What is “preferred seating” on American? I am Platinum on American but am not clear on the difference in legroom between preferred and exit row.

“Preferred seating” is a concept that many airlines have been experimenting with recently, and the concept is evolving and often means different things at different airlines. To most normal passengers, we think that “Preferred seating” should mean a seat with extra legroom, but this is too simplistic for the airlines, and they actually have a fairly different interpretation.

To the airlines, “Preferred seating” could mean one or many of the following:
  • Bulk-head row
  • Exit row
  • Window seat
  • Aisle seat
  • Any seat in rows further forward
  • Any seat that is historically selected by more passengers
  • Any seat that the airlines decide to set aside for last minute (highest fare, usually people on business that must be on the flight to make a meeting) passengers
  • Other criteria that are even less defined
The airlines are defining the term “preferred seating” loosely, so that many seats could potentially fall into this category. From the passengers’ point of view, they generally prefer seats with following characteristics:
  1. Exit row seats – for generally more legroom, although sometimes trade-off with slightly narrower seats due to the tray-tables being in the non-moveable arm-rests
  2. Bulkhead row seats – with no one reclining into them, and sometimes slightly more leg room. The trade off is also potentially narrower seats due to in-armrest table tables and no under-seat storage in front of the seat
  3. Seats further forward – in order to get off the plane sooner, especially when they have a tight connection at the hub airport
  4. An aisle seat – so that they can get to the aisle easier, particularly at the end of the flight, where they can get their overhead luggage without being boxed in
  5. A window seat – at least it is better than the middle seat!
The answer to your question then is this: Other than the exit row and perhaps the bulk-head rows, there is essentially no difference in the legroom amongst any other economy class rows. Of the large US legacy carriers, United Airlines’ “Economy Plus” is the only product that is consistently offering several inches additional legroom on almost every plane. While standard economy class pitch is around 31 inches, “Economy Plus” has pitch around 34-35 inches, which makes a big difference on long flights.
Most airlines allow their elite level frequent flyer members to access the “preferred seating” without any additional cost, and charge non-elite passengers different amounts for the same privilege. Since this is still an evolving concept, the actual cost will vary from airline to airline, and change over time until the airlines can arrive at a sweet spot to maximize revenue and passenger expectation.

3 Responses

  1. JetBlue, like American Airlines, has coach seats that offer more legroom. The price is between $10 and $40.

  2. My husband and I are 77 & 82 yrs Senior Citizen. Taking trip to Italy soon on AA.
    We are Platinum Elite with AAdvantage and quizitive if this classifies us as perferred passengers for seating?

  3. As American AAdvantage Platinum members you are entitled to reserve exit-row seats, which means you are among those who have first shot at the preferred economy-class seats. What’s more, American will waive your checked baggage fees, and those can certainly add up on international trips.

    Enjoy your trip to Italy.

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