2010-01-02

Flying the Greyhound of the skies

Considering the number of miles I've flown (which is even bigger if you convert it to kilometers) you know that I know what I am talking about when I say I detest flying with Southwest.

From the need to queue up for boarding, to the "free seating" policy, this airline is not even remotely suited for frequent travelers. Yet, when holidays come around, and air fare goes up, this affordable airline was hard to beat for a one-way ticket from Raleigh back to the Bay area.

However, salty dog of an air traveler that I am, I managed to make the trip conditions halfway bearable after all.

For starters, let me mention that I was careless enough not to check in for my flight onlin until just a touch over two hours prior to departure. At which point I was denied check-in, because "the maximum number of online boarding passes have been issued."

So off to the airport I went and got my boarding pass at the gate. Of course at that point they assigned me into the last group to board, C.

I waited till groups A and B all boarded and obediently got in line when my turn came. Down the jetwalk and into the cabin.

Then, the expected picture opened before my eyes: while most of the rest of the cabin was full, row 1 had passengers in seats A and C, leaving the middle seat open.

Like a hawk, I zeroed in on the seat.

"Is this seat free, by any chance?" I asked the two middle-aged ladies with books.

"Yes," they reluctantly admitted, as I plopped into my place under a scalding glare from the lady in the window seat. Through the rest of the boarding, taxi, and takeoff, she would throw those kind of glances at me that made me glad looks can't kill after all.

What she would be surely surprised to know is, that this is not the first time I performed the exactly same maneuver on a Southwest flight. Passengers in row 1 frequently position themselves into middle seat, to discourage others to take either of the neighbouring ones. And since it's the very first row, once you've hesitated to brazenly take seat A or C next to the person in seat B, you've already moved past the first row and the plan worked.

Then at last, someone takes the aisle seat. The peson who was already there, moves from the middle seat to the window, leaving the middle one open. At this point, the disincentive to take that seat gets even higher, so it remains open for a while.

Then, enter yours truly.

Knowing full well that purely statistically, chances of me flying in the first row at this point (one of the last five passengers to board) would be quite low, I nevertheless expect at least one open seat, and sure enough I get it.

And the morals of the story is: When the push comes to shove, no amount of intimidating glaring will stop me from getting the best seat still available on the entire aircraft.

Cheers, folks, and fly safe.