Many travelers spend hours looking for a flight, comparing different airlines, considering which class they will book and planning what seat they will reserve. As a reason for spending 600 $ more for the same flight, they often cite 2 to 20 additional centimeters of legroom. I can understand that if you are a giant, but most passengers need more bellyroom rather than legroom.

I apply a different strategy in order to stretch out my long legs: I am friendly and nice  (which should be natural, but thanks to the divergent behavior of 90% of customers, it becomes something special) and don’t try to transport bulky luggage in the cabin. Usually, I only carry a book and a notepad. I have never asked for a special seat, but again and again, the ground crew prints out a boarding pass with the coveted seats next to the emergency exits or one of the stewards asks me if I don’t want to move to one of the free seats there. I seem to convey the impression of remaining calm and helpful in case of an emergency. Rightly so.

When I flew from Iquique to Santiago de Chile with LATAM, I got a seat with more than 2 meters of legroom.


This is better than first class.

That flight should also be beautiful and easy to navigate for the pilot. You simply follow the Pacific coast, going south, looking down on high waves crashing on rocky coasts or tapering off on sandy beaches.


And when you see Santiago after 1700 km, you turn east, and that’s it, another flight completed. But probably, that’s not how one navigates anymore. For emergency landings, the Panamericana highway is always below, in a helpfully straight line.

The guys sitting next to me, who, in the case of an emergency landing, would also be tasked with the dirty job of pushing fellow passengers through the door, appear far less trustworthy than me, however. A 70-year old man looks as if he is flying to a date with death. The young guy diagonally in front of me is scrolling through photos of attractive girls on his cell phone (now I know the purpose of that Instagraph and that I really don’t need it). As he writes one of them a message, apparently inviting her to a date, he asks if “zoological garden” is spelled with Z or with C. His mate punches him for that, calling him an “idiot”. Nevertheless, the stewardess never pauses to pour them more “cerveza” with C and Z.

Another strategy for getting a good seat is patience. Each time again, I wonder why people are standing in a queue at the gate, often for a long time. There are seats for everyone, really. And if not, you get a huge compensation and a free stay in a hotel in Chicago or in Paris.

Therefore, I always remain seated, cool as a cucumber, ordering another ice cream, reading, observing and writing, while everyone else gets all agitated. Once, on a flight from Tel Aviv to Munich, I did the same, got up as the last person in the waiting hall and presented my boarding pass, friendly and relaxed.

The El Al guy took it and ripped it apart.

“לעזאזל”, as we say in Israel. Did I wait too long this time?

“I am sorry, this boarding pass is no longer valid. I will print you a new one,” the young gentleman then explained and immediately followed up on his promise. Wondering what all this was about, I got on the plane, and only there did I notice that he had awarded me a seat in first class. That way, I got real quality sleep for four hours and missed better food than I usually miss.

But now I am still in Chile. On the right, the sun is sinking into the Pacific. On the left, the summits of the Andes are glistening. These are the same summits that planes regularly crash into, leading to cannibalism among the survivors.


Thinking of that, I vow to make no more jokes about overweight passengers.

As if LATAM guessed that I would go on to write this article, they gave me a seat in the first row two weeks later.


About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Chile, Israel, Photography, Travel and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Legroom

  1. Pingback: Beinfreiheit | Der reisende Reporter

  2. List of X says:

    I also used to sit in the waiting area by the gate and read a book until the line was gone. But then the airlines started charging for the luggage, and passengers started carrying a lot more stuff as a carry-on – and while your seat is reserved, a place in an overhead bin isn’t.
    Of course, if you only carry a book and a notepad, you can still wait everyone out.

    • This charge for luggage is really the most annoying thing. It slows everything down, makes people stressed and aggressive, and in the end, the plane is just as heavy as if the suitcases went into the belly or whatever the technical term is for a plane.

      Sadly, because I am a penny pincher, I have sometimes also taken only hand luggage. But then, you are not allowed to take large bottles of shampoo or shaving cream and you need to buy everything again at the destination, causing yet more stress and expenses.

      Come to think of it, there is nothing more relaxed than train travel. Sadly, the train sometimes costs a multitude of the plain, particularly in Europe.

  3. These happy situations used to happen to me in the last century and in the early parts of this one. But ever since “flying while brown” became a phrase, the only special treatment I’ve been given is being caught up in extra-special security checks.

    • That’s really sad. :-(

      But thanks for sharing that experience! We white folks sometimes, actually most of the time, forget how much easier many things are for us, at least on average.

      Even as a foreigner, I get checked, controlled, stopped and questioned less in some countries than darker-skinned citizens. And I don’t really need to be afraid that the police will shoot me, which also makes life easier.

      And recently, as I have been house sitting, I have sometimes wondered if so many people would accept me into their homes if I was black or Arab. Somehow, I doubt it.

  4. I’ve gotten that seat on a few airlines like Air France, Turkish Airlines or Lufthansa before. In fact, on the Turkish Airlines flight, the basketball team Istanbul BB was on my flight and I was the shortest guy sitting in the exit row :D

  5. From the photo I would say you were actually sitting on the floor, which can be comfortable too ;-)

  6. David Wiebe says:

    May add that I dress up before I fly? Very uncomfortable and impractical formal wear, but at least on three occasions I have been bumped to first class, with no charge, just because I asked nicely.

    • I am always too shy to ask. I have been wondering what would be a good reason, unless it would be my birthday. Maybe that I am a student and that I have an exam the next day, made more credible by a stack of books and papers under my arm?

    • David Wiebe says:

      A good reason is the Champagne you get in first class on Lufthansa…

    • I meant a good reason to present to the airline, not as internal motivation. For that, better sleep is enough.

    • David Wiebe says:

      Indeed. I had food poisoning with mushrooms on first class Lufthansa. Not fun.

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