Monday 16 July 2012

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How NOT to Fly Families Together

You do know the words, right?
I've mentioned it before, but I'm definitely a proponent of families getting to sit together on airplanes. Even though my kids are old enough now to sit by themselves without causing any great deal of discomfort to their fellow passengers, I still don't think other people should have to sit with my kids, particularly on long haul flights. Nobody needs to be subjected to that many episodes of Phineas and Ferb in a row, especially the parts where it's impossible to resist singing along. It's just easier to let the parents deal with it (besides, we know the words) so I've always been a supporter of airlines making efforts to let families sit together.

Then I found myself on the other side of the situation.

On our flight home from Miami to Seattle last week, Alaska Airlines moved me from the seat I had reserved and already checked in for, to let a family sit together. They didn't move me far, simply from an aisle seat to a middle seat, and I was still sitting with my family, but they didn't ask me (or even tell me) to change my seat. I simply asked to have my boarding passes reprinted at the check-in desk, and I found myself moved from 9D to 9E.

Now I'll come to Alaska Airlines defence. I'm a huge fan of Alaska Airlines, and I can't even imagine the headaches that come into play when trying to piece together a seating chart for a flight. Even in the short time that we were standing at the check-in desk I saw one party of seven or eight people who were surprised to learn that they needed to reserve seats in advance if they wanted to sit together, and another man who was pulling a "Do You Know Who I Am?" attitude on the agent. I can't fathom that there's any way to satisfy even a majority of paying passengers without having to shuffle a couple of people around. It's just a necessary evil.

I didn't say anything when I found my seat relocated, justifying it by telling myself that obviously Alaska Airlines is a huge fan of my blog, and knew that I would willingly give up the aisle seat. In this case there was no damage done, but if airlines are going to move people involuntarily to accommodate families, then there is going to be a backlash, and I fear it will be aimed at the traveling families instead of the airline policy. The man sitting in front of me in 8E certainly seemed to have something against the kids being on the plane. Perhaps he had been relocated as well to let the family sit together, although I suspect that it was more a case of him being relocated from Happytown to Grumpyville a long time ago.

In the end, our cross-country flight was pleasant and uneventful, even sitting in a middle seat. I'm glad that the family got to sit together for their flight, but I would definitely like to encourage Alaska Airlines to find a different way to make it happen than forcibly moving people from their reserved seats. That just doesn't seem like a long term path to success in allowing families to sit together. Unless they can book me on every one of their flights. Then they're golden, at least until I develop a "Do You Know Who I Am?" attitude. After that, they're kind of screwed.

Written by Steve Pratt