One of the very poorly kept secrets to travel as a non-elite is that the “good seats” at the front of the plane, normally reserved for elites, are made available to everyone once check-in starts. So 24 hours prior to departure most airlines allow anyone to snag a seat towards the front of the plane, regardless of status. USAir is taking away the feature from their flights. Starting in early May, USAir will now charge non-elites for the aisle and window seats in the front of the coach section of the plane.
Not completely clear to me from the email I just got about the change is whether elites can continue to select the seats for free in advance, or if they will have to fight with the non-elites willing to pay at T-24. The pricing was also not in the email, but it will vary based on flight distance.
This seems similar to United’s Economy+ program, except the seats don’t have any extra legroom. I’m sure the seats will be assigned to passengers for free at the gate if there are no other seats available, but for now it looks like USAir is ratcheting up the competition between airlines for charging money for services that used to be free.
Updated (4.17.08 6:10a): Elites will continue to be able to select the seats in advance, so that isn’t a big deal. Thanks, Flying Critic!
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