“Airlines.” It’s a word some people hate, some people love. I am vaguely indifferent. I have, however, a pet hate that I am going to detail now.
Seat allocation. OK, let me start by saying I am not a serial complainer, and I will generally put up with a fair bit before I reach into my bag and put on my ugly Australian hat. But seriously, is the seat allocation computer at every airline actually just a giant chocolate wheel out the back?
My wife, daughter and I recently travelled back to Hong Kong from Paris. As we checked in, the standard problem appeared. My wife and daughter are together; I am in a galaxy, far, far away. That would be great if Missy was a teenager; she could sit wherever she wanted, and far away would probably have suited us both. But she’s two, and we really needed to be seated together, especially if Missy won’t sleep, and constant entertaining was required.
So, as we seem to do with every flight we take, (despite requesting being seated together when we booked the flights), we asked if we could get moved. “Non Monsieur, impossible” – the standard check-in persons retort to seat change requests.
So we get on the plane, and here it is: There is a 1 year old in my seat. Why? Because Madame seat allocation monkey, had split up the 1 year old from his mother, who was put 3 seats away. On the other side, another mother is desperately trying to change her seat, as she has also been spilt up from her 5 year old. To add to that confusion, she had a 6-month-old baby, and her 5 year old had been allocated the seat with the bassinet. She was put across the aisle. Two friends, who wanted to sit together, but aren’t, are then thrown into the mix.
It soon became obvious, now stay with me folks, that if I swapped with the 1 year old, mother and baby #1 were happy. Then if the man who was split from his friend and I swapped, two friends would be happy. Then if Mother #2 and I then swapped, we all would be happy. Granted I did the majority of swapping, but it had to be done in stages for my simple mind to put it together. In the end, we all worked it out.
So basically, 10 people had been mindlessly seated. By maybe using a teeny weeny bit of commonsense, all 10 people could have been seated together, and in the right order. In fact, it probably took some skill to so totally stuff the seating up. I get it that maybe it happens that my wife and daughter might have to sit together and me elsewhere, but to allocate separate seats for a mother and a 1 year old baby borders on incompetence of some magnitude.
This is not an isolated incident. It happens to parents, friends and lovers all the time. And believe me, I know. My previous job meant I travelled a lot. For 2 years, I was a top 10 frequent flyer in Asia for a large airline. I have literally been on hundreds of flights, long haul, short haul and everything in-between. “Split-ups” as I call them, happen more often than not.
Maybe there is a logical explanation, (I think not) but in any event, what would be nice, next time you are on a flight and see distressed folks who just want to spend a flight together, offer to move, if it will help. I’m not saying give up an exit row or aisle seat, but if it makes no difference, man up – and help out. You would be amazed at how many people, even if it’s a comparable, or sometimes better seat, won’t budge.