By Suzie Suh

LOS ANGELES ( — With the summer travel season cranking up, and July 4 around the corner, a lot of travelers will try to get the best spots on flights.

As air travelers know, the coveted airplane seats are getting harder to come by. In fact, the aisle and window locations as well as emergency exit rows with extra leg room are now considered valuable airborne real estate.

“Planes are simply more full than they’ve been in years. 86 percent are at capacity,” said George Hobica, the founder of

Hobica says airlines are holding back certain seats for their best fliers, making it harder to secure a desired seat assignment.

He recommends booking ahead, paying to upgrade to a premium economy seat and letting the airline know if you’re traveling with a child under the age of 12 or someone who needs your assistance.

Hobica says the airline industry trend is to charge for the best available seats.

“The airlines have figured out that, just like a movie theater or just like a Broadway show or a sports stadium, some seats are more valuable than others,” he said. “Either you’re willing to pay for them or you’re not, and I think it’s just the way the airline industry is going.”

For those who cannot get the seat they desire when buying a ticket, there are some seat-swapping strategies.

Hobica says travelers might consider a friendly passenger bribe.

“You might want to bring some movie passes. You might want to bring some Starbucks gift certificate,” he said. “‘I’ll buy you a couple of cocktails if you’ll switch seats with me.’ ”

For travelers who find someone seated in their assigned seat, Hobica says, “The only thing you can do is to call the flight attendant and if somebody refuses to move, they’re going to get booted off the plane.”

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