Tall airline passenger gets short-changed

December 31, 2010 6:40:28 PM PST
Brooks Anderson, 25, knew he was in trouble the minute he sat down.

"The metal on the seat tray table in front of me, you know, normally rubs up against my knees a little bit on other flights, but this seat is much smaller so I actually have my knees in the aisle," Anderson said.

When no one would switch seats with him, Anderson, who is 6 feet 7 inches tall, asked a flight attendant if he could stand in the aisle, and that's how he spent the two-and-a-half-hour flight from Chicago to Florida, except for take off and landing.

Anderson had hoped to avoid the situation by checking in early.

"I got to the airport, I asked for the exit row at the gate, and they said it wasn't available," Anderson said.

At O'Hare on Friday, Tom Molk, who is 6 feet 5 inches tall, said he could relate.

"Every flight is uncomfortable," Molk said. "I love layovers because I get to stretch and walk a little bit."

In a statement, Spirit Airlines said: "We do offer the option of exit row seating and our big front seats for customers who prefer more leg room. We do not require customers to stand during flight."

Spirit Airlines offers less leg room than most carriers and charges $25 for booking exit row seats in advance.

"Seats should be held back for tall people, absolutely, because I'm not the only one who's 6'5", and I'm not the only one with long legs. It seems like people are getting taller and taller and taller these days," Molk said.

Some, including 6-foot-5-inch Don Andersen, bristle at the idea of priority seating based on height. "I advocate for pregnant women. Us tall guys, we gotta think ahead," Andersen said. "To demand priority because he's tall, I'm sorry, I just don't go for that," said Andrea Borucke, a 5-foot-4-inch passenger. On his return flight home, Spirit put Anderson in an exit row after a first-class passenger offered up his seat.

A 5-foot-11-inch passenger, Johnny Cooper says, if asked, he would switch, too.

"As long as I'm comfortable with the other seat also," Cooper said.

There is a serious safety issue with someone standing during an entire flight. Anderson could have endangered himself and other passengers if there had been turbulence.

The Federal Aviation Administration is now looking into whether Spirit should have done something other than let him stand.