Chris Elliott writes about a man who was asked to stand onboard a Spirit Airlines flight, or so he says.
The man is apparently 6′ 7″ and that’s just pretty tall to be suffering a coach seat.
The average economy class seat “pitch” on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A321 — the distance between seats on an aircraft — is between 30 and 31 inches, which is well below the industry standard and hardly enough room for a big guy.
Except, no, that isn’t well below the industry standard. Industry standard for coach seating is 31 inch pitch (distance from seat back to seat back). So some seats on Spirit may be an inch shy and others equivalent to industry standard, but certainly not ‘well below.’ (And according to Spirit, seating on the A321 does have industry average 31 inch pitch.)
Now, according to SeatGuru the average pitch on one of Spirit’s other aircraft, the Airbus A320, has only 28″ pitch in coach. It would be fair to say that’s well below industry average. But it’s not fair or correct for Elliott to say that the Airbus A321 is.
But in this case, the criticism really seems to miss the mark.
Someone who is too tall to sit in a coach seat shouldn’t buy a coach seat. Elliott thinks they should have been given an exit row or bulkhead seat. Spirit charges for advance seat assignments, which can be paid for during the booking process. They specifically advertise more legroom starting at $25. This customer, well aware of their height, should have purchased additional legroom.
The passenger’s wife says that “this is more like a handicap” so presumably she thinks he should be given those seats for free.
The flight attendants suggested he stand, but nowhere is it suggested that he was actually ‘required’ to stand as the column suggests. That’s a reasonable suggestion for when the seat belt sign is off, and of course for during flight and not for takeoff or landing. Elliott acknowleges it’s legal, I think it was quite customer friendly, some flight attendants might argue that he should have to remain seated ‘for security’ reasons. Instead, they were trying to help him cope with the standard seats he chose to purchase.
If he’s got ‘a handicap’ (and I’ve never heard of height as a protected class), then he should be well aware of the challenges and investigate and plan accordingly. Here it seems the $25 for extra legroom would make meaningful sense. And I don’t blame Spirit.
Now, the airline isn’t the most helpful. Eliiott says that he and the passenger have emailed the airline and not gotten useful answers. Though it seems to me that the useful answers are on the airline’s website, under seating policies, and they should ask about buying up to seats with more legroom (which can be done during the booking processs, or at this point at the airport for the return flight if those seats are still available).
Instead, here’s what Elliott believes:
So what should Spirit have done? A flight attendant should have offered to switch Anderson’s son to a bulkhead or emergency exit row, which typically has more legroom. Failing that, the crew should have tried to upgrade him into a premium seat, which has 36 inches of seat pitch.
Of course, it’s not clear that those seats were unoccupied. And Spirit charges for those seats. I believe the passenger should have planned ahead and been willing to pay for them. Normally I suggest flying another airline, because Spirit just isn’t worth its cheap fares, but on the whole they would have faced the same challenges elsewhere.
What do you think, should tall people receive priority for complimentary upgrades, as Elliott seems to think?