Poll Finds Flyers Willing to Pony Up for Better Seats

May 20--Most of us will put up with a cramped middle seat on a short flight. But on trips more than three hours long, we are ready to crack open our wallets and pay for a window or aisle seat.

That is one of the findings of a recent Harris Interactive poll of 2,276 adults on the subject of airline pet peeves and passenger fees.

On flights shorter than two hours, 33% of those surveyed said they would pay for extra legroom. If the flight lasts more than three hours, 58% said they would be willing to pay. Thirteen percent said they'd pay more than $25.

But even if fliers are willing to pay the fees, they won't necessarily be happy about it.

Creed Mamikunian, a doctor from Anchorage, describes all airline fees as ridiculous and offensive. "I would rather they charge an honest price and have most things included, not this a la carte price structure," he said.

As for pet peeves, the survey found that 63% of fliers would rather sit next to a crying baby than a smelly adult. When asked, 13% said they would prefer a plane with a child-free zone.

Michael Ernstoff, an apartment manager from Los Angeles, likes the idea of segregating children on planes.

"Parents with ill-behaved children should be placed in the baggage compartment," he said. "I'm guessing that I might pay as much as 10% more to be on an adult-only flight."

Still, he said, such a plan might not work: "Too many people over 21 don't behave like adults, so segregating the adults can be difficult."

90% oppose small knives on planes

The pressure continues to mount on the Transportation Security Administration to continue to prohibit passengers from bringing small pocketknives into the cabin of commercial planes.

Opponents of allowing knives on planes unveiled a survey last week that found 90% of likely voters don't want the TSA to lift the ban that has been in place since 9/11.

"You'd be hard-pressed to find another issue in today's discourse that so many people agree on," said Laura Glading, president of the Assn. of Professional Flight Attendants, which commissioned the survey by the global research firm Penn Schoen Berland. "It's a no-brainer."

Debate over the issue has become heated since the TSA announced in March plans to modify the list of banned items by allowing passengers to carry small pocketknives, golf clubs, hockey sticks and novelty bats. The TSA said the move would let airport screeners focus on bigger threats, such as explosives.

But only days before the new policy was to take effect, TSA chief John Pistole announced that he would delay the new knife policy to first consider the comments of security and aviation experts.

No date has been set to implement the change.

On Virgin America, buy 'em a round

Virgin America is making it easier to befriend other passengers at 35,000 feet.

The Burlingame, Calif., airline's touch-screen entertainment units on each seat have a feature that lets passengers buy drinks, meals and snacks for fellow passengers and follow it up with a text message.

If you are feeling really charitable, the entertainment system lets you swipe your credit card and open a tab so you can keep the party going throughout the flight.

The service was launched last month with the start of a new Virgin America route from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

Richard Branson, the founder of the Virgin brand, unveiled a video on the new feature, titled "Sir Richard Branson's Guide to Getting Lucky."

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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