Consumer Reports: How to snag deep discounts, get the best seat for your money, avoid nasty surprises, increase your comfort, and more – “In September, American Airlines began service from Miami to Los Angeles—a flight of just under 6 hours—on its Boeing 737 Max aircraft. The plane is a feat of aviation engineering that Boeing says is 14 percent more fuel-efficient and travels 600 nautical miles farther than earlier versions of the 737. It is also one of the most recent examples of how cramped air travel has become: It carries 12 more passengers (for a total of 172) than American’s other 737s, all of them shoehorned in by moving the seats closer together in all classes and shrinking the bathrooms so much that some people have reported difficulty turning around in them or washing their hands without getting soaked. Even carry-on bags are getting less room: Alaska Airlines reduced the size of bags it allows onboard by 32 percent in June, and certain airlines won’t allow you to bring a carry-on at all unless you pay a fee. But it’s not just irritations such as small bathrooms and vacuum-packed seating that make modern-day air travel so unpleasant. Planes today take off 85 percent full, according to the Department of Transportation, so there’s plenty of competition for space in overhead bins and little chance you’ll end up next to an empty seat. And as anyone who has purchased a ticket online knows, the price you wind up paying can bear little resemblance to the one that lured you in, once the numerous ancillary fees and other additional charges are factored in.
In their most recent gambit to attract cost-conscious fliers and increase profits, the major carriers have carved economy class up into three tiers: basic economy, a bare-bones, highly restricted fare; standard economy; and enhanced economy, which comes with more legroom and other enticements (see chart here)…”