The NY Times reported on May 9 about the different fees airlines are now charging for "premium" seats, including seats with extra legroom and seats in different areas of the plane ie some airlines apparently charge more to sit in the front of the plane presumably on the theory that you can disembark more quickly.
As someone who was traveling relatively frequently when these fees were just starting to be introduced, I noticed one issue I hadn't previously thought of when the airlines started charging these kinds of fees. I tend to check-in early online and usually if I check-in the day before the flight I can get a seat that's not too far in the back of the plane. I noticed that as the airlines reserved more and more seats to charge premium prices, the only available seats for those who didn't want to pay premium prices were in the back of the plane and in the middle seat. So I wonder if you're better off taking the middle seat in the back and potentially being squished between people much bigger than you or whether you wait to check in until the last minute and hope the premium seats open up? I assume the airlines have to open up the premium seats at the last minute so everyone with a ticket can get on the plane. Otherwise, do the planes just fly around with empty "premium" seats and disgruntled passengers stuck on the ground?
Also, what happens if you pay for a premium seat on a flight and you later want to change the flight? I asked a gate attendant at one airline who explained a very complex procedure of reimbursing a credit card and then recharging a credit card for the change. Also, when she tried to demonstrate, she found that the computer didn't always automatically do the recrediting so the gate-check agent had to be aware of the problem and know how to manually override the system.
I understand that airlines have to make money somehow, but this seems to be getting unnecessarily complex.