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Want the best airplane seat? Try TripAdvisor's new search options

TripAdvisor this week rolled out a handy new feature to its flight search website that allows consumers to compare amenities such as legroom, Wi-Fi, power outlets and in-flight entertainment before buying a ticket. It also features traveler-generated photos of the airplane inside and out.

Here's how it works: Enter your destination search on the Cheap Flights search page. Then filter on what amenities you want -- onboard Wi-Fi, television, power -- or just do a general airfare search and the information will pop up with the list of flights.

I tested the new feature by comparing round-trip fares from Los Angeles to Las Vegas from Feb. 14 to 16. The cheapest airfare was $198 on Spirit Airlines. Legroom on the flights was described as "tight." When I clicked for more information on the seat icon, I learned seat pitch is 28 inches and could view a few photos of the plane. (TripAdvisor also tells me in this listing that my first checked bag would cost $66.)

I scrolled down to United Airlines ($247 for round-trip fare for the same dates) and found the flights offer  "average" legroom, a seat pitch of 31 inches, and the option of paying more for a roomier seat. It also told me I would have seatback entertainment on the flights (and that my first checked bag would cost $50).

TripAdvisor rolled out the new search features Tuesday across 31 countries and in 17 languages. For long-haul flights, it also details flat-bed and angled seat options.

I found the photos provided by the company's SeatGuru (TripAdvisor operates more than 20 travel websites) to be helpful but uneven. Some flights had many pictures so you get a good look at what the seats are like, others just had one or two. Still, anything that gives me more information when I'm airfare shopping is a good thing, especially when I want to compare two or more airlines with the same airfare price.

Bryan Saltzburg, general manager of TripAdvisor Flights, says in a statement that the new feature "provides transparency into the complete in-flight experience to enable fliers to make the best booking decision."

Sounds good to me.
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