If you're finding economy seats are a tighter squeeze than they used to be, maybe the airline isn’t to blame.
Some 60% of Australian are classified as overweight, according to the Australian Medical Association, while Melbourne’s Monash University suggests that more than five million Australians can be classified as obese.
A short-term solution for your next trip could be to book the seat next to yours so that it remains vacant, giving you a bit more personal space room – especially if you raise the armrest up out of the way.
It’s an arrangement which Qantas and Virgin Australia call a 'comfort seat' booking. And it’s as much about your own comfort as that of your potential seatmate (although despite being aimed at what Qantas calls 'customers of size', anybody can book a comfort seat).
Comfort seats are cheaper seats
A comfort seat costs slightly less than the normal seat, because neither Qantas or Virgin Australia levy the taxes and other surcharges applicable to a standard seat.
For example, Qantas' cheapest $327 economy seat on a Sydney-Perth flight includes some $50 in taxes and surcharges – so the cost of booking the seat next to yours as a comfort seat drops to around $280.
Qantas and Virgin Australia also let you earn frequent flyer points and status credits for your comfort seat, although those won’t be automatically credited to your frequent flyer account.
You'll need to contact the airline's respective frequent flyer service centre after your flight to ensure the extra points and credits are added to your account.
How to book a comfort seat
Comfort seats can’t be booked online – you’ll need to call the airline and make your spare seat booking over the phone.
It’s worth noting that this extra seat will be sold as the best available fare in the same fare category as your main booking, provided those fares are still available.
If you happen to book the last seat in a cheaper ticket category, you could end up paying quite a bit more for your comfort seat as it will be taken from the seats allocated to a higher fare bracket.
Also, because the booking is based on a pair of seats, you may not enjoy your usual pick of first row or exit row seats, and there’s less scope to change your seats once they are allocated to you.
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT