Q: Hello, Peter. We would love to travel to Europe or to Asia, but my husband is 6-feet 7-inches tall and doesn't fit in coach, except bulkhead or exit row. Is there any way to be sure to be able to get one of those, or to get cheaper-than-usual business class? I am afraid that otherwise, those long flights are just out of our price range. If he gets crammed into a seat, he will undoubtedly get a migraine. Any suggestions? Any airlines have bigger-than-usual coach seats, etc.?
–Gloria, Lawrenceville, Ga.
A: In an ideal world, the bulkheads and emergency exit rows would be reserved for those blessed with long legs, but alas, that is not the case. Bulkheads are generally set aside for those with babies and small children, which is probably the best place for them (being in the bulkhead means that those fidgety kids won’t be kicking the back of your seat). Emergency exit rows are usually excluded from advance booking, and the airlines don’t release them until the day of travel. This forces you to book a regular seat, then take the chance that you can switch to the exit row on the day you travel. Sometimes this can be accomplished by checking in super-early and hoping someone else did not grab the coveted seats, or by sweet-talking a gate agent.
However, to avoid having to endure such complicated machinations, why not do some research into which airlines have better seat pitch (the number of inches between your seat and the seat in front of you) and book your ticket on those airlines? SeatGuru.com gives you statistics on hundreds of airlines, both foreign and domestic.
Since you want to go to Asia, you’ll be pleased to know that many Asian airlines have superior seat pitch compared to other countries’ airlines. ANA’s (All Nippon Airways) Boeing 777 has a whopping 38 inches of legroom in economy class, while Air China, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Korean Air all have at least 34 inches.
Most airlines that serve Europe, such as Lufthansa, British Airways, and Air France, have between 31 and 34 inches. If you prefer to fly on an American carrier, United, which serves many destinations in Asia, has a generous 34 or 35 inches in its “Economy Plus” section on certain planes.
Your last option would be to stock up on frequent-flier miles, then use them to upgrade your economy seat to the next class of service. But bear in mind that you could be bumped back down to coach at the airline’s whim. Since frequent-flier upgrades are considered a perk, not a right, the airline has the power to do this. I know of several cases of passengers who were bumped back to coach, presumably because a business-class passenger bought a ticket at the last minute, and the airline preferred to give the seat to someone who paid the full fare rather than someone who got it for free. Sad but true.
Also of interest: 5 things you really need on every flight.