Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Spare us from the selfish in-flight knee crushers

I empathised with Iain Dale as he endured one of the worst things about long distance air travel on his flight to Israel recently. I am 6' 3" (188cm). And there is nobody in contemporary air travel - not even Michael O'Leary announcing his latest extortionate wheeze - who does more to make flying unpleasant than the selfish moron who insists on tilting his seat back, reducing the standard paltry 31 or 32-inch (78cm) seat pitch by several inches.

The contrast between my recent Iberia flights to and from Latin America could not have been greater. On the way out, despite picking online seats marked as 'emergency exit', I ended up behind an unrepentant knee crusher, who grinned manically as he shoved his seat as far back as possible. The stewardess simply shrugged, and looked at me as if I had demanded a free upgrade to First Class, when asked to help (the crusher was beyond reason). So, for most of the twelve hour flight from Madrid to Buenos Aires, I had to try sitting at strange angles with feet in the aisles - or walk around - since there was no obvious place to put my legs. It took a juicy steak and an excellent bottle of Malbec in the splendid La Posada de 1820 restaurant in Buenos Aires to lift the spirits.

On the way back, flying from Montevideo to Madrid, I had worked out that, unlike British Airways, Iberia releases its seats online at midnight on the day before the flight. The contrast was extraordinary. Not only did I manage to get seats with nobody in front, behind the galley; there was an extra few inches of legroom. Oh what joy! My appreciation of the flight was such that I even enjoyed the in-flight meal and dozed off for a few minutes.

Surely, something can be done to ensure that nobody is obliged to spend a long distance flight in agony and discomfort so that somebody else can tilt their seats back. Airlines should provide no-crush rows where we can do our best to enjoy the meagre 31 inches of space assigned to us without encroachment? If train operators can provide mobile-free train carriages, surely the airlines could manage as much?

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