It's no secret that airlines are packing each flight to capacity to save money, while decreasing cleaning and cosmetic maintenance (the planes are rarely on the ground long enough for serious cleaning). As a result, economy class seating for long, cross-country flights is becoming unbearable.
Earlier this month I flew on Delta in an economy row with a woman so wide we couldn't get the seat arm lowered beside her; another flight had a carpet so encrusted with goo (a smushed Cinnabon roll, perhaps?) that the purse I put under the seat in front of me was ruined. The United flight to from Seattle to Chicago Thursday featured an icy window and wall -- extremely uncomfortable, and more than a bit frightening.
This morning when I checked in for the flight back from Chicago, United offered me an upgrade to an Economy Plus seat in a reconfigured section of coach, providing 5 inches of extra leg room. I forked over $44 and, let me tell you, it was worth every penny. On the way out to Chicago, I'd twisted and squirmed to get away from the icy window, plus found myself nearly chewing on the hair of the tall man in front of me when he reclined his seatback into my face. In the upgraded seat, I had plenty of room for my feet (without wedging them on top of my carry-on backpack), and I didn't even notice if the person in front of me reclined. I was pathetically, gratefully happy to pay for humane travel conditions, and wish more airlines would offer this option.
A related note: Three cheers for MasterPark, one of the off-site parking lots at Sea-Tac. After a couple frustrating and scary experiences with other Sea-Tac lots (like the one that was padlocked shut when I arrived on a evening flight!) I've started using MasterPark when I take longer trips. Their three lots are right outside the airport and all have a covered drop-off area with a valet who takes your car. They whisked me immediately to the terminal at 6 a.m., even though I was the only person in the shuttle. I've never had to wait more than 2 or 3 minutes for a terminal pickup when I return. They even put my bag into my trunk for me! Not the cheapest parking choice, but possibly the most reliable. And they have web coupons.