Travel tip: how to get extra legroom in Economy in Europe

By John Walton, August 5 2011
Travel tip: how to get extra legroom in Economy in Europe

Many travellers are surprised that frequent flyers within Europe don't get a proper business class on European airlines, even on flights of four or five hours.

Instead, they have what's called "Eurobusiness" convertible seating at the front of the plane.

On some planes, this is as simple as blocking off the middle seat, sometimes adding a snazzy headrest to make passengers feel like their expensive business class fare was worth it.

On others, including British Airways, seats on one side of the aircraft contract to give two seats with a half-width space where one seat would be. On the other side of the aircraft they expand to give three seats that are wider than economy.

It's a slightly more technically advanced version of Virgin Blue's Premium Economy seating, although much more expensive. Sometimes, they even add a table to the blocked-off seats.

Picture: Brian Johnson & Dane Kantner

So, the cabin goes from a narrow 3-3 configuration in economy to a 2-3 or 3-2 arrangement with wider seats. Plus, there's usually two or three inches of extra legroom compared with economy, because the seats don't move forwards and back, and the airline has set the legroom for business class levels. A moveable curtain then separates the upper crust in business class from the rabble in economy. 

As it takes about five minutes to adjust each row, and a short-haul plane may be flying five or ten flights a day, the seats may be adjusted only once or twice during each day. 

That leaves the very back of the front cabin with business class seating even if there aren't business class passengers. These seats are then released so economy class passengers can pick them.

Savvy business travellers will choose seats at the front of the economy class selection to snap up these seats with extra legroom. 

Watch out for the very front seats, though: if you choose them and last-minute business class passengers get on the flight, your seat will change and you'll end up at the back of the plane. 

Pick seats 3-4 rows back from the front of the economy class choice, but still in the forward cabin.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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