In airline sector news this week was the decision by Cathay Pacific – one of the last bastions of the nine-across seating plan – to adopt a ten-abreast setup in its Boeing aircraft sometime in the next few years, effectively cutting seat width by about 1.5 inches (3.8cm) in economy class. While this means increased capacity for airlines, the trend towards increasing seat numbers is bad news for passengers already suffering from restrictive space. In response, we’ve rounded up a few tips for the vertically gifted traveller to make his/her air travel experience just a bit more comfortable when forced to travel in coach class.
KNOW YOUR SEATS
Different airlines – and different aircraft – will have different seating plans, so knowing which setups offer the most pitch (the distance between a seat and the one in front of it) can help you select the best spot. Seatplans.com is a great resource not only for seeing the layout of different aircraft, but also for finding out the seat dimensions on different flights, which can vary by a number of inches.
While front row seats may initially appear to offer superior space with their greater pitch, they come at the cost of space to put your feet and make stretching your legs while seated all but impossible. For short-haul flights, the added knee-room may be worth the sacrifice, however for long-haul journeys where sleep is desirable, this can become a problem.
Emergency exit seats – or rather the second row of emergency exit seats and the row directly behind them – are among the best seats in economy, when available. Not only do they enjoy superior pitch, but the seats in front of them cannot recline, meaning those precious few centimetres won’t be eaten into. Reserve them early, or ensure you do advance check-in as soon as it becomes available, to be able to claim these premier spots.
Acquiring a neck pillow is one of the best decisions you can make as a tall traveller. It is not uncommon to find the in-built headrests do not rise sufficiently to provide comfortable support to your head. As such, a neck pillow will be a valuable asset on long-haul flights when you want to rest and will help you to avoid waking up with aches and pains.
These can also be useful when travelling business class in seats that slide down rather than recline. Sliding seats eat into your legroom more the flatter you go, and so having suitable neck support in order to comfortably sleep in a more upright sleeping position can be a big help.
WARM CLOTHES AND SOCKS
A simple tip, but nevertheless an important one that is often overlooked. On long-haul flights in particular, the air conditioning can start to become overbearing, even if you happen to enjoy cooler temperatures. Airline blankets are certainly helpful, however the size is often insufficient to comfortably cover you from neck to toe. Whether you opt to wrap your feet and legs up and don a jumper, or slip on some warm trousers and socks, it’s best to equip yourself with a few pieces of warm clothing just in case.
Unlike in a movie theatre, the best seats on a plane for seeing the screen are those that sit right at the front. Screens in these seats are more manoeuvrable than their seat-back counterparts, which often do not sufficiently rotate to be adequately viewable from a higher vantage point. This issue is further compounded when the seat in front is reclined – an issue the front seats don’t encounter. If work and rest aren’t firmly on your in-flight agenda, then the best entertainment is definitely to be had in the first row.
GO FOR THE AISLE
If all else fails, be sure to grab yourself an aisle seat. Not only do these enable you to thrust your legs into the aisle during the flight – though you should then expect a bump or two from passengers and food trolleys – they also offer an easy escape to be able to get up and stretch your legs. Indeed, taking the opportunity to get up and walk around whenever a person on your inside wants to go to the bathroom can make the flying process far less painful. And when the plane finally stops at the arrival gate, you can immediately be standing with your bags ready to go, rather than stuck in your seat waiting for the crowd to dissipate.