01/12/2012 11:21 EST | Updated 03/13/2012 05:12 EDT

Airline seat fees unfair to tall travellers, man argues

An Edmonton architect who is six foot seven inches tall says Air Canada penalizes tall people by making them pay extra for seats with more leg room.

"It's an impediment ... an unfair imposition on people who really can't do much about their height," Malcolm Johnson said.

Johnson flies to Europe twice a year. In the past, Air Canada would provide Johnson and his wife with a bulkhead seat, which has extra leg room, at no extra charge. But that's changed.

"Airlines, and certainly Air Canada, have started charging for the use of those seats," he said.

Johnson says those extra charges can add up a couple of hundred of dollars per person, like when he takes two flights to get from Edmonton to Paris and another two flights to get back home again.

It's just not the extra cost. Johnson argues tall people like himself are put at a greater risk of deep vein thrombosis or a blood clot in the leg when they sit in a cramped airline seat, especially on longer flights.

Johnson has taken the matter to the Canadian Transporation Agency, but his complaint was dismissed last week. He hopes to convince the agency to let him appeal the decision.

Johnson is now musing about an alternate strategy. Since his story hit the media this week, he's heard from other tall people.

"If we had a lobby group, I think, of people who find similar problems, then it might be worthwhile looking at that."

WestJet and Air Canada were compelled to provide a second seat at no extra cost to obese people who can provide a doctor's note following a Supreme Court decision in 2008.

Johnson says he doesn't want a second seat. He just wants the airlines to allocate existing spaces on the plane with more leg room to people like him, without charging an extra fee.