Flying used to be a lot more comfortable than it is today.

Today, airlines are constantly looking for ways to maximize profit, and that has unfortunately resulted in cramping more passengers into an aircraft.

It’s therefore no surprise that the number one complaint of air travel passengers is uncomfortable seating options.

Thankfully, there are several ways (both free and paid) to get more legroom on your next flight.

How to Get More Legroom (Paid Options)

1. Select an Exit Row Seat

Many airlines charge extra for exit row seats, but you are guaranteed to enjoy the most legroom in Economy.

Not everyone can sit in one of these seats, though, as there are exit row seat requirements you must meet to sit there.

There are also a few downsides, including not being able to drink alcohol, your seat might not recline, and you’ll likely be near the toilet, which you should factor into your decision.

Keep in mind that the price of exit row seats can sometimes be crazy – up to $200-300 in fact for long-haul flights.

2. Select a Bulkhead Seat

If you select a bulkhead seat, you will also be able to enjoy plenty of legroom, and don’t have to worry about the person in front of you reclining your seat because there won’t be a seat in front of you.

Keep in mind that if you choose a bulkhead seat, you will need to stow your baggage in the overhead, your tray table and in-flight entertainment screen will be within the armrest, and you’re more likely to be seated next to a crying baby.

3. Pay for Premium Economy

Premium Economy seats always offer extra legroom.

premium economy seating
Paying for Premium Economy can give you plenty of extra legroom

While it isn’t something I would necessarily recommend for short-haul flights, if you’re flying long-haul, then paying extra can be a must, though it depends on how much the airlines charges.

How to Get More Legroom (Free Options)

1. Choose the Right Airline

While the models of planes that airlines use may all be the same, their configurations usually aren’t.

So if you’re looking for extra legroom on your next flight, look to book a flight with JetBlue, who have a seat pitch between 32–35 inches, or with Southwest, who offer a similar amount of legroom.

You’ll definitely want to avoid budget airlines, such as Spirit, though.

We go into more detail in our article: Best Airlines for Overweight Passengers, where we also talk about seat width, which is also important for a comfortable flight.

2. Use Your Perks

If you’re a frequent flyer, you have likely accumulated some useful perks that you can use to make your flight more comfortable.

One of these perks is being able to receive a complimentary Premium Economy ticket or select Preferred Seating.

American Airlines has a great offer where if you fly 25,000 miles, or have flown 30 flights totaling over $3,000 in a calendar year, you will receive complimentary access to Premium Economy seats for the rest of the year (in addition to priority check-in, early boarding, and other perks).

3. Choose an Aisle Seat

If you want more legroom, but don’t want to pay extra, choosing an aisle seat can be just the ticket.

Of course, you won’t get more legroom directly in front of you, but you will be able to stretch your legs out to the side when the aisle is empty every now and again, which can be help your journey become more comfortable.

Of course, the aisle seat isn’t without its downsides, as you will have to get up if the people you are sitting next to want to go to the toilet or walk around the cabin.

4. Choose Your Flight Carefully

If your schedule allows, you should aim to choose a very early or very late flight, ideally the first or last flight of the day.

These flights tend to be less crowded, so you are more likely to be able to find a seat with extra legroom without having to pay extra.

You might also get lucky and have no-one sitting next to you, so you will be able to stretch your legs beyond your seat and into the middle seat.

5. Choose a Seat at the Back

The back of the plane is usually less popular with passengers due to being louder and being last in line to board and disembark the aircraft.

But it is for this reason that you might get lucky and get to enjoy an empty seat next to you, or even an entire row to yourself.

Is Paying for Extra Legroom Worth It?

Only you can decide if paying for extra legroom is worth it.

As a frequent flyer, in my opinion, paying for extra legroom can be worth it if:

  1. You can afford to pay extra
  2. You are very tall
  3. You are flying long-haul
  4. You get claustrophobic
  5. You have a health issue

How Likely is to Get Extra Legroom for Free?

If you do your research, it’s actually quite likely that you will get to enjoy a seat with more legroom.

Simply spending some time researching your airline, the plane you will be flying on, and flying at less busy times can all pretty much guarantee that you will have a more enjoyable in-flight experience.

Fortunately, there is a very simple travel hack that does most of this research for you…

How to Find Out How Much Legroom You Will Have

There’s a very simple, invaluable hack to find out how much legroom your seat will have.

As a frequent flyer, I use the Chrome extension, Legrooms for Google Flights, and will never book a flight without using it.

webpage showing how much legroom a flight has

To use the extension, you need to:

  1. Use the Google Chrome browser
  2. Install the extension Legrooms for Google Flights
  3. Visit Google Flights
  4. Search for a flight where you will see the plane you will be flying on and how much legroom the seat has, as shown above

If you are flying Business class, you can also see if your seat reclines fully to be flat or will remain upright.

There are other ways, too, such as using SeatGuru to look up the plane you will be flying on and the legroom of the aircraft, but installing the Chrome extension is by far the simplest, easiest, and quickest option.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).