Happy Travelers, 2012
For those of you who travel frequently, it's no secret that the latest scheme of airlines is to upsell. That is, after you’ve paid an arm and a leg for the privilege of sitting in a seat so narrow and so close to the row in front of you that you feel like your knees are giving the person in front of you a back massage you get an email from the airline, typically a day before your flight, offering you the opportunity to buy a better seat, usually one with another inch of legroom or closer to the front of the plane or in earlier boarding zone.
I'm a veteran of boarding Zone 4. I’ve even been in Zone 7. I’ve been in that very back window seat next to the engine or the bathrooms or where, in the smaller commuter planes, both of my fists would be outside the fuselage were I to stretch my arms. I’ve fought the overhead storage bin wars as good as any road warrior.
Over the years I’ve learned that you just can’t get upset when air travel doesn’t go smoothly. Things will go wrong occasionally. They can be mechanical or weather related or because a crew doesn’t show up. There’s little you can do about these things. Getting upset is just so much wasted energy. I show up early. I don’t worry too much about where I’m sitting so long as the people around me are congenial and I have a book to read once I get to my seat.
My wife, on the other hand, rarely travels by air and is behind the curve when it comes to the latest schemes in the sky. She takes airlines at their word, doesn’t understand why all flights don’t depart, arrive and connect on time, and wonders what happened to the steaming towels and hot meals.
She had no idea, therefore, why I could have thought that upgrading to boarding Zone 1 was a gift worthy of the landmark birthday our recent trip to California was celebrating. For her, this was about as sentimental as buying a new blade for the lawn mower.
I mean, really. I paid $86 to be in Zone 1 just to be sure we could board early enough to stow our modestly sized bags in the overheard storage bin. The seats were the same cramped rows. Heck, even families traveling with little children and seniors who “need a little extra time boarding” don’t get to board anymore until after Zone 2.
By Zone 3 it’s like rolling dice to see whether you’ll have overhead storage, or not. People start getting mean in Zone 4. Believe me, I’ve seen sweet little old ladies turn into Ninja warriors wielding knitting needles over the amount of overhead space it takes to stow one of those puffy Vera Bradley purses. Flight attendants know all too well what happens and are nowhere to be seen when these little skirmishes break out.
It’s ugly up there in the skies sometime. If someone offers you Zone 1 boarding, take it and be grateful.
[In the interest of full disclosure and marital peace, Mrs. B was completely appreciative of my chivalrous gesture after watching people fight for overhead space on our first flight.]