The Seattle Times has a useful story about how to get an exit row seat in coach and the extra leg room that goes with it. The key points:
- Exit rows are rarely available when you book (unless you have elite status) so try to change your seat when you check in online.
- If that doesn’t work, ask at the gate if any exit row seats have opened up.
- When there are two exit rows, one in front of the other, choose the second row. The seats in the front exit row don’t recline.
This is pretty much my strategy, and it often works. I recently flew in an exit row on the aisle with an empty seat next to me. I thought I was in heaven.
There are times, however, when I won’t take an available exit row seat. I recently had a chance to switch into a middle exit row seat but opted instead to keep my standard aisle seat. It’s not worth the tradeoff to me.
The article also has advice on how to get a bulkhead seat, but I don’t much care for those. I like to put my carry-on under the seat in front of me, which is hard to do if there’s no seat in front of me.