Surprising hardly anybody, Continental announced that it had started adding "Economy Plus" seating to its fleet prior to the full merger with United. Economy Plus provides an extra four to five inches of legroom in economy, with seats available at no extra charge to travelers on full-fare economy tickets and to those at exalted frequent flyer levels (available for an extra fee to ordinary mortals). The process just started; it will probably be completed sometime in 2012.
This shouldn't surprise anyone. From the beginning, United has maintained that Economy Plus has been a winner with customers and presumably has the numbers to prove it. Also, JetBlue and Frontier already offer similar programs, and Delta recently decided to do its own version. Clearly, the general concept of legroom-for-a-fee has traction in the marketplace. The main remaining question is how soon American, US Airways, Alaska, Air Canada, and other competitors in the North American market will do the same.