Danny Helman
By Joe Passov
Monday, September 10, 2007

You might not be able to avoid delays, overbooking or the warmed-over muck that passes for lunch, but there's one air travel bugaboo you can usually remedy: getting stuck in a poor seat. Here's how:

Do your research
Sites like seatguru.com, seatexpert.com and airlineequality.com have seat maps and quality ratings for just about every airline and type of plane. When booking, ask which jets fly the route you're traveling, then go online and make a list of preferred seats, which you can request when you confirm the reservation.

Go bulk
Economy-class bulkhead and exit rows at the front of the plane usually rate high for comfort because they're spacious and child-free. But you need to request them the day of the trip. Call a couple of hours before your arrival time and ask the agent to book one for you.

Go cheap
In order to compete with more established carriers, discount airlines like Air Tran (airtran.com), Jet Blue (jetblue.com) and, in Europe, Ryanair (ryanair.com) have outfitted their cabins with bigger seats and more legroom. And some allow you to upgrade for peanuts: It's just $40 to bump up a class on Air Tran.

Burn miles
Since these days it's about as easy to book a frequent-flier ticket as it is to floss your teeth with your sand wedge, you're smart to spend miles on upgrades. It takes 15,000 or 20,000 miles to upgrade on most domestic carriers, with elite-status fliers getting preferential treatment on availability.

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