With extra legroom seats in a higher demand than ever before, some airlines are creating a new cabin fare class with exclusivity to the extra leg room seats. With increased demand and rising costs, we’ll look at whether it’s still worth paying for extra legroom in economy
The days of simply asking for some additional space and extra legroom when checking-in and getting one of the prestigious exit rows for free are a long gone. Goodbye 2005
Extra legroom seats are worth the extra cost if you are 5 ft 9 inches or taller and the cost of the upgrade is no more than £50 each way. If you are shorter than 5 ft 9 inches you may not find the extra leg room an advantage. If the charge from the airline is more than £50 each way it’s above the average fee for this upgrade and has less a value when compared to the next cabin, Premium Economy.
It’s no wonder demand is at all time high. Economy seats are notoriously being packed together faster than houses on a new housing estate and as a result the demand for those converted and sought after extra legroom seats has gone through the roof.
Already some airlines have fenced off all the extra leg room seats into their own flight class, meaning you need to purchase an upgrade to get to them. Marketing departments have been busty creating cabin packages alongside other benefits to entice you.
Fortunately, some airlines such as BA and Virgin still allow you to upgrade your seat for those extra 3 inches of legroom for around £50 each way. This can be a small price to pay for 20 hours of flying (10 hours each way) without your knees resting on the seat-back in front of you.
Other airlines like United have created their own ticket fare with an extortionate fee – in some cases a minimum of £150 each way, although if you pick the right seat you can get up to an extra 6 inches of legroom, which is in some cases double the space than other airlines. For an additional £300 return price fare you could fly with other airlines in Premium Economy instead.
The exact amount of extra leg room you are likely to get
On the majority of airlines flying out of the UK you’re likely to receive an extra 3-4 inches of leg room compared to other standard economy seats.
Extra leg room seats in the middle of the plane can be an advantage as the seats, generally along the front row of Economy, can be hampered by a partition wall. Those who desire the extra leg room maybe disappointed.
You’ll get the advertised 3-4 inches of legroom, but the wall prevents you using the footwell under the seat in front of you.
As a guide here are the measurements for the extra leg room seats across the most popular long-haul airlines from the UK:
- Up to 6 inches – United Airlines
- 9 inches (10 cm) – Lufthansa
- 3 inches – Virgin Atlantic
- 3 inches – British Airways
United are often the most expensive for leg room but do offer more inches for your money. The 3-4 inches across the other airlines can though make a difference and give you a little more space and comfort for your flight.
Do the extra 3 inches make a difference?
The extra legroom can make a real difference to those of us who are tall. It’s not just tall people that can benefit though. If you’ve ever been frustrated or felt claustrophobic when the person in the seat in-front reclines you’re not alone.
This is a very common complaint and can affect those of any height. Although the extra legroom seat can’t prevent the seat in front from going in to recline (unless you choose the front row of Economy with no seat in front of you) the extra space between the seats will not feel so enclosing.
This can be worth the upgrade fee alone.
Can you get extra leg room seats for free?
A fancy suit and a winning smile probably won’t help you much here. As much as you can try and sweet talk your way to a nicer seat, the airline staff are under instructions to sell the extra leg room seats now for a premium – not give them away.
There are other ways though to bag yourself some extra leg room for free.
Use Points to Upgrade
If you have some spare points laying around, you could try and use them for an upgrade. You can’t use points just to cover the £50 upgrade fee, but you can use them to upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy, which will give you your extra leg room.
An average return flight from London to the US will need 20,000 Avios Points, for example, to upgrade your seat from Economy to Premium Economy. These seats come with a bigger seat pitch, extra legroom, a smaller and separate cabin to standard economy and faster check-in.
On Virgin Atlantic, if you have enough Points (around 40,000 Flying Club Points) you could treat yourself and upgrade from Economy to Business Class (or Upper Class, as Virgin call it).
You can’t, unfortunately, jump two cabins on British Airways and upgrade from Economy to Business Class (Club World) but you can upgrade one cabin class to Premium (World Traveller Plus).
Cabin Upgrade Voucher
This one comes with a few caveats I’m afraid, so not open to everyone. To be eligible for the Barclays Avios Account you either need to have a gross income of £75,000 or more paid into your Barclays Premier Account or have invested £100,000 or more into a Barclays investment scheme.
If you have a Barclays Premier Account, you could upgrade this to a Barclays Avios Account for £12 per month. Not only will you collect 1,500 Avios Points every month just by having the account – which is a healthy 18,000 per year – you will also receive a cabin upgrade voucher every year.
This handy voucher entitles the barer to upgrade their cabin class from Economy to Premium Economy or Premium Economy to Business Class – you can’t I’m afraid use the upgrade voucher from Business Class to First.
You also need to book your flight with Avios Points and use your cabin upgrade at the time of booking. You can’t upgrade a cash booking using the voucher nor can you upgrade an existing booking either. Lots of caveats with this one I’m afraid but if you know the rules up front, you can plan ahead and use them to your advantage.
What if there are two of you flying? – If there are two of you flying you could choose to upgrade both tickets on either the outbound or inbound flight to the next cabin.
If you’re flying solo though, you could upgrade your entire return flight.
Extra Leg Room Worth – The Insider’s Notes
Extra leg room seats are worth the extra cost as long as you’re not paying more than £50 for each leg of your flight. Whether you are tall or feel enclosed when the seat in front of you reclines, the extra leg room seat can add a lot of value.
On most flights your average extra leg room is around 3-4 inches, although on some airlines – such as United – you can get up to 6 inches of extra leg room, but this comes with a higher price tag.
You can get a free upgrade for extra leg room by either using points to upgrade your cabin to a more spacious Premium Economy seat.
If you’re new to points collecting, then I’d recommend you read How to Avios Work: Tips to Collecting and Spending