Magazine article Insight on the News

Tall Order for Airlines

Magazine article Insight on the News

Tall Order for Airlines

Article excerpt

Tall air travelers are angry and they are not gonna take it anymore: They've sued major commercial airlines to force them to give roomier seats to long-legged passengers.

Dave Rogers dreads boarding an airplane, but it's not because he is afraid of flying. Rogers fears his airline seat. At 6 feet 6 inches tall, he finds that he needs an Olympic gymnast's flexibility to wedge his long frame into the narrow space without extending his legs into the aisle or shoving them into the back of the passenger in front of him.

"It's very uncomfortable for me to sit in a seat made for someone who's 5 feet 10" says Rogers, age 45, a warehouse manager for the Sequoia Union High School District in Redwood City, Calif.

Heaven forbid the seat in front of him should recline. "My knees are already up to my nostrils, so if that person tries to push back their seat, it darn near snaps my spine. And when you ask them to put them up, sometimes they get mad and put them down anyway"

Rogers is fortunate to have friends in high places, or at least tall places. A past president of the Tall Club of Silicon Valley, he and other tall people took their complaints to the top last year when they filed a lawsuit against the major commercial airlines. Noting that some seats have more space than others, such as those in the bulkhead and the emergency-exit rows, the club wants tall people to receive preference in procuring the most leg room when seats are assigned. The lawsuit, which applies only to the coach section, defines a tall person as anyone at least 6 feet 2 inches. Recognizing that women usually have longer legs than comparably sized men, the definition includes anyone whose buttock-to-knee measurement is greater than that of 95 percent of the population.

"There are always some seats that have more room than others, and it's very frustrating when you see a kid who's 3 feet 2 sitting in one of them" says Rogers. "This would not cost the airlines one cent. It's just so tall people can fly without being so uncomfortable. Believe me, after a long flight, I can barely straighten out."

With the lawsuit, tall people embark on a legal trail blazed by racial minorities and, more recently, the disabled and the overweight, in seeking recognition for a physical attribute. But Thomas Cohen, a San Francisco attorney representing the club, says the case is unique. "There's been nothing exactly like this before" says Cohen, who at 6 feet 6 inches, has a personal as well as professional commitment to the case. …

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