UP, UP AND AWAY

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My early morning flight to Washington, D.C. yesterday morning was on American Airlines.   Seldom do I fly anything other than Southwest Airlines. For one thing, I don’t like the added cost of paying to check luggage. For another, the last couple of years all of my flights on SWA have been TSA pre-approved. Why switch carriers and potentially mess that up?

 

Okay, so I have “STUPID” tattooed on my forehead. I was flying American yesterday morning and whether rightfully or wrongfully, I was operating on the notion that American Airlines operates pretty much like SWA. I opted to check-in for my flight exactly 24 hours prior to the posted departure time. Guess what? Can you believe this? With American Airlines you have the privilege of picking your seat before you board the plane. You make your seat selection at the time of check-in. Who knows, maybe you have the option to do so at the time of making your reservation. That seems to make sense to me, but somehow earlier I had failed to make that discovery.

 

Why not? I clicked on the link for seat selection. The obvious downside to having the privilege of selecting your seating is that it comes at a price. When I checked on seat availability, everything in the standard fare was already preselected. Are you kidding me? There was not one available seat that didn’t come at an extra charge of $17 to $34 dollars. The same was true for both legs of the flight.

 

Advertising something about extra legroom in the cabin or preferential seating choice and I’d say it closely resembles a scam. There were at least four available middle seats priced at $17. I didn’t want a middle seat even if they were giving them away. How many airlines have you flown on where the seating on one side of the aisle didn’t closely resemble the seating on the other side of the aisle? I bet your answer is none of them unless you were flying on Air Force One or some other private carrier.

 

I don’t remember the name of the airline, but when the General and I flew out of Rome, Italy several years ago, even at the airline terminal before we entered through security, there was an “UP Charge” for selecting our seats.   It seems like it was in the neighborhood of something over $100 a seat. Of course, you could pay the money upfront and be guaranteed that you and your traveling companion would be seated next to each other.

 

I’m a practical man. When had just spent 18 days together on a cruise.  If we needed to be separated by a couple or three rows to get a seat on the plane, it shouldn’t be the end of the world. The General would have opted to pay the $200 rather than take the chance that we wouldn’t be seated together. My thought process was closely akin to “Money doesn’t grow on trees.” The way I saw it, we were guaranteed some seat with the tickets we’d already purchased. Why not take our chances and avoid the additional charge? Like I said, the General saw it differently.

 

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you won’t be surprised to know that I opted to take our chances. I guess that means I’d be better at playing poker than the General. I was willing to call their bluff. By the way, I hate table games, so I’m not at risk for a game of poker.

 

The way I saw it, if you had an airline ticket, the airline was obligated to provide you a seat. After all, how would you adhere to the “fasten your seatbelt” requirement if you didn’t have a seat? That time it paid off to call their bluff, our seats turned out to be next to each other and we weren’t out the additional $200.

 

Okay, so I had a flashback to that experience when I was looking on Monday at seating availability for yesterday’s flight. There was not one available seat on the flight that didn’t come with the caveat of requiring more money.

 

So I checked in without making a seat selection. After checking in, I had to select how I wanted my boarding pass. I opted to print it. Of course the boarding pass indicated the assigned seat might not actually be your assigned seat. You’d think that disclaimer would have given me an indication that the boarding pass wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on?

 

Like I said, the airport was really busy yesterday morning. Thankfully, with boarding pass in hand, I headed for the TSA Pre-Approved line to get through Security. It, too, was busy, but it moved quickly. When the agent attempted twice to scan the bar code on my boarding pass without success, he told me I needed to go back to the airline counter to get another boarding pass. The bar code on my boarding pass was not working.

 

It was then that some level of panic set in. From my perspective, I was cutting it pretty close on time. In addition, I was attempting to get through Security at the SWA end of the terminal and the American Airlines counter was at the other end of the terminal. You may have already figured this out, with me I don’t have to look for things to worry about. In addition to my backpack and carry-on suitcase, I had my bi-pap machine. Medical equipment or medical devices are not supposed to count as a carry-on, but did the folks at American know that? Only time would tell.

 

I subsequently breathed a sigh of relief. It all turned out okay, except that I had to check my suitcase once I got to the gate before boarding the plane. Well, at least I didn’t have to pay extra for the assigned seat which coincidentally was the same seat assignment that had been reflected on the earlier boarding pass. As it turned out, I didn’t have to pay to check my luggage either. They were doing it complimentary from the gate.

 

That leaves me the dilemma of my return flight? Will I opt to pay for checking my baggage at the airline counter or will I take my chances and get it checked free at the gate? It sounds like the kind of question that has an easy answer. I’ll let you figure it out.

 

All My Best!

Don

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