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Reader’s tip: Purchase a “comfort seat” for extra space, on airlines that allow it

Earlier this year (okay, much earlier this year), reader Diane sent me a message about how she’d handled a trip from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles with her pup Biscuit. They flew on an Alaska Airlines 737-800 (check out previous Dog Jaunt posts here and here about the under-seat space on an Alaska 737-800), and Diane was concerned that Biscuit’s large Sherpa carrier (19″ long) would be too long even for the middle seat space.

Alaska Airlines, it turns out, allows any passenger to purchase a “comfort seat,” that is, a second seat next to them. Some airlines only permit passengers of size to purchase second seats, but Alaska (and other airlines too, according to this Wall Street Journal article) makes the option available to anyone — and a clever idea it is too, especially on a long flight.

“What I did,” said Diane, “was purchase two seats, the window and the middle (the one-way fare was $129 per seat). This is a new policy on Alaska and it worked out great. The second seat is called a ‘comfort seat’ and the first couple of reservation agents that I spoke to had never heard of it so I had to be persistent (this type of reservation can only be made over the phone). It used to be that you could only purchase two seats if you were unable to comfortably fit within one, not so anymore. Anyone can buy the second seat.”

“The carrier fit under the middle seat pretty well, though I did have to reach under the seat and hold the lifejacket up while I slid the carrier under. Once I did that it was fine. Also, as another person noted, the carrier needs to be turned lengthwise first, which normally would mean encroaching on your neighbor’s space for a second or two but with the comfort seat not an issue.”

Diane wanted, at very least, to have “the option to have the carrier lengthwise once in flight — i.e., completely out from under the seat, lengthwise at my feet, which would not have been possible with a 19″ long carrier and a person next to me.” Things worked out even better than that, however: “The best part about the comfort seat was that during the flight I was able to take the carrier out and put it on the seat so Biscuit could sit right next to me in the carrier. I don’t know if this is technically allowed but the website says that the carrier must remain under the seat during takeoff, taxi and landing — it doesn’t say anything about in flight. In any event, the flight attendants for Alaska are the nicest in the air so it wasn’t a problem. Also, the person sitting on the aisle was very sweet and a ‘dog person.'”

As Diane says, “If you can afford it, this is really a great option and made the flight so much nicer.” Thanks so much for the report, Diane! It’s so helpful to hear details about your trip preparation, and about the day of travel.

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