Joining The Mile High Club Part 1: The Economy Flight Experience

We've all been there. Stuck on a full long haul flight, sat in a bad seat, legs crunched up.

The joys of flying economy.

In this 3 part article series, the myths and realities of "Joining The Mile High Club" (no, the legal one) shall be dissected and discussed.

The goal is for all of us together to come away with some extra ideas, tips and techniques to get the best value for money in flight experience that our money can buy.

In part one of the series, I will simply be taking you through the economy flight experience, so that we can start a discussion sharing our own experiences, thoughts and ideas/suggestions on how other BWers can make the most of their flights.

In part 2, where we will discuss our techniques and strategies to bag the better seats in Economy. All without getting arrested for air rage.

And finally in part 3 of the series, we will discuss the myths and realities of everyone's favorite topic - getting flight upgrades.

So let's start the series by recapping the economy experience.

The Joys of Flying Economy


The over botoxed Flight Attendant glances at your ticket, and the fake smile on her face disappears as simultaneously stops looking at you in the eye. (or maybe it's the eyelid droop)

"Just go down the aisle to the very end sir...."

You start walking down the aisle. This plane looks pretty nice... a flight attendant takes a gentleman's jacket. "Wow," you think, "that's some customer service."

1A. 2A. 3A. Nope. Nope. Nope. Not you. The guy in 5A catches your eye. He scans you up and down, while sipping champagne.

The flight attendant comes up behind you. "Further along, sir. You've still got a bit to go," she reminds you. "It's a full flight, so please be patient as the overheads may get a bit full."

10A. You drag your hand luggage past the grey curtain. Seats narrow. Traffic jams. Babies cry. Yep. You're in the right place.

You're in Economy.

All the rows kind of blur into one. 29E. 30E. 31E. Lavatory.

Fantastic. You're right at the back of the plane. And you got a middle seat? But you requested for a window seat! And with a wall right behind you separately the toilets, does that mean you get limited recline and the stench of the other 350 passengers at the same time ?

The little old lady in 31F hands you her bag in your seat. You smile. You help her place her bag into the cabin above. Only then do you realise there is no longer any space for your own.

You shove your luggage under the seat in front of you. It barely fits. You sit down. Your legs smash against the seat in front. But hey, you'll compromise. After all, you did ONLY paid £250 for this 8 hour transatlantic flight. Can't complain. It's a bargain, and it'll be over before you know it.

You put your leg across under the aisle seat. Maybe the aisle seat will be empty. You stretch your foot out in front of you.

Just then, a heavy man trumps down the aisle. He glares at you. You glance around. Nope, he's looking right at you. All the other seats are occupied except the seat next to you.

"Oh no... please," you mutter.

Oh... yes. The flight attendant did say it was a full flight. Remember?

He comes closer. "31D," he wheezes, out of breath, just as you scrunch your legs back into the 30 inches in front of you before he lands on them, as he flops right down next to you.

"Cabin Crew, please prepare for take off," announces the pilot. Yes. The flight is only just beginning.


The above is based on a true story. Names and characters have been modified to protect the innocent.

Post your own experiences below, and other tips/suggestions/advice for other BWers.

The best stuff will be included in Part 2 and 3 of the series, where we will be sharing tips, techniques and strategies that frequent flyers have used to land the best seats available in economy, and the myths and realities of getting flight upgrades. If you have any thoughts on these or want us to research into anything in particular, let us know!


  • Gem
    try doing it for 30 hours Australia to London via KL THEN start complaining!
  • Paul N.
    Ouch ouch ouch - always felt bad for those brutal flights to Aus/NZ! On the flip side at least you got to spend time away from the UK hah!
  • Lam
    31E sounds just like a flight I was on from London to Vegas. Oh yes! the stench still turns my stomach one year on. Now I only fly airlines that "show you" their available seats while booking online. You can then pick your seat before you pay and not worry about being stuck in 31E or getting to the airport early to bag a good seat. ( eg. continental airlines ) One tip though, don't go for bulkhead seats because if their are passengers with babies you will be bumped out the seat even though you've already started to warm it. I also use the site to find the best seats with extra leg room. Oh and remember to look up the seat pitch, some airlines give you a few extra inches and we all know size does does matter. If you can't pick your seat at the time of making the booking, you can check-in online with many airlines up to 24 hours before departure, choose your seat and print your own boarding card. And lastly, some airlines, like Virgin at Gatwick, allow you to check in for your flight the night before you fly. Doing this will ensure you get the seat you want. A good tip if you are planning to park at the airport is rather stay the night before your flight at a airport hotel that includes up to 15 days free parking. Often this works out cheaper that using the aiports parking, plus you don't need to get up at dawns crack and make a nervous dash through traffic to make your flight. Holiday Inns group hotels offer " Park, Stay & Go" just look for the little tab on their websites. As an example, I stayed at their Gatwick Holiday Inn the night before my flight for £89 including 15 days free on-site parking. Had I paid to just park at one of the long stay carparks at Gatwick it would have cost me £94.60.
  • Vince W.
    Gem - been there, done that, those are the worst! Which is why we want to make sure it doesn't happen to YOU. Wow Lam thanks for that. Great info. I'm sure many will agree. The bulkhead thing certainly heeds warning. And yes, we'll be discussing how to speed up use of SeatGuru along with other sites in Part 2. We'll also discuss some other aspects such as checking in online (and ways to 'hack' the system for seats that aren't available online in the first place) Great tip on parking at the airport btw... if it's ok with u, will include that in the next post.
  • Get B.
    [...] response to my “Mile High Club Part 1” post here at Bitterwallet, reader Lam wrote a great response on obtaining free parking at [...]

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