Buying a Second Airplane Seat during the COVID-19 pandemic is gaining popularity as airlines stop blocking middle seats. JetBlue stopped blocking middle seats (they were blocked until 10/15/20) and Delta will stop blocking middle seats sometime in the first half of 2021, having only committed to keeping middle seats blocked until January 6, 2021.
And while some flights have few passengers, airlines have cut many routes so much that flights can be quite full. And while United, American Airlines and several others have waived change fees, allowing passengers to rebook if their flight is fuller than than they feel comfortable with, sometimes it's not feasible to change one's travel date. Enter the second airplane seat.
Even pre-pandemic, airlines have permitted passengers to purchase a second airline seat, whether for their own comfort, or because they're transporting a musical instrument. Here's what to do, and whether you'll earn frequent flyer miles for the extra seat or not:
Alaska calls a second seat a “comfort seat” and allows passengers to purchase this seat by contacting Reservations at 800-252-7522 (it may not be booked online). A companion fare voucher or Alaska Mileage Plan miles are other ways to reserve the comfort seat. If you do pay cash for the comfort seat, you can earn Alaska miles, although not elite credit.
Note that if the second seat is needed in order to accommodate a passenger of size, and if the Alaska flight departed with an open seat available, the passenger is eligible for a refund of the second seat fee. The refund may be requested via Alaska's online form, note that the request must be within 90 days of the flight.
AA also requires passengers to call in to book a second seat; it must be at in the same fare class as the first seat. Unfortunately the second seat does NOT earn AAdvantage miles, only the first seat does. If wanting to redeem AAdvantage miles, you must do so for both seats.
If you are in fact transporting a musical instrument, AA notes that seat bags must not weigh more than 165 lbs and must also meet seat size restrictions based on airplane type.
Delta also requires passengers to call Delta at 800-221-1212 to book a second seat; you won't be charged for the phone booking, as it's not possible to book online. The second seat will have the name EXST (for extra seat) and your last name. If you're a Delta elite, then you should split the PNR, so that your extra seat doesn't get in the way of a potential elite upgrade. Just don't forget to check-in both your original seat and the extra one–you'll likely need to check-in at the airport, as the online system doesn't deal gracefully with the extra ticket. You also won't earn any SkyMiles for the extra seat, although you can redeem SkyMiles to book it.
Note that as with other airlines' basic Economy tickets, these won't work for getting two seats next to each other, as basic Economy seats don't come with advance seat selection.
JetBlue is the rare airline where you can actually book a second seat online, a huge plus. Just check the box “This is an extra seat for the traveler”
Unfortunately, this doesn't extend to TrueBlue award tickets, so you'll need to call in when making your second seat booking with miles.
United, as with most airlines apart from JetBlue, requires you to call Reservations at 800-490-2021 to book a second seat. You can earn MileagePlus miles (but not elite qualifying miles) for the second seat. The good thing is that now that United has eliminated change fees, you won't be charged double for the extra seat if you need to change your ticket; previously, you would have paid double change fees.
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