Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Airplane Seating

   So most everyone has traveled on an airplane... and for most airlines people like to be first. First to book their flight online so they can virtually choose their seat, first to "check-in" on line so they are more likely to board with the first group of passengers, or even standing in the gate waiting to get on--people love trying to be first in line to " get the best seat." 

          Some like the front for quick boarding and un-boarding, some like window seats to look at the clouds or little cities and mountains, some like the isle seats because they drink too much vodka tonic...or ginger ale. Typically, no one wants the dreaded middle seat. And most certainly no one wants to sit in the back of the plane, in the corner, near the engine. It's loud, and you can't even see out! 

         So, I'm here to tell you about my experience of flying from Baltimore to Albuquerque and back, this past week.  My flight left around 2pm last Wednesday, and I remembered to check in on line the night before my trip,  at about 7 or 8pm.  It's Southwest so there aren't assigned seats, and you get put into little groups "A 1-30,  A 31-60, B 1-30, B 31-60, and one cares... because by the time they get to C they're doing all call for the flight...just get on damnit, people want their sprite and pretzels. 

        So imagine my surprise when I checked in 19 or 20 hours before flight and was already in B 1-30. Dang those EastCoasters setting an alarm on their phone to check in right at 2pm the day before. I guess, even after school I was still striving for an A...  But guess what??  When I got on the plane....sure all of the window and isle seats were taken...but that left me with options. I got to CHOOSE who I sat in between! Novel concept, which I really had never considered. Before I would head straight to the window seat somewhere in the middle-back, and just hope and pray who ever sat next to me wasn't overly fat, smelly, or snored loud. I had no control over who I'd share the next 4 hours with. But NOW, now I looked people up and down and mulled around the idea of sitting next to them.....and then I found two women in their 30's and 40's who both looked was even carrying a poster tube...she had the markings for going to the same conference I was going too. I could still see out and was "free to move about the cabin" if I just asked the one lady to get up. AND to top it off, they were in the 5th row! 

         So I got a seat right up front, which was great for un-boarding and grabbing my luggage and sprinting to a cab before the rest of the flight. There are only 50 cabs in Albuquerque, so descending 2,000 people to the city for the conference kept them very busy!  One lady I sat next to was born and raised in NM, and told me and the other woman (who was indeed also attending the conference with me) about all the shops and restaurants we needed to visit. Plus she told us all about the Sandia Mountains and the Rio Grande River in the city...which all proved for appearing very knowledgeable to my colleagues later in the day!  

        So with one successful flight behind me I enjoyed my conference, learned a lot, and got to catch up with people I hadn't seen in a couple of years. Then the last day came and I had several fleeting thoughts about finding a computer and printer to check in to my flight...but it just never happened. So on Sunday when I arrived at the airport I checked in at the kiosk and printed my boarding pass and was in B 31-60. 
      Upon waiting to board I actually ran into a girl I know!  Friend of a friend type thing, so we were always at the same parties/events for our mutual friends. And when she was boarding...she said to me "Good luck with your crappy seat!"  Well... she didn't know the fun of boarding near the end! That what actually makes a good seat is not WHERE you're located on the plane, but WHO you're seated next to.
      This trip I chose to sit in between two more grandma type and one woman in her 40's. Both were very sweet. The highlight of the tip was hearing ALL about Grandma's trip she planned for her family this summer. Just picture, an older African American woman with a head full of grey and white ringlets, dressed very well, with glasses. She booked a charter bus to take 32 members of her family (most of them her grandchildren and her sisters and brothers grandchildren) from Chicago to the Grand Canyon. Oh, but they also had stops planned in St. Louis, multiple cities in Texas and ArizonaNevada...all around. She was a former Librarian and knew everything about everywhere. So each stop was centered on something historical and worthwhile for the children to see. Don't worry; she also had plans to visit Six Flags and Medieval Times. 

      And at the end of the flight? She asked for her wheelchair. This woman was taking her 32 family members around the country, on a bus, in a wheel chair! Some people are just so inspiring. Afterwards at the baggage claim she introduced me to her daughter and 3 grandchildren she was coming to visit in Maryland. Wonderful family. 

       Will any of you try my idea of attempting to board near the end so that instead of sitting where you want; you can sit next to who you want??  I just dawned on me that many of you may have never traveled alone. I've done 85% of my traveling I guess that changes things!