My wife and I, both 73, were ousted from our assigned seats in the emergency exit row when we checked in for an American Airlines flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Miami because we are "seniors." We are both in top shape - we exercise, lift weights and play tennis.
You fell afoul of the emergency exit rule followed by many airlines in which exit rows are reserved for able-bodied passengers who would be capable of helping to open the doors in the event of an emergency. Ageism has extended to a presumption that older travelers are invariably infirm.
However, it is often possible to reserve roomier coach seats in advance, albeit sometimes for an extra charge.
Air Canada, for example, charges passengers in its lowest-fare category, Tango, 15 Canadian dollars (or about $13.25) for an advance seat assignment but has not taken to selling specific seats on its aircraft. In Europe, easyJet has tested the idea of allowing passengers who pay a small supplement to board the plane first, along with families with children and those requiring assistance, and hopes to roll it out by the end of the year. And Northwest recently introduced Coach Choice on its domestic network, by which passengers can book certain aisle and exit-row seats for $15 extra per flight segment.
It is not easy to figure out the best and worst seats from airline seating plans, but some Web sites offer help. Skytrax Research (www.airlinequality.com) compares seat dimensions and gives seating tips for more than 325 airlines on long-haul flights. Aircraft seat plans at seatguru.com show you which seats to ask for - and which to avoid - on more than 30 airlines.
Other useful Web sites include Lovemy seat.com, which gives seat charts, scores and reviews for 80 airlines, and Flatseats.com, which compares first- and business-class lie-flat seats and gives "sleep ratings," along with passenger reviews, for airlines around the world.