Monday, June 20, 2011
Flying Southwest Makes Clichés about Being First Unarguably True
I fly Southwest. I know, why in the world would I want to torture myself like that? It’s not all that bad. They let you check two bags for free, they still offer drinks and snacks, and when I had to fly to Utah immediately for my grandpa's funeral, they let me use my rewards points to book a flight the day before I wanted to leave. Then once I was on my trip they let me extended my trip an extra day at no additional charge. Southwest isn’t all bad.
The biggest problem everyone has with Southwest flights is the line-up-and-scramble-for-the-best-seat approach to boarding. Everyone hates this method for seating arrangements, but I’ve never minded. Sometimes I’m lucky enough to get A or B group seating but I’ll still sit around until whenever I feel like boarding. I figure I’m going to be sitting around waiting for other people either way so I might as well be in a comfortable place with lots of leg room instead of crammed into the plane. Besides, I only ever care what seat I get when I’m really tired and want a window to lean against so I can sleep. Other than that, it doesn’t matter where I end up.
Or does it…
Flying back from my grandfather’s funeral last week I was in boarding group C position 18 (out of C20) so I figured there was no point in standing in line at all, I would just wait until everyone was in and I’d saunter up. As I walked into the plane, the flight attendant was telling everyone that was looking for a seat that the plane was completely full and to take the first seat we came across. Basically there weren’t any “better options” coming up if we passed one.
I almost didn’t notice the first open seat I came to. There was a largeish man in the window seat and a VERY large man in the aisle seat taking up one and a half seats. I couldn’t possibly be expected to have to sit in half a seat so I kept walking. The flight attendant in the middle of the plane pointed to the seat once I passed it and said, “Didn’t you just pass a seat?” I decided that ignorance was the best way to go with this one, “I didn’t notice one.” I said lying pleasantly as I looked ahead with hope blazing that I would have a “better option”. Whoever was behind me was going to get stuck in that seat because I was moving on to find another one.
She found the buried seat, called me back and told me to sit there. Apparently there was NO ONE behind me. I was the absolute last person to board the plane. Lesson learned.
So I squeezed into my half-a-seat (luckily I’m a small girl) and buckled up. We were going to be very close this flight as we were not able to put down the arm rest between us due to him sitting on half of my seat. I tried to remain positive. I didn’t want to be some bitchy girl complaining about the fat guy she was sitting next to, besides, I’m sure he felt bad about the situation too, right?
I did a very good job keeping a positive attitude about the largish man in the window seat using my only armrest the whole flight. I did an excellent job remaining positive as the very large man fell asleep and his arms uncrossed which left them to fall to his side and take up even MORE of my seat. (I was so pinned between these two men the entire flight that my shoulders and arms were never NOT touching someone) I was even able to smile and enjoy my book as the guy in front of me leaned his seat back at took up any space I had left to myself. I really can’t believe how well I did and I get a hearty pat on the back for being so amiable through it all.
*Quick tangent to understand my claustrophobe: One time we had to hitch-hike up the mountain to go snowboarding and a tiny VW Jetta picked us up. There were two of us and two snowboards in the back seat. I got so claustrophobic I started taking off my clothes and I had a minor freak out. Also, watch this video*
I was very surprised I held my shit together for the whole three hour flight.
It wasn’t until the very end when we were put into a holding pattern because of the weather that I started to worry I wouldn’t make it out alive (or at least with all of my clothes on.) At about the 3rd loop around going back to the airport I had to use every relaxation strategy I knew. As the hollow tubed flying torture chamber started pressing in around me, I was doing deep breathing. When the very large man started snoring and leaning my way, I went to my happy place. Then, just when I thought I wouldn’t make it till the end without running up and down the aisle ripping off my clothing, I heard the landing gear go down and I knew I could suck it up and make it through, clothing in tact.
When the very large man stood up to deplane I did a little jig then ran for my life to the safety of the Chicago Midway Airport.
I now understand why people don’t like self seating. From now on I will always check in a day in advance and get into boarding group A. I will board immediately and find myself an amazing and safe seat. Never again will I allow myself to be left to the fate of the last seat left!
at 9:00 AM