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One of the great advantages of flying first or business class is the generous leg room available. Leg room is even more important on long haul flights, if you're of above average height or susceptible to DVT. Leg room, or "seat pitch" as it's known in the airline business, is the distance between the seats on an aircraft; as seat pitch decreases, the number of seats onboard increases along with profit. As a result, leg room is often at a premium, especially in economy class.

So how do you get a first class seat in economy class? Just follow these three simple steps:

  1. Arrive at check-in early.
  2. Greet the attendant and smile.
  3. Politely ask for a seat behind a bulkhead or on an emergency exit row.
Seats on emergency exit rows always have a large seat pitch in order to allow people easier access to the overwing exits. Seats behind bulkheads are usually two to three feet away from the bulkhead wall to give people seated by the window easier access to the aisle. You'll only find bulkheads in larger aircraft on long haul routes.

You won't get the champagne or the lavish meal, but at least you'll be comfortable!

We hope you have a pleasant flight.

Plonking your butt onto seat 1A while deftly asking the chief purser Excuse me my man, but would you so kindly place my backpack in the overhead compartment would not work. A list of passengers is typically kept in the first class galley, so that the flight attendants can address the passengers by name, and identify any economy class yoiks impersonating stuffy dowagers.

If the flight is full in economy class, a better strategy is to see if there is anything wrong with your allocated seat. Seat won't recline ? Is your neighbour offensive ? Is the headphone jack stuffed with chewing gum ? Don't stuff it yourself - they will know it was you coz the gum will be soft. The best thing to do if you can't find anything wrong is to pretend the audio unit is broken anyway. Try three different headphones and shrug your shoulders, looking mildly frustrated that you will be flying LAX to Heathrow with bugger all to do but spot cirrostratus clouds. With any luck the flight attendant will take your story at face value (rather than lean over up to two other passengers to check the unit), and see if there are any seats up the front.

Contemplate exactly how many rosaries this will cost you as you sip Chivas Regal up front. Or consider it pay back for the time the airline stranded you for eight hours in Jakarta.

I was down to -1 rep until I added that last sentence in. Then my rep skyrocketed upwards.

Not all coach class seats are created equal. In order to get the best seat possible, you should check out the websites SeatGuru and SeatExpert when selecting your seat, as these websites have comprehensive reviews of the seats on most airplanes for most airlines. You may want to check these before you actually book your ticket, as you may have the choice of flying on different types of planes, some of which may have better legroom or newer seats. Note: This is not foolproof. Sometimes, airlines switch the equipment you are flying on due to maintenance or loads.

If you are booked in coach, your best seats will normally be the bulkheads and the exit row seats. However, a few notes about bulkheads, which are probably the most controversial seats on planes:

However, what is excellent about bulkheads is that there will never be anyone reclining into your space. Exit row seating also varies, but much less. Exit rows generally give you between 3 and infinity inches of extra legroom, but seating in them is restricted to people who meet the lenient requirements. Beware however, that on some planes the exit row doesn't give you any more legroom, and in some exit rows, there may be reduced or eliminated recline. Occasionally, on widebody planes, the legroom in some exit rows may be affected by the slide, which extends out of the door.

Reserving these special seats (bulkheads and exit rows) has recently became (on most airlines) a luxury reserved to the people who are elite members of the airline's frequent flyer program. Note: In the case that you fly frequently, you may desire to fly on only one airline, as this will give you the best chance to make elite in their frequent flyer program, but that's a topic for another node. However, should you not be an elite, do not become depressed. As soon as the check-in opens, the seats are released for choosing by anyone. This is a reason that you should check-in as soon as you can. With the advent of online check-in one can check-in early from the comfort of their own home.

On some airlines, you can also buy up to premium economy, which generally has enhanced legroom/recline, and sometimes has other special features such as fancier cuisine, priority boarding, built-in massage, and improved in-flight entertainment. While this does cost additional money, it is not as expensive as business, and can be a godsend if you are flying from Chicago to Tokyo.

An alternative way to do things, if you have flexible travel plans and you are on an oversold flight, is to offer your seat to the gate agent. This is called Voluntarily Denied Boarding, or VDB for short. If you are nice to the gate agent, and there is room on the next flight, you may possibly be able to ask for and receive an upgrade to business class on your next flight. However, do not just assume that will happen if you give up your seat. Be assertive. They aren't required to do that, but it is worth a shot. This might not literally be getting a first class seat in economy, but it'd be paying for an economy ticket and getting a business class seat, which I'd find to be better.

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