Mar 23, 2015

The Leg Room Chronicles !

For the past few months I have been travelling so much that I have been literally living out of suitcases. I usually love travel, even if it is related to work. What I do not love is the bit where I have to sit cramped in flights forever !

Only someone who is as tall as me (or taller!) will understand how difficult it is to fit all 5 feet 9 inches of me into a conventional airplane seat. What makes my life even more difficult is that majority of my long distance flights are to Japan. In my humble opinion, when that country was designing airplanes, they did not even consider anyone over the height of five feet four inches. 

You get in the flight, already feeling out of place because you are towering over the rest of the passengers and then you try to pour yourself into the cramped space the seat provides. The seats are so small, the leg space so negligible that after you have squeezed in along with the pillows and blankets and headphones the airline so thoughtfully provides, your derriere is half hanging out of the seat and your feet are so cramped that your chin is almost touching your knees.
Not Pleasant! 

Invariably, once you have managed to squeeze yourself in, the person infront of you decides that this would be an ideal time to get his money’s worth and reclines his chair as far as it would go. I’ve had people recline back their seats so much, it almost felt as if they were napping in my lap !

And so begins the war between the “Recliners” and the “Legroomers”. You can either (depending on your mood ) politely tell the person in front to straighten his seat a bit or gently but consistently keep nudging the back of his seat with your knee till he gets the hint.

Domestic flights within India are equally bad. Increase in number of seats has naturally led to a compromise on comfort and one gets the feeling of travelling like cattle herded into a cramped space.

Over the years you develop a strategy on how to make your hours in that airless hell as least uncomfortable as possible. The first thing is of course to try and get the seats right in front of the plane or the ones near the emergency exit. My flights are often late night ones and usually the web check in ( that also allows you to choose your seat) opens 24 hours before take-off. I have set alarms to wake me up in the middle of the night so that I can be the first to log in the airlines site and book myself the seat with the maximum leg space.

The seats on the emergency exit usually do not have a window view but then I would rather stretch my legs than sit all hunched up gazing at the beautiful panaroma of clouds floating by.

If you can’t manage the front seat, the second best option is to get an aisle seat and try to sit slightly diagonally. This requires you to be very careful about your jutting knees and elbows that the stewardess is sure to bang into with her food Trolley.

But the battle is only half won if you have got that aisle seat. As soon as you make yourself comfortable and stretch your cramped legs the sweet old lady next to you would need to use the washroom in what seems like every couple of minutes. As there is no way she can hop over your long legs you will have to get up every time and of course every time you get up you bang your head on the overhead compartment.

And it’s not just about leg room. What do you with those long arms and pointy elbows that refuse to fit just anywhere. There have been many subtle wars with my neighbor in the next seat over elbow space. Both of us looking resolutely ahead while trying very hard to push the other person’s elbow aside in order to occupy that coveted space on the armrest.

In majority of my flights, I usually end up sitting with my feet clamped together and my arms jammed on my sides, not unlike a trussed hen.

More travel lined up in April. Suddenly video conferences and telephone calls (however long they might stretch) seem like such an infinitely better option than getting on a Jet Plane !


  1. I remember reading about a man who screamed and poured his drink on the person in front who had reclined his seat too far!
    Not that I'm suggesting anything, you understand!! :P

    1. Doesn't look like a bad option now, does it Roshni !

  2. Hahaha, Ruchira. ^^ For the record, I also like Roshni's idea. Not saying you should try it though ;)
    The problems of being a leggy lass, eh. Or a leggy person in general.

    1. Laugh as much as you want ! Its so not funny when I get off the plane with cramped legs and aching knees :-)

  3. Poor you. I feel congested at 5'4". I can only imagine how uncomfortable it is for you. My dad has some sorry tales of his own to tell. At 6'2", he just feels like his body has gone through excruciating torture. Roshni's suggestion sounds good to me too. :) I hate it when people recline their seats and kill the already reduced space we have.

  4. I can a feel your predicament. The airlines should make sure that tall folks get seats with maximum leg space. You've been traveling a lot lately, no? True, con calls make so much more sense.

    1. I wish someone would tell this to the airlines Alka !

  5. I can totally relate. Our flights over the pacific are pure torture. Throw two of my own toddlers in the mix and you can safely conclude that the air travel part of my trip always brings me nightmares.

    I totally love our private Intel jets that take us from one campus to the other - without having to go to an airport. They depart from air fields, private terminal, show ur badge and hop in. A taxi is waiting for u to shuttle u around, and bring u back on time for your return trip :). There is free wifi, beer or wine on a fri evening flight, and usually a great sunrise/sunset to marvel at.

  6. I know it's difficult.
    Best option is to opt for front aisle seat or the one next to emergency exit.
    Or else,....face it.

  7. Ha! I can understand. Never really has legroom issues but the war of the elbows - yes!

  8. Ahh I wish I was as tall as you. Being a tiny person my legs are always hanging down from the chair. I enjoy reading your travel tales :D

  9. And here I was sighing and crying about being just a 5'5"! Now that you have written this , i feel a little better *evil grin*

  10. Oh! How I agree with you. I have befriended office travel agent and given a standing instruction to pre-book front or emergency row aisle seats. I have waged war during my flights for everything - overhead cabin space, elbow room, recliners.
    The airlines will never change, so we will have to equip ourselves to survive in the jungle of air travellers.

  11. I am 6ft3. You got it.

    :-D, I was in a middle seat once with two ladies on either side who should have booked two seats for them.

    I am just thankful that they at least serve liquor on international flights.

  12. Even at 5.4 I feel quite uncomfortable, I can only imagine your precadiment. But the way you have taled about it, I can't help but literally rofl (and get weired looks) ;)




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