Extra Legroom on an Airbus A321

Andrew Boast
On a recent flight to the village of Syvota, which climbs out of an azure bay on the East coast of Greece, I flew on a British Airways Airbus A321 from terminal 5 at Heathrow, landing at Preveza. We flew with Neilson Holidays who are great for activity holidays in idyllic destinations; providing inclusive deals.

As a regular British Airways flyer I was hopeful of getting the extra legroom needed for a 6 foot 8 inches person as Neilson didn’t allow for me to pay for this as an additional extra when booking. Read on to find out the best extra legroom seats on the Airbus A321 and know which ones to avoid if you are blessed with longer-than-average legs.

If you want to find out how tall is tall then you should read my blog about the average heights in the UK and around the world.

How can you get extra legroom on an Airbus A321?

As our flight was chartered by Neilson Holidays through British Airways, we were unable to check-in online and choose our own seats – as any British Airways flyer will tell you, for normal non-chartered flights an early online check-in is the sure fire way to guarantee you get the extra legroom seat as you can choose it your seat online.

Without the option to pre-book I went to Heathrow as early as possible (2 and a half hours before the flight) so I could be one of the first to check-in and bag myself the exit row seats. This is where my second challenge arose.

Extra legroom for chartered flights

After a 15 minute queue in Heathrow I arrived at the check-in desk, put on my best smile, asked how the check-in clerks was and then asked for the exit seat.

Sadly I found out that Chartered flights are pre-booked and you aren’t able to change your seat. The check-in clerk tried asking her Manager if she could change the seats of another flyer, however this was not allowed. The best they could do was make a note on the flight and ask if there were any changes to passengers seating to allow for a swap once at the plane.

When I arrived at the plane I was informed by the British Airways staff that I would not be allowed to change my seat and I was left with no option but to sit in Row 21D.

What was the legroom on the plane?

Full of dread I got onto the plane, found my seat and took a picture of the space in front of me. It was tight and my knees pressed against the form of the seat in front. There was no room for the seat in front to recline backwards and my only comfy position was to stick a leg out into the aisle where I got a continual knock from passengers and trolleys.

For a 6’8” person it was just bearable, but not overly comfortable. The flight time was 3 hours so long enough for me to feel cramped, stiff and in dire need of an osteopath to realign my spine.

There are 220 seats on am Airbus A321 and the standard economy seats have a pitch of 28-30 inches and a width of 17.6 inches.

Why do tall people need extra legroom?

When seated in a confined space for long periods of time it can cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a blood clot that can form deep in a vein and these are most commonly found in the leg such as the ones that run through the calf and thigh muscle.

Although the risk of DVT from travel is small, the affects caused by cramping for a tall person in a limited space could potentially have an influence on the chances. Read more on DVT when travelling here.

The chances of getting this are reduced by being able to move freely in your seat which is something that can’t be achieved by a tall person in a standard seat.

What are the extra legroom seats?

The exit rows and the front row are a guarantee for legroom and on the Airbus A321 you can finds these in Rows 1, 9 & 23. A full seating layout can be found on Seat Guru by clicking here.

This won’t help you if you are tall and flying on a Neilson Holiday that pre-allocates your seats. I have written to Neilson Holidays and British Airways to get their comment on the following questions:

    What do British Airways do to ensure the safety of tall people using their chartered service to reduce their chance of being injured by sitting in a standard seat for long periods of time?
    What allowances could have been made at Heathrow so that I didn’t have to endure 3 hours with my legs in the aisle being hit by passengers and trolleys?
    What is the British Airways policy for giving a passenger the exit row seat?

I’ll post any responses to help tall people get the extra legroom needed when flying on an Airbus A321.

British Airways Response dated 29th November 2016

Dear Mr Boast

Thanks for your recent letter about your flight to Preveza on 18 September. I’m sorry for the delay in my reply. I completely understand why you’re worried about the possibility of deep vein thrombosis on your flights.

As you’re probably aware, one of the key findings of research published in 2005 and 2006, as part of the World Health Organisation’s WRIGHT study shows that passengers over 1.90m tall are more at risk of DVT. We recommend seeking medical advice before you fly if you’re concerned about your risk and your doctor may advise that compression stockings or anti-coagulant medication can help to avoid the possibility of DVT.

The Well-Being section of our Highlife in-flight magazine includes foot and leg exercises we advise all passengers to carry out during their flight. The WRIGHT study didn’t look at the effectiveness of preventative measures and further work is needed in this area however.

I’m sorry you weren’t able to book an exit row seat as it was a charter booking. I agree this type of seat would’ve made your flight far more comfortable. Exit row seats are subject to a charge and you must meet Civil Aviation Authority safety requirements at the time of travel. Please see the link below for full details:

The terms and conditions for our pre-paid seating is detailed below using the following link:

Thanks again for getting in touch and I hope you’ve found this information helpful. We look forward to welcoming you on board again soon. Please feel free to contact me directly by using the blue link below if I can help you with anything else.

Best regards

Simone Dinnage
British Airways Customer Relations
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