7 On Your Side: Consumer Reports has tips on getting the most out of airlines

From crowded planes, to paying for services that used to be free, flying is anything but fun. 7 On your Side's Michael Finney partnered up with Consumer Reports with some tips on how to squeeze the best out of the airlines that are trying to squeeze you.

With airlines packing in more seats than ever before, savvy travelers book seats ahead to avoid the dreaded middle seat. But increasingly, that's not an option, at least not for free

"Airlines have long charged for extra leg room, but now selecting even a regular economy seat in advance can cost you," said Amanda Walker with Consumer reports.

One tip: Airlines will often release the seats they haven't sold or were canceled 72 hours ahead of the flight. So keep trying then and you might score a decent free seat.

Knowing which seats give you the most room can help, too. Check out seatguru.com for information about most airlines' seating plans, including size, limited recline, or leg room.

"If despite your best efforts, you're still in a cramped seat, or your flight is over four hours, get up frequently and stretch your legs and feet to avoid blood clots," Walker said.

Another travel mishap you can avoid: missing your connecting flight. These days with increased security, Consumer Reports recommends allowing at least two hours between domestic flights and four if you're traveling overseas.

Sitting in the front can save as much as 15 minutes when deplaning, though you might have to pay for that seat. Avoid booking the last flight of the day.

And if possible, also avoid major airports that have the worst on-time departure performance.

And you do have rights if you are bumped involuntarily from a flight and are delayed. You may be entitled to up to $650 if the flight is domestic and $1,300 if it's international, according to Department of Transportation Regulations.

Consumer Reports' latest customer satisfaction survey found that as in past years, Jetblue, Southwest Airlines, and Virgin America top the ratings.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)
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