How To Get Extra Legroom on a Flight for Free


Traveler's Toolbox  

more legroom - airplane seats
Photo credit: Marc Smith

Nobody wants the indignity of having to pay for it, but we all desperately want as much as we can get. Legroom is a prized commodity and airlines know it.

I am just waiting for the day that an airline starts pricing its tickets by cubic inch. Despite the nickel-and-dime attitude among carriers these days, there are still a few tricks you can use to get a bit more space without any extra fees and resorting to desperate and undignified tactics such as acting crazy or stuffing smelly cheese in your pockets.

Head for the exits, exit rows that is

Notausstieg über der Tragfläche einer Boeing 7...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every aircraft has more space in the rows next to emergency exits and these seats have long been some of the most sought-after. Airlines clued into this and started charging extra to sit in an extra row. It has now become commonplace but there still a few exceptions of airlines that don’t charge for exit row seats. If all other considerations are equal, book on an airline that doesn’t charge for exit rows.

Anyone familiar with Spiderman knows that with great power, comes great responsibility. Remember that the reason there is extra room in exit rows is because it is needed to facilitate evacuation in the event of an emergency. If you are seated in an exit row you have an obligation to help out, so everyone flying in the exit row must be physically able and capable of understanding and following instructions from the cabin crew. It’s a good idea to verify your eligibility in advance.

Select your seats ASAP

Be ready to pounce. You need to be prepared so that you can check in and select your seats at the very moment that the airline gives you the opportunity to do so. Typically this is 24 hours prior to departure. Have all of the information that you need (e-ticket, passport, baggage information etc.) at hand and be on the web page a few minutes before so that all you need to do is click Refresh when the time comes. It is astounding how quickly the best seats fill up, but if you are on top of things you might score an exit row or bulkhead seat with some extra space.

Divide and conquer

My boss swears by this technique and claims to have a very high rate of success with it. It is contingent on travelling in pairs and I normally travel solo, so I’d never given it a try, but this summer I was travelling with my husband and we road tested it. It worked!

Exit Row
Photo credit: pixtree

If you want a row all to yourself,select the aisle and the window seat. Most planes are configured with three seats together and so if you pick a row that is free and reserve the aisle and window seats it leaves the one in the middle unoccupied. I have yet to meet anyone who loves sitting in a middle seat, so the middle seat in a fully booked row is not an attractive option to most travellers and they will be deterred from choosing to sit with you.

If the flight is full, and you end up with someone sitting between you and your travel companion,  you can always offer to switch with them. Most people are delighted to trade a middle seat for their choice of the aisle or window seat, so you’re not imposing on them at all.

If you have the whole row all you can raise the armrests and stretch out.

photo credit: Bill Liao

These are our top tips for scoring more legroom for free. What are yours? Do you have any surefire methods for working the system?


About the Author: Steph Spencer

Formerly the Editor of Let's Roll, now you're more likely to find Steph prowling the halls of incredible museums, hunting for historic landmarks, discovering mind-blowing science and literary attractions, tracking down the world’s largest whatchamacallit or attending wacky festivals. She is a freelance travel writer who explores the geeky side of travel on her blog A Nerd At Large, and dispenses random quirkiness on Google+ and as @ANerdAtLarge on Twitter.

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