One of the biggest complaints I hear from travelers stems from lack of legroom in Economy class. Over the years, airlines have realized that they can gain more revenue by reducing seat pitch (the distance between a spot on the seat in front of you to the same spot on the seat you are seated in) for the majority of Economy class seats – most carriers offer 31-32 inches of seat pitch. This allows airlines to fit more rows of seats and then charge ancillary fees for seats with extra legroom (these seats usually have 34-37 inches of seat pitch). It’s a brilliant concept really because most corporations and leisure travelers want to pay absolute lowest price cost for a ticket.
I get it when corporate travelers who do not travel frequently complain about the lack of legroom (they don’t travel often enough to get elite status and accordingly get extra legroom seats for free) because the company is telling them that they have to travel and they don’t want to pay out of their own pockets for extra legroom. However, I have a hard time feeling sympathy for leisure travelers who take a holiday using the cheapest ticket and then complain about how cramped they are.
I can hear the rise in people’s voices right now pointing out that I have a genetic advantage for traveling since I stand just under 5 foot 10 inches. But being slightly shorter doesn’t help me in other areas of life like playing basketball for example. I can also hear the cries of people telling me that I’m lucky because I’ve traveled frequently and got extra legroom seats for many year in addition to countless upgrades. That may be true but now that elite status has expired, I’m fair game for the far back just like anyone else and have been for years when traveling on every airline with the exception of United.
You Get What You Pay For
In my humble opinion, everyone gets exactly what they pay for. Before you buy a ticket or before you travel, you can always pull up the seat map to see if there are extra legroom seats and how much they cost. If you’re tall and know you will be cramped, pay extra for a better seat. These extra legroom seats may also have additional benefits on major American carriers (click the links to see more info):
American Airlines Main Cabin Extra: Group 1 Boarding
Delta Airlines Economy Comfort: Zone 1 Boarding, 50% extra recline, complimentary beer, wine and spirits on all international flights, and complimentary premium entertainment
United Airlines Economy Plus: No extra benefits aside from extra legroom
US Airways Choice Seats: Zone 2 Boarding
Some other carriers outside of the United States also have extra legroom seating. I flew Air Canada Rouge last week from Toronto to Montego Bay, Jamaica and paid $35 per person for 5 extra inches of legroom and 3 extra inches of recline for the 4 hour flight.
Research Your Airline and Aircraft Before You Buy
As I said earlier, nearly every airline allows you to check the seat map before the final click to purchase your ticket. If you’re interested to see exactly how many inches of seat pitch you have, you can search your airline and aircraft on SeatGuru– I’ve been using this website more than 10 years and it’s always shown me to the most comfortable seats available at the time of booking. This tool will help you realize that saving a few extra bucks flying Spirit Airlines won’t be worth it if you’re tall when you find out that the seat pitch is a mere, knee-crunching 28 inches.
As I said previously, you get what you pay for. If you want a less cramped travel experience, pay extra. Trust me, my tall friends say their knees appreciate the investment. It’s ESPECIALLY worth it if you have a lap child so you can avoid the hateful glances of the vexed passengers in front who hate having their seats kicked. Plus, it’s easier to move in and out of the row if you need to go to the bathroom. AND those seats are closer to the front of the plane which means you’re off sooner and have a shorter immigration line if you are traveling internationally.
I can’t emphasize enough that Invest In Travel is all about changing your mindset so that you can enjoy your travels. Investing in extra legroom just makes your trip that much more relaxing and will help keep your thoughts positive as you transit to your destination.