*when it comes to travelling by air!
It seems that regardless of my roles in and around aircraft and airports, that other than safety as paramount, all anyone REALLY cares about is their seat. It’s a reasonable concern, I get that. I too have spent my fair share of 12+ hour flights shoehorned in between someone who was not conscious of personal space/and or body odour. It’s not pleasant!
Sometimes, there is really nothing you can do to change your seat it, as could be a full flight or there could be load/ trim requirements. Most of the time, even if a flight doesn’t appear full during your online seat selection, you still won’t be able to change seats (at least not until after take off) because those seats must be left unoccupied for a good reason: in order to balance the aircraft, so that it doesn’t take off being imbalanced and therefore unsafe.Also, sometimes sections of seats are blocked off for passengers requiring medical assistance, for example those travelling in an incubator or stretcher. This is when the engineers physically remove the seats in order to accommodate medical equipment. It is far more common than you may think. Here are a few suggestions in order to make your trip one to remember (for hopefully the right reasons!)
Pre Book (and pay) for your selected seats in advance.
Many airlines give passengers the option to pre pay for exit row seats or particular seats together on certain aircraft. It is important to recognise the difference between a REQUEST and a PURCHASE! It might sound silly, but we encounter thousands of people every day who request a certain seat or combination of seats. That is simply all it is- a request, to let the airline know that If there is ample space, then you’d like your twin seater window/aisle to yourselves. Without securing this request with a payment, it is highly unlikely that this will be honoured during a full flight at peak time, for example, weekends, school holidays, during major sporting events and following natural disasters. If it is imperative that you receive a certain seat, lock it in and PAY FOR IT!
2. Add your Frequent Flyer Points
Make sure you have a frequent flyer account with your chosen airline and always add your points on when you travel! Little by little they build up, and if you have enough status credits, eventually you will move up the pecking order and your seat options will expand! Of course, this isn’t always the case.
If there are Frequent Flyers of a higher status requesting the same seat as you and there is only one left, nine times out of ten it will go to them. But if there is a non Frequent Flyer and a Silver Frequent Flyer requesting the same seat, airlines will generally give preference to customers who show loyalty through Frequent Flyers! You can also save a seat preference in your Frequent Flyer profile with my airline, which allows you to be allocated your preferred seat if space and configurations permit.
3. Ask Nicely!
It might seem obvious…but the nicer you ask for something, the more likely you are to get it (shocker, I know!!). Personally, I endeavour to never withhold a particular seat or upgrade that a customer asks for, even if they have requested it with zero manners, because I’m not there to teach anybody manners, and you never know what is going on below the surface of people’s lives. I am certain, however, that there are many people who do not share this mentality, and if you demand a certain seat with a certain tone of voice, you will be crammed into a middle aft seat quicker than you can ask for a refund! It is human nature, if someone is polite and respectful to you, then you will be more inclined to go above and beyond to fulfil their requests. This is what the aviation customer service industry is centred upon. It is not uncommon for me to process a seat change at the gate if another passenger fails to check in after the flight has closed, or physically run out of the lounge, down an aerobridge and onto an aircraft to deliver an item of lost property. We want to be helpful, you just have to give us the time, patience and respect to do our part and if we can, we will attempt to fulfil your every wish, like some kind of magical aviation themed genies!
And lastly, it is important to remember that some situations may take precedence over others. There are many people who are travelling by air for less-than-happy reasons, such as repatriation of remains, medical treatment and funerals to name a few. If someone has been given the seat you want, the chances are they could be travelling for one of those reasons, or with small children, or both.
So, whilst you sit and stew in your middle seat between the festering odour of Mr I-don’t-believe-in-personal- hygiene’s feet and a screaming child, try to put everything into perspective. What is three, or five or 15 hours in a middle seat? Is it preferable to travelling home with a loved one’s remains in the cargo, or going to a family member’s funeral overseas? Everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about, so try to keep your cool, remember your manners and please…if something is going on that you need help with (injury, travelling for medical or bereavement reasons), or even just a hug…please let your Customer Service Agent and/or Cabin Crew know. If you don’t tell us, we don’t know to hep you!
Safe and happy (and comfy) travels!