First, an aside: it never fails to amaze me how many online travel
agencies there are, in spite of the constant pricing pressure and
reduced commissions that typify the North American travel industry.
For example, check out this list at Yahoo!'s Business Directory:
Now, to your question. The online travel services that I use the most
all allow customers, during the booking process, to choose specific
seats on airlines and tickets classes that allow advanced seat
selection. For example, Expedia.com has the following in their FAQ:
On what airlines can I request seats using the Seat Pinpointer?
You may choose your seats with the Seat Pinpointer on American
Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Airlines, Northwest Airlines,
Trans World Airlines, United Airlines, and US Airways. This list will
be updated periodically as the list changes. To stay up-to-date,
please feel free to check back.
Likewise, Travelocity.com has the following to say in their FAQ:
Can I make seat assignments for my airline flights?
If your reservation is with an airline that provides pre-reserved
seating, you can reserve your seat online at the time you are making
The seating option page will be presented to you automatically during
the booking process for both electronic and paper ticket reservations.
If no seat map appears, individual seat selection is not permitted
online for that flight.
We will still pass on your seating request (as listed in your profile)
to the airline. The airline will assign you seats as long as the
requested flight(s) allows pre-assigned seating.
If you've already booked your reservation, you will need to contact
our Customer Care Center or contact the airline directly for
assistance. Both will be able to assist you with your seat
And for one more example, here's what Orbitz.com has to say about
advance seat selections:
Do I have a seat assignment when I book on Orbitz?
At the time you make your reservation, Orbitz sends your seating
preference (any, aisle, or window) to the airline, who then assigns
seats for all customers. Once seats have been assigned, they will be
noted in "My Trips" under itinerary details, as well as in
At any time, you can go to "My Trips" to view or change your current
seat assignment. Here's how to view a seat map for your itinerary:
Go to "My Trips"
Locate the applicable reservation on the left hand side of the page
Click on "View/Change Seats" for the applicable reservation
Follow the on-screen prompts:
To change a seat assignment, click on the seat number, or click on a flight
To get a seat assignment, click on "Choose seats for this flight"
Not all flights are available for online seat assignment.
Policies on advanced seating vary by airline. Some airlines assign
seats immediately, others may only assign seats 90 days before the
flight, and several airlines wait to assign seats until the day of the
To get special seat assignments, such as handicap seats or seats
reserved for elite/premier frequent flyers, please call the airline
Naturally, advance seat selections are always subject to change by the
airline due to a variety of factors, such as a change of aircraft used
for the flight, or flight consolidation (where two separate flights
get consolidated into one flight after you have booked). While the
airlines will always do their best to honor advance seat selections,
sometimes circumstances just do not permit everyone's first choice to
Not all online travel services offer advance seat selection; this is
often due to the class of tickets that they sell. For example,
Hotwire.com, whose motto is "Fly. Sleep. Drive. Cheap." sells tickets
that are industry-discounted tickets for the most part. These tickets
do not qualify for pre-selection of seats. Flights.com, which also
sells industry-discounted and consolidator tickets, cannot provide
advance seat selection either. Even with Expedia and Travelocity, as
mentioned in their FAQs, the ability to pre-select seats is dependent
on the class of ticket purchased. Some airlines, such as Air Canada,
even have classes of fares where the customer needs to pay an
additional fee in order to pre-select a seat.
For a more eloquent take on this, check out this article that appeared
in USA Today on Sept. 7th, 2004:
So, to answer your question, online services that allow you to
pre-select your seat (and therefore choose the exact window seat you
Expedia.com http://www.expedia.com (also
http://www.expedia.ca if you're Canadian)
Travelocity.com http://www.travelocity.com (again, also
Pre-selection of seats can also be accomplished for most classes of
service when booked through the following airlines' portals (North
American airlines; leading international airlines also offer similar
capabilities through their own portals):
Air Canada http://www.aircanada.ca
Alaska Airlines http://www.alaskaair.com
American Airlines http://www.aa.com
America West Airlines http://www.americawest.com
Continental Airlines http://www.continental.com
Delta Airlines http://www.delta.com
Hawaiian Airlines http://www.hawaiianair.com
Northwest Airlines http://www.nwa.com
TransWorld Airlines http://www.twa.com
United Air Lines http://www.ual.com
US Airways http://www.usairways.com
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not point you towards a resource
that will greatly assist you in pre-selecting the RIGHT seat for your
specific needs, one that is mentioned also in that USA Today article I
referenced above... SeatGuru.com:
Depending on whether you like sitting next to a washroom (on long
flights, this can be an odiferous experience!), or require extra leg
room (ie. exit rows), or actually want to see out the window (ie.
don't sit where the wing will block your view), SeatGuru.com can be
the difference between a great flight, and a tough ordeal.
May your next flight be an enjoyable one! As always, please let me
know if there is any need for clarification of this Answer. Thanks!
Google Answers Researcher
Clarification of Answer by
27 Sep 2004 18:48 PDT
With Orbitz, seat selection is a two-step process; first you give a
preference, then after the seat assignment has been made by the
airline based on your class of travel, you can then select an
alternate seat using an actual seat-map application.
Both Expedia and Travelocity's websites will permit you to select
seats on every eligible flight segment of a multi-flight trip, as long
as you are booking all of the segments together. I stress the word
'eligible' - as stated above and on the websites themselves, not all
classes of tickets allow you to pre-select seats, so if getting a
specific seat pre-assigned to you at the time of purchase is
important, then make sure that you purchase a class of ticket that
includes advance seat selection as a feature. No airline will process
a seat assignment until a booking is actually made; however, during
the time that you are making your choices for each segment, the
selections you have made for the other segments will remain 'reserved'
until you either complete the booking, or abandon the booking.
Please also note that not all international flights accept advance
seat assignments at the time of booking; if your multiple flight
segments include international flight segments, you may still need to
contact the airline directly closer to the date of travel to arrange
for a pre-assigned seat.
Google Answers Researcher