/ Travel & Leisure

How much would you pay for extra legroom on flights?

Have you ever paid more to get extra legroom when flying economy? Did you think the comfort was worth the cost or just another way for the airline to get more money out of you?

I’m 6ft 6 tall and there are times when I’m glad of my height – but travelling on a plane isn’t one of them. Especially now the size of airline seats and the amount of legroom we get seems to be shrinking.

After years flying economy and being trapped into a contorted semi-foetal position for hours on end, I finally decided this year to bite the bullet and pay for exit row seats when I went on a ten-and-a-half hour flight to the US.

What a mistake that was. Yes, exit row seats give you extra legroom, but you pay through the nose for them.

It used to be you could turn up at the airport early and get them for free, but it looks like those days are on their way out. These days, it seems airlines like to flog them.

Extra legroom on flights

I flew to San Francisco with British Airways, which wanted more than £50 for an exit row seat. And the journey home was worse. Although we booked with BA, the flight was actually with American Airlines and it wanted more than £100 on top of the ticket price.

Does that seem excessive? But what can you do in that situation? I couldn’t afford to shell out for their upgrades to ‘premium’ economy.

I could’ve taken a chance on a standard seat and physically stopped the person in front reclining, but is that really a solution?

You might have heard of the businessman who used a product that clips onto your tray table and stops the seat in front from reclining. It’s legal, though it’s frowned on by some airlines and it’s no way to make yourself popular with your fellow passengers!

I’m not sure what the solution is. All I know is, I will think twice before booking such a long flight again.

Have you noticed shrinking seats and legroom? Did the seats in economy seem roomier in the past?

How much would you pay for extra legroom on flights?

Nothing at all (40%, 398 Votes)

£1 to £19 (32%, 320 Votes)

£20 to £49 (21%, 206 Votes)

£50 to £99 (4%, 43 Votes)

£100 or more (4%, 36 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,003

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Whenever I fly long haul, it’s in business or first, which is funded by Avios if it’s personal travel. However, even in business class on many airlines, you could have problems with a height of 6’6″ on a flat bed unless you get certain seats which don’t have another seat immediately at your feet.

Why do you say that the device to prevent another passenger’s seat from reclining is legal? I’m sure that deliberating interfering with another passenger’s seat, particularly on a long haul flight where that passenger needs to sleep, would fall foul of legislation in many countries, not least because you would be depriving a paying passenger of a component of a service for which they have paid. If you then prevent cabin crew from removing the device from another passenger’s seat, then it would certainly be unlawful.

Although I’d like to see passengers surcharged for the extra fuel and space they use (in the same way that oversized baggage is surcharged), tall people are never tall out of choice and should therefore be accommodated in suitable seats without any surcharge. There is no more justification in surcharging a tall passenger than a disabled passenger, although it would be hard to argue that being tall is a disability.

Liz H says:
4 May 2015

NFH, why do you assume that every overweight person is that way by choice? Some medical conditions cause obesity as do some medications.


Liz H – the additional weight does not come from the air that one breathes, but from food. This is in contrast to the additional height of tall people, which cannot be controlled by the amount of food consumed.

I would advocate an overall weight allowance for passenger + baggage, but this would unfairly discriminate against tall people who have additional weight not by choice.


Those on a continuous high dose of steroids can put on a lot of weight, I understand. In most cases they won’t be able to take much exercise. As Liz says, not everyone is obese out of choice.


We once paid for extra legroom mainly because what we really wanted was to avoid having to have the backs of the seats in front in our faces [having experienced an awful flight with a child allowed to jump about on the seat in front and the parents frequently rearranging everything]. What we hadn’t realised beforehand was that if you’re in the exit row there is nowhere to put personal bags which must be securely stowed during take-off and landing and which would normally go under the seat in front. By the time the cabin staff informed us of this [as part of instructing us on our responsisibility for operating the exit door in an emergency evacuation!] all the nearby overhead lockers were already full and my wife’s handbag and my flight bag were taken away to another part of the plane. In our view, unless you cannot travel without the extra legroom, it’s not worth paying extra for it. I must admit the excess charges seem to be extortionate and disproportionate to any additional cost to the airline


John, with reference to your final sentence, there is no “additional cost to the airline”. The airlines’ surcharges for exit rows are only an additional revenue source, not to cover any additional costs incurred. The same goes for charges for priority boarding and advance choice of seat. Surcharging where there is no additional cost involved is a particularly unfair commercial practice.


That is true NFH. I was thinking there would be some administrative cost as for the pre-selection of any seats [so that couples can be sure of sitting together, for example] but in reality it would be practically impossible to measure any costs directly attributable to that and, as you say, it is a piece of pure commercial exploitation. In fact it probably saves costs because it takes some of the pressure off the check-in desk if people select their seats in advance.

Manu says:
4 May 2015

I fly frequently from Europe to the UK and have recently noticed that BA have reduced the seat pitch with their new revamped interior on their shorthaul flights. It used to be good with a few cm to spare and now I have my knees in the back of the person in front. It’s much worse with Easyjet though. I’m just waiting for the standing up seats, which recline at an angle of around 30 degrees – then the Airlines can add another 40% more people ! Its all about profits despite what anyone may say !


I believe that the legal minimum seat pitch is 28″. This should be increased to 30″ to stop airlines from profiteering at the unreasonable expense of passengers’ discomfort. If this means that fares go up, then so be it. We should not tolerate a system where some fares are kept low by causing unreasonable discomfort to a minority of passengers.