Continental Airlines announced today a new plan to charge for some of their most coveted seats – those with extra legroom. The seats will remain available for top-tier elites to assign in advance with no charge. Non-elite customers who want to sit in them will have to pay during the check-in process to have access to the seats. Pricing has not been announced but it will vary based on the amount of extra legroom, seat recline and flight duration, among other things.
Most interesting in the announcement was this bit:
Extra legroom really means extra legroom. The seats that we’ll be selling have at least 7 inches of extra legroom. Specifically, our mainline aircraft will offer 10-12 extra inches on average, whereas our Continental Express aircraft will be closer to 7 extra inches
There are only two on the 737-700s, three on the 757-200s and 9 on the 757-300s. The 737-800 and 737-900 planes will have 12 seats each in this configuration. Not too bad, though most of these seats are likely to be filled with OnePass elite members. Plus, I’m not really convinced that the exit row seats on the 737-800 and 737-900 planes really have 10″ of extra legroom. I’ll be bringing my tape measure next time I’m on board.
The seats will be available for purchase starting on March 17, 2010 and will only be available at check-in, not in advance.
Of course, this does open the window for an Economy+ style operation similar to what United Airlines offers. United’s E+ does not offer as much extra legroom as Continental is suggesting and it will be difficult for Continental to maintain this offering while increasing the number of seats available in this setup; their 10-12 inches minimum extra space would be very difficult to accomplish without removing a lot of other seats. Still, the opportunity – and the billing infrastructure – will be in place.