Whether you're looking to exercise your right to recline or hoping to avoid squashed knees, it pays to pick the right seat.
In recent weeks, passenger fights over reclining seats have diverted three flights—a Delta flight from New York to West Palm Beach, Florida, a United flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Denver, and an American flight from Miami to Paris. Paying up for extra legroom isn't a cure-all: In two of the three recent incidents, passengers were sitting in such premium seats.
To avoid a tight squeeze—and avoid paying expensive additional charges for extra space—look to seat maps on sites such as SeatGuru.com or SeatExpert.com. Dimensions for basic economy seats can vary widely, and the difference in fares may be less than the fee to upgrade. (See chart of what U.S. carriers offer on short-haul flights, below.) "On JetBlue, even the seats that you don't pay for have more legroom than others," said George Hobica, founder of AirfareWatchdog.com.