After decades of discrimination at gigs, bars, movie theatres and the back of political rallies, it finally pays to be short.

Airlines, desperate to extract more profits following years of airline wars and rising fuel costs, are now charging passengers who need extra leg room. One 2m tall Qantas passenger told a Sydney newspaper that it was "discrimination" to be charged up to $160 to book an exit-row seat on international flights.

The Australian airline has apparently instructed cabin crew that if no one pays for the extra leg room available on an exit row, then the seats are to remain empty - seat jumpers will be removed.

"For the past 20 years of international flying, my strategy has been to turn up really early [for check-in] ... that never failed," the passenger said.

"The airlines are trying to find any way they can to squeeze you."

This news will come as some relief to the perennially squeezed, who find airplanes one of the few places where it pays to be little. Though feet may dangle maddeningly close to the footrest, and reaching for the overhead locker can require Pilates precision, being small has its payback once seated, or when permitted to lie across a row.

Watching the tall contort themselves into the tiny chairs, knees and trays competing with ears, offers a measure of relief to those ignored or trodden on in most other public environments.

When a $200 concert ticket doesn't ensure a view of the stage, and when after 10 minutes queuing for beer at the rugby taller people get served first, a little discrimination in favour of the vertically challenged will be rather satisfying.