Air travellers frustrated by ever-decreasing legroom may be encouraged by the latest information that legislators in the USA have actually been successful in pressing for minimum-sized airplane seat dimensions. Over the last two decades the space between plane seats or legroom, referred to as seat pitch, has actually been reduced in many cases from a market standard of 34 inches to less than 29 inches – even as low as 28 inches (71 cm) when flying Spirit Airlines, for example – while typical seat size has been cut from 19 inches to 17 inches notwithstanding the worldwide obesity epidemic. “Persons of size are asked to purchase a second seat in advance”, as the airline advertisements so quaintly put it. It seems 17 inches has become the new norm, and United Airlines went as low as 16. Although any kind of new regulations would naturally impact just U.S. airlines, it is felt these steps will also motivate the EU and UK to follow suit. Many of us nowadays pick the airline we fly by seat size, over destination, convenience, and price. SeatGuru.com provides information on your airline’s legroom for international flights. Mostly though, the actual seat sizes currently remain at 17 – 18 inches, even for long haul international flights.
We all prefer a little extra legroom by booking a seat in the emergency row, but remember armrests in these rows cannot be raised. Otherwise the test for economy seats appears that one must be able to lower the armrests of the seat and fit in, or else be expected to buy a second ticket. Interestingly, although the seats in business and first class are bigger, the armrests are fixed in position and cannot be lifted. A window seat gives more shoulder room, but the aisle may be a better option especially if you need to get out of your row often during the flight. That said, an aisle seat risks your being bumped by every passing passenger, crew member and trolley;
Some tips if you’re perhaps one of those (nowadays ubiquitous) larger people:
Pick destinations where Big Is Beautiful. If you really feel like you are being adversely judged by your dimensions, not even the most gorgeous place on the planet is going to be a pleasurable destination. There are alternatives — most significantly, those nations where being XXL isn’t a huge issue. Jamaica is extremely approving, for instance, particularly of plus-size ladies. As its neighbourhood gentlemen proclaim, “Bone is for the dog. Meat is for the man.” Most countries in Africa are admiring of larger bodies, seeing these as a sign of opulence and plenty. Other countries which have many overweight people are of course the USA, UK and Canada. Asian countries such as China, Japan and Korea tend to be less approving of overweight people, who might attract stares or comments since they do not fit the norm. Not that this should prevent you travelling wherever you wish. Search online for resorts that appeal and cater to plus-sized individuals. Check your travel options through a good travel agency – often they will be able to give you good advice and guidance;
Accept you’re going to have to pay for two seats if you cannot fit into one without overflowing so that the passenger next to you is stifled;
If your row is full and there are open seats around you, feel free to switch. Ask the stewardess first if you’re making the move before takeoff. If switching seats after takeoff, simply go ahead.
Should the scenario remain excruciating for all, request the aid of the flight stewards; they are natural and skilful trouble solvers, and might relocate somebody to another seat. Your row may still remain extra tight compared to others on your flight. Keep it friendly. Smile and introduce yourself. Perhaps buy refreshments for those in your row as a goodwill gesture. Not so easy to be nasty to someone who’s extra-nice;
Overweight persons are six times more prone to suffering a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) as a result of sitting still for long periods. This is potentially life-threatening. Stand up at least every couple of hours. Take a walk around the plane if possible. Stretch, flex your feet, rotate your ankles and do calf lifts while in your seat. Before undertaking a long flight, check your DVT risks with your doctor. Avoid tight clothing or too many layers. It’s best to keep your shoes on, as feet may otherwise swell during the flight. Keep yourself cool. Take in plenty of fluids. Avoid alcohol. Use a small battery-operated fan or moist neck towel.
Relax and stay jolly!