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$15 fee for exit-row or aisle seat

NORTHWEST Airlines last week began testing a program to charge domestic coach passengers $15 extra to book aisle- and exit-row seats.

Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said that the test, called Coach Choice, applies to 5% of seat assignments overall, including about 35% in exit rows.

Most passengers can book the test seats up to 24 hours in advance; elite fliers can book up to 36 hours ahead. You must make the choice online at www.nwa.com or at an airport check-in kiosk.

Ebenhoch gave several reasons for the fee: to get more revenue; to accommodate customers who book late and pay more, only to find good seats are gone; and to keep fares low to compete with low-cost carriers. He compared the fee to hotels charging more for rooms with ocean views.

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Airlines that have similar fees include Virgin Atlantic, which since 2002 has charged $75 at the airport for exit-row seats, and Air Canada, which charges $12 for seat selection for passengers choosing its lowest fare, called Tango.

-- Jane Engle


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