Looking for a better airline seat? There’s a site for that

If you fly, chances are you have a story to tell about an uncomfortable airline seat.

Vicki Morwitz does. Hers involves a long-haul plane trip, a minuscule economy-class enclosure and a circuitous routing that deposited her at her destination feeling exhausted and irritated.

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So when a friend invited her to test a new online booking site that evaluates airline seats for their comfort, she had to try it. “I care about fares,” says Morwitz, a business professor who lives in New York. “But I also care a lot about the travel experience.”

That site, Routehappy, officially launched last week with a lofty promise of showing you the best possible flight based on price, seat comfort and schedule. If it succeeds, it could change the way people fly.

“Consumers care about experience, even if they don’t acknowledge it,” says Robert Albert, Routehappy’s founder and chief executive. “In spite of being so publicly blase about taking commercial flights, passengers pay attention to the experience they receive.”

Albert cites a recent survey by the travel consultancy Hudson Crossing, which suggests that a majority of passengers make purchasing decisions based in part on amenities and customer service. Even the type of aircraft can sway them, with 58 percent of travelers saying that it influences their decision to book a ticket.

But passengers aren’t the only ones who have been blase. For years, airlines enthusiastically embraced the idea that in economy class, a seat is a seat. Indeed, within the last generation, most seats in the back of the plane shrank to a standard 17½-inch width with 31 inches of “pitch,” or space between seats. For the average American adult, that effectively turned a transcontinental flight into a grueling ordeal and made a long-haul international flight almost unbearable.

It wasn’t until the airline industry stumbled upon the idea that it could charge more for certain economy-class seats that it slowly began to turn away from a concept that has been called “commoditization.” When airlines could extract more money for, say, an exit row seat, which is required by Federal Aviation Administration regulation to have more legroom, or to reserve an aisle seat, the concept that all airline seats are created equal started to unravel.

The transition isn’t complete, according to Hudson Crossing analyst Henry Harteveldt. It’s plainly obvious that some seats are better than others, but he says airlines need to “wake up” to that reality. “Airlines need to come clean and be honest with their travelers,” he adds. “They need to say: We want everyone to have a good experience. But some seats are better than others.”

Morwitz already knew that when she signed in to Routehappy to book a recent flight from New York to Istanbul. But the nonstop flight offered by her preferred carrier had been discontinued, and in order to stay with the airline and collect miles, she would have to connect through Amsterdam or Paris, which she didn’t want to do. Both connections required long stopovers, and the fares were expensive.

Routehappy suggested an alternate route with more comfortable seats, via Moscow on Aeroflot. It also ranked the flight based on seat comfort, in-flight entertainment systems, available wireless Internet connection and aircraft type, assigning the routing a score from 1 to 10.

“I remember all the old horror stories about Aeroflot, so it was a very happy surprise when I read some very nice reviews about the airline,” Morwitz says. “I decided to give it a try and had a very pleasant flight experience — one I definitely would not have taken if not for Routehappy.”

Routehappy may debunk a few persistent and unhelpful myths about air travel. The first is an oft-repeated mantra among airlines that air travelers care only about price when considering ticket purchases. It’s a “truth” that has made air travel a miserable experience for most economy-class passengers, as air carriers used it to justify moving seats closer together and adding new surcharges to their ticket prices. Passengers, they claimed, asked them to do it by insisting that a low price trumped everything.

“While I agree that everyone cares about price, oftentimes consumers are comparing 10 or more options at the same price,” says Albert. “Why wouldn’t you choose an extra inch or two of legroom, streaming television or WiFi over a cramped seat with no amenities?”

A related myth: Generally speaking, passengers are so cheap that they wouldn’t pay more for a comfortable seat. During Routehappy’s usability testing, the company noticed that certain amenities — most notably, a roomier seat — enticed air travelers to pay extra for their tickets.

That doesn’t surprise Harteveldt, the airline analyst. “If all people cared about was price,” he says, “then Spirit would be the largest airline in the world. And people would only fly if they got the cheapest ticket.”

But a company such as Routehappy could threaten the very status quo of modern flying. The detailed information on seat comfort and amenities, previously hidden from the traveling public, could undermine the highly profitable loyalty programs, driving customers to book the best ticket for them rather than one that helps them accumulate the most frequent-flier miles.

“I think Routehappy can help change the airline industry,” says Morwitz, an expert on consumer behavior and marketing and a happy Aeroflot customer. “Ultimately, this can be better for the airlines themselves, as they can differentiate themselves instead of being viewed as interchangeable commodities.”

Happiness, by the numbers

Routehappy scores 30 million nonstop flights from 748 airlines, assigning each a Happiness Score from 1 to 10. It also includes thousands of user-generated reviews with seat photos. Some of its findings:

Widest seat: 36 inches in Cathay Pacific’s fully flat first-class pods on the 747-400 or 777-300ER

Narrowest seat: 16.5 inches on Air Asia Airbus A-330

Smallest seat pitch: 27 inches on Cape Air Cessna

Highest pitch: 92 inches on American Airlines’ First Class Cabin on the 777-200

Happiest Route and Cabin: 9.62, Emirates Flight 323 from Seoul to Dubai on the Airbus A380

When you buy an airline ticket, which is more important?

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51 thoughts on “Looking for a better airline seat? There’s a site for that

  1. I have a travel philosophy: CCC- Comfort, Class, Convenience. They may cost more, but are always worth it. There are certain airlines I will not fly, even if they are the cheapest because of their poor customer service. I am a big guy, so I will fly economy on domestic flights, but will not fly economy on an international flight over 8 hours for any price. I save up for economy with extra legroom, business class, or flat out find somewhere else to go.

  2. I said price since most of my flights are under two hours. I’m not a skinny minny, but the seats are ok for the short term. For a long flight I would definitely pick comfort. I didn’t one time and regretted it for hours!

    1. Why is that? I don’t have “Big bucks” by any stretch of the imagination, but I still find affordable business class seats for most long haul flights.

      1. On Big “Funny” Bucks (i.e. Miles and Points), I might ask? Those things or currencies that are “imaginary” to our friend Chris 🙂

        1. Cash, U S dollars mainly, but occasionally Euros or Pounds Sterling. Out of my own pocket.

          I use miles and point to get my family (mother, brother) where they need to go. I have occasionally used miles to get myself somewhere, but recent opportunities have been rare.

          1. I simply cannot afford International BC. I love getting upgraded by the airlines. That is the only way I can get a better seat. So to me the real important site of knowledge is how to get upgraded 🙂 I don’t think that discussion is welcomed here; ha ha.

    2. Okay, as I was telling you in reply to another post, my husband and I had a great discussion on this point. I pulled up our regular route from OMA to New York (any airport) and picked 3 months out. The difference was almost $100 to take the route with the most “happiness”, a very relative term when you’re talking the limited choices from Omaha to New York. My husband said, well, if we flew First Class, we’d be “happier”. I reminded him of what “First Class” looks like on a CRJ-700. *snort* There’s darn little “happiness” on a regional jet, unless it’s his company’s Gulfstream and I don’t get to fly with him on those runs.

      But, again, price differences are relative. I can vividly remember when $100 a person would have been a budget buster for us. So, it’s all a matter of perspective. If I didn’t have the extra $100/person (“the big bucks”), I would not be able to choose comfort vs. price.

  3. I’m skeptical but I hope I’m wrong. Airlines, like large businesses, have tons of market research by which they base their decisions. We may call it a myth, but it does seem like when airlines try to improve the coach experience and raise prices accordingly, they are not rewarded. The only thing that seems to work is charging a base price and letting those who wish to add better accommodations do so, such as more legroom, better placement in the plane, included luggage, etc.

    Of course, airlines take a huge PR hit for doing so, but it seems to be working.

    1. Agreed. They can’t keep calling these things myths. They are not. The vast majority of travelers will purchase based on price. Period. SOME travelers will pay for more, which is why the airlines are creating “opportunities” to purchase more legroom, better seating, etc. Many people refuse to pay more. They should then not receive anything more.

  4. For me, it depends on a few factors. For flights 4 hours and under (basically, domestic travel), it is about the price and then the schedule and I’ll suffer the discomfort. However, I travel overseas a lot. Because right now I don’t have dependents, I have minimal debt, and I make a decent salary, when I travel long haul flights I pay for business class. It’s an indulgence I will have to give up once I have kids, but for now, it is worth the price to be comfortable on a 12+ hour flight. I work with a great travel agent who has helped me find good prices, but mainly because while I do belong to 2 loyalty programs, once I lost my status on both 2 years ago due to a slow travel year, I just don’t care that much anymore. Of course, I haven’t done long haul to Asia in years so I don’t know if I would be willing to pay for how much that would cost (I remember back in the early/mid ’90s, my mom, dad, sister, and I all flew business class on Singapore Airlines from the East Coast to the Philippines for a total of about $7000 or $8000 – not each, total for 4 tickets!).

    1. Those SQ prices are long gone. Not even close to today’s BC fares to Manila. Also if you fly SQ25/26, the route is pretty long (via FRA-SIN). If you are a regular to Manila, just fly coach there one time and then buy the BC ticket MNL-xxx-MNL in Manila. They are a lot cheaper when priced from (ex) Manila.

  5. It’s a good idea for a niche site. I can’t, however, envision Route Happy changing the way people book airline tickets. That’s particularly true when I examined their results. I picked random trips from my home airport of Fort Lauderdale. In 2 out of 5 trips, Route Happy’s cheapest fare was higher than Bing Travel. (Plus, Bing calculates the chances that a fare will increase or decrease.) Admittedly, my random fare comparisons aren’t statistically significant.

    1. Hi Ali, John Walton here, Routehappy’s director of data. We really pride ourselves in offering the lowest fares in the market (through a bunch of algorithms that we created), but sometimes established players have direct links to airlines that provide different availability to the GDS system we launched with.

      We currently have those links with American, Delta and United, plus Air France, Alitalia and KLM, and are looking forward to providing more as soon as we conclude negotiations with the airlines.

      I have asked our fare geniuses to take a fresh look at FLL pricing, so I hope you’ll see best-price options on all five routes you tried on Routehappy soon!

  6. I couldn’t choose. If I could fly on an airline for half the price, but just a slightly lower comfort rating…I would. If I could fly in more comfort for slightly more money…I would. So…I would choose “C”…Value.

  7. Convenience. That’s what I usually pick before both Price and Comfort. I’ll pay extra for a direct flight, checked baggage, with a pre-reserved seat, and early boarding – all so I don’t have to fight with the inevitable crush of people who didn’t plan ahead. In my case, that often means taking a smaller seat on a commuter jet.

  8. Not bad – I typed in a regular flight that we take, from Omaha to New York, and Routehappy ranked the choices the way I would have ranked them. And yes, I’d pay Delta the extra money to fly with them, compared to the other choices. Not that Delta should get any ideas, though. 🙂

    1. Hmm… how many choices do you really have. I guess less than your fingers.
      The problem is that the choices are pretty bad so you are picking the least bad 🙂

      1. Hmm. Well there’s . . . and there’s . . . and . . . oh never mind! My choices are very limited, but there are enough choices to require scrolling down a couple of times. It’s all what time of day and which airport and where you get to connect. Those permutations all add up and since we’ve done most of them, I can agree with the ratings. Mind you, the highest rating is a 7.2, on a CRJ-700 in Economy, nonstop from OMA to LGA. Not a very high rating, but far better than the one with a connection in ORD going to EGR!

        My husband and I had a great discussion based on the article and your earlier comment, that you need the big bucks or this entire conversation is irrelevant. I’ll go post up there to keep that line of thought flowing.

    2. Thanks Jeanne! (John Walton, Routehappy’s director of data here.)

      Fear not — we won’t tell Delta if you won’t. 😉 Although one of the things I’m most looking forward to is being able to demonstrate to airlines that, if they provide a superior product (rather than lowest common denominator), there is a market for that. It’s about giving flyers all the information they need to make a rational choice for them.

  9. I agree that I choose based on value. I try to save miles for long haul upgrades as I cannot justify paying business class prices even though the economy class experience can be pretty miserable. The product that is the best value for my money is Turkish Airlines’ Comfort Class. I pay a little more for a bigger seat with more recline and way more leg room – much better than the “economy plus” products that only offer a little “extra” leg room.

  10. My perspective is warped because 1) I’m a pint-sized person and 2) I fly out of a hub smack dab in the middle of the country, so most all significant destinations are available nonstop and the longest domestic flight (outside of Alaska or Hawai’i) is only about 3 1/2 hours. I just can’t justify paying extra for fancy seats or extra legroom for flights that short. I do have my standards, though; I refuse to fly Spirit, no matter how cheap they are.

    Now that being said, if I were to take a longer flight (Europe, Asia, Hawai’i, etc.), I would be more than willing to pay extra for a more comfortable seat, like Main Cabin Extra. But, convenience trumps all for me. If I had the choice between a nonstop flight in regular steerage vs. a connecting flight in fancy steerage, I’d take the nonstop unless it were ridiculously more expensive. Too much can go wrong with connections these days, and I don’t need the stress. I also agree with Carver, though. I am skeptical that this indicates a trend away from price and schedule and more towards comfort and service. I hope that is the case, but the proof will be in the pudding.

    1. The trend is the American and European carriers are playing catch up with the great Asian and Middle Eastern carriers. I don’t need routehappy when I fly the the 5 or high 4 star Skytrax rated carriers. Routehappy is there to distinguish the wheat from the chaff. Unfortunately there is too many of them around.

      And frankly who gives a darn about comparing Business Class seats for the average Joe. If you have that kind of money then I guess you also have some time to spend on seatguru, etc. The real problem to me is there is no legal minimum to seat pitch or width. That problem affects almost everyone who is not in BC or higher.

      The trend is towards collecting MORE ANCILLARY FEES to get out of the rat trap. There is very little positive going on now. Don’t kid yourself.

  11. My poll vote this time is that this one is fhe silliest poll question ever. The article males a good point: when customers are offered a set of tradeoffs between price and quality, everyone can make his own rational choice.

  12. I didn’t vote because the poll is too simplistic. It depends on the length of the flight, the length of any layovers (long enough I don’t worry about missing the connection but not too long), the actual difference in price, my previous experience with the airlines in question, etc. etc. Will definitely check out this new site, thanks for the heads up (although I fly as infrequently as possible domestically these days – go Amtrak!)

    1. I agree with you that the poll is too basic. For flights under 2 to 3 hours, I can tolerate more things. For flights over 3 hours, I prefer a better seat and for international flights, it is all about comfort.

    1. It is unlikely that Southwest will give their fares to Routehappy since Southwest does NOT give their fares to any airline fare search sites, etc. Their information is listed on SeatGuru.

    2. Hi Joshua, I’m John Walton, Routehappy’s director of data. We already cover Southwest in our flyer reviews section — but as you probably know, Southwest doesn’t participate in the GDS systems we and other flight search sites use, as ArizonaRoadWarrior highlights.

      We know that people at Southwest are watching Routehappy closely, and we’re confident that our scoring treats the airline, its seats and other Happiness Factors fairly and consistently. We’d LUV to include them in our results!

  13. I am wondering if Routehappy takes a look at each seat in each cabin. If it doesn’t, you can still end up with a “bad” seat because of the configuration (i.e. a seat next to the lavatory; a seat next to the gallery; a seat doesn’t fully recline since it is the row before the exit aisle; etc.). I like SeatGuru since it has individual reviews on each seat on the plane. I have been using SeatGuru for years and have been quite happy with the information that they have provided to me.

    1. That is what makes Seat Guru so helpful – it actually rates each individual seat on each configuration.

      Sure, business and 1st class will be better than coach, but depending on which seat you get sometimes not enough better to really matter. There are plenty of seats in business class that are right next to the toilet or the galley or the crew rest area. Those spots can be worse than the middle seat in the last row of coach because of the resulting traffic and noise.

      1. I was right there with you until your last sentence. No seat in Business Class is worse than the middle seat in the last row of economy. Try earplugs or noise-cancelling headsets. Or wanna trade?

    2. Hey there ArizonaRoadWarrior, John Walton here, Routehappy’s Director of Data. We absolutely do look at the seats in every cabin. We score and rank them in comparison with every other seat and cabin on your route.

      We don’t yet say “avoid seats 21DEF because they’re high traffic”, or “seats 43 ABC have extra legroom but no recline”, but that (and a list of many other things) is firmly on our roadmap.

      We know that regular travelers check their airline’s seat maps sites, other sources and use their plain (oops, nearly typed “plane”!) common sense on which particular seats to pick. We’re out there to give a comparative rating of them all, and we think that “the seats on this plane have at least 32″ of legroom” is more immediately helpful to more flyers than “these six seats are great”. Of course, where we know that there are hidden gems, we point them out in our friendly, easy-to-use hovers.

      1. SeatGuru informs a person that the seats have 32″ of legroom as well as pointing out things like avoid seat 15E since it doesn’t decline and that is the reason why I like SeatGuru. I travel mostly on US Airways and been traveling on US Airways for years; therefore, I know the seats to avoid and etc.
        However, when I travel outside of the US, I will travel on a Star Alliance member (soon to be One World once the American and US Airways merger is finalized) such as Asiana, Singapore, etc. since they have a superior first class and business class product than the US based airlines where I do not have the experience or knowledge on the seats to avoid on each airplane model. If I am spending money or miles for FC or BC tickets, it is the upmost important to me to avoid the “less desireable” seats in FC or BC (i.e. the ones by the gallery, lavatory; etc.). When you have a 7 to 11 hour flight, it is all about comfort to me.

        I wish you and your company success.

  14. Checked Routehappy for my upcoming trip to Paris (France, not Texas). It says the flights I am on are the best. Glad it agrees with me. How I arrived at my decision was: price, travel time, my experiences with various airlines, departure/arrival times, and opinions of others. I’m traveling in business/first since it is a long trip. I really didn’t want to fly UA (and UA was the most expensive option no matter how I routed myself). And with the FAA staffing issues in effect when I booked it, wanted to get on a non- U S based airline as soon as possible. I ended up on Air Canada connecting in Montreal.

    Will Routehappy provide useful information all the time? Not sure. I checked a few other routes and don’t exactly agree with their rating. For example, if I wanted to fly to Prague, none of the flights it shows as available rate very high due to the connection options within Europe. The short hop from your arrival point in Europe to Prague are on smaller planes without a real 1st or business class which doesn’t bother me as long as the flight into Europe from the US has nice lay-flat business seats. Most domestic US flights I take often and find tolerable it rates as low (some, such as a routes from DEN to IAH via SFO or ORD are just options I would never choose anyway). Maybe if they offered an option to rate what is more important to the flyer, the results would be more accurate for each individual.

    1. Hey there Mark, this is John Walton, Routehappy’s Director of Data. Thanks for your comments — they’re really useful as we continue to plan and evolve.

      Félicitacions on picking great flights to Paris! That’s a tricky one, because even airlines in the same alliances vary widely. Those AIr Canada connections are great, but bear in mind that the YUL-CDG flights move to the ten-across Boeing 777-300ER later this year. Routehappy highlights those and scores them (and their narrower seats) less highly than the older versions, so I hope you don’t get caught out.

      “All the time” is a big ask, but I think we’re mostly there! Prague is a tricky one, because you’re going to have to connect somewhere. We’re continually refining our connection algorithms, but I can report that our current rankings reward better beds on the longer legs.

      Good news, though — we have further ways for you to refine your searches to what really matters for you. We know we care about different aspects of the experience, and we’re very keen to let you dictate to your results what’s important. Please do get in touch with any questions! I’d love to hear more from you.

  15. I am happy paying a few dollars more for a more comfortable seat even on shorter flight. Not saying I would spend 2X or 3X for a short flight just to get a comfy seat. But I am not going to go cheap just to save a couple dollars only to end up with blood clots in my legs because the seats are too close together for someone my size.

  16. Price vs Comfort with NO other factors involved is not a particularly illuminating question. If I said “comfort”, I’d be saying I could afford to pay $10,000 for a 2000-mile flight. I *am* willing to pay more for more comfort, but not the amount that most airlines are charging for it. Frankly, I think I’m paying too little for some flights — I’ve paid $110 for a round-trip flight between Boston and DC. I’d happily pay $200 for that route if I had a guarantee of comfort… but most airlines want $800 for a guarantee of comfort.

    If all airline gives you is the bare minimum to support human life, why should one pay more than the bare minimum unless forced?

    1. Hi Jane, I’m John Walton, Routehappy’s director of data. We agree that price vs comfort is just a start.

      That’s why we also count, rank and comparatively score other things that affect your journey, like how well an airport is rated by real flyers, what entertainment you’ll have, whether there’ll be Wi-Fi and plugs, how many neighbors you’ll have in your row, and more.

      If you want to support airlines that give you more than the bare minimum, Routehappy is absolutely the site for you to find out which ones those are!

  17. I’m skeptical because they don’t disclose where they get their information. They present statements like “Flyers rate Delta ‘Average’ on this route” as fact. Unfortunately, without knowing who those “flyers” are, the information is useless.

    Another example relating to the seating: “Layout: 3-3 This layout is fine for short hops, but for longer flights, shop for something more spacious”. I guess they failed math class. A larger plane doesn’t automatically equal a better seat. And, it certainly doesn’t change the percentage of middle seats. (In fact, if you end up on a 777 or 747 with 3-4-3 seating, you’re more likely to get stuck in a middle seat.)

    1. Even worse are the 777 with 2-5-2 seating. I have no idea who though that was a good layout. I have been stuck in the middle of the 5 way too many times.

    2. Hi Alex, I’m John Walton, Routehappy’s director of data. We aim to be really transparent in where our information comes from, so let me explain a little bit more.

      If you look at the flyer rating (the “Flyers rate Delta ‘Average’ on this route” section), it’s a single click to view more reviews by Delta flyers. You’ll also spot at a glance whether flyers are elites — we know that the travel experience can be different for folks with different airline status, so we want to make that as clear as possible. As our review database grows (we just launched on Friday!) we’re planning to make those links head straight to reviews of your particular route.

      You’re right that larger planes don’t automatically equal a better seat, but often you can find a better option on a widebody. If your choice is flying a 757 or 767, for example — which is, for many markets, the choice if your option is narrowbody or widebody — the choice is clear. It’s still pretty clear on an Airbus A330/340, with 1/4 middle seats vs 1/3 in a 3-3 configuration.

      Plus, unlike any other site, we’ve tracked down exactly which Boeing 777s have 3-4-3 seating in economy, so you’ll always know (and we provide a warning and scoring that’s much more cautionary than our warning for 3-3).

      Do let me know if you have any more questions about our data and how it works. You can reach me on Twitter, or my email’s john at routehappy dot com. We want everyone to be comfortable with our data 🙂

  18. This is great for people who can choose which route and airline to use for a given business trip. Any business that allows people to choose their own route without regard to cost had better have a good reason for it if I happen to be their customer.

    1. My employer allows me to choose which route and airline I want for domestic flights. Usually, the prices from my airport to where I need to go is within $20 no matter which airline I choose if I book more than 3 weeks out. I usually choose the one that gets me there with the shortest travel time. After all, my customers want me rested and alert when I am there to do business. Flying 1000 miles out of the way to save $20 resulting in me possibly sleeping through a meeting or even just missing details in the conversation because I am drained from the travel experience is of no benefit to anyone.

      1. I agree if it’s only $20. Yesterday I booked a trip and the cheapest was $299. The most expensive was $1000. While you are responsible with your company’s money I remember our travel agent in one company (won’t say which job) saying that one employee had told her that he didn’t mind paying $500 to fly $200 because the company was paying. She was really saddened by that even though she worked for the agency not our company. I was also really saddened by it because that money is not his alone to spend as he wishes.

    2. Hi BMG4ME, I’m John Walton, Routehappy’s director of data. We absolutely recognize that many folks don’t get to pick their route or airline.

      But Routehappy still provides a bunch of useful information! For example, United flies over a dozen times a day between Houston and Washington, with more than a half-dozen aircraft types.

      We’ll show you which ones are the roomier international config Boeing 767s, and which ones are the squished regional jets you might want to avoid.

  19. Hmmm – just checked Routehappy to see what it had to say about my upcoming trip (already booked) in June and got this result “We’re sorry, there are no flights available that match your search.” Should I be worried? LOL!!

    1. Hi Sandra, this is John Walton, Routehappy’s director of data. Yikes! Your upcoming trip should probably have shown up unless it’s completely sold out.

      Can I ask if you’re using an iPad? The combination of autocorrect and our (otherwise pretty smart!) city name autocomplete is something we’re working to fix. If you can make sure you’re giving it enough time to autocomplete (especially if you’re on a slow connection), you might have more success.

      If not, please do feel free to email our team (tellus at routehappy dot com) and we’ll be happy to fix that problem for you!

  20. I think the options are unfair. While price is the major factor, I am willing to pay more on the trams Atlantic flights so I am not wrecked when I arrive. But for a 6-8 hour flight I can deal with cramped quarters but lower prices.

  21. Price is important if you are paying for the ticket; comfort if someone else is paying. That said, I fly internationally in business class usually on miles but sometimes on deeply discounted fares. Domestic flights of less than three hours I go 100% by price if on my own. Longer flights I try for economy plus/comfort/etc usually flying an airline where status makes the extra room free. Also, if I can get it on miles as a standard reward, on flights of five or more hours I try for first class.

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