were flying a short domestic flight or long international flight.

And finally, if you choose a Basic Economy flight you will lose your ability to select a seat free of charge but you may still have the option to upgrade or pay a fee for your seat selection.

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