The great thing about BoardingArea bloggers, if I can toot our respective horns, is that we’re true road warriors with intricate knowledge of the airline, hotel and travel industry. We post our hearts out with often highly specific details about our travel experiences all in the desire to impart wisdom to other travelers. Then there’s the mainstream media.
I’m going to nitpick on another Peter Greenberg article posted this week where he has a discussion with Wall Street Journal travel editor Scott McCartney about preferential seats on airlines. As with the previous Greenberg article, I agree with some points and disagree with others.
First up, Peter claims middle seats shouldn’t be considered preferred:
Okay, yes, middle seats are generally not preferential, but in United Airlines’ Economy Plus, middle seats still offer greater seat pitch than the back of the cabin. A couple booking a window and middle together in “E+” would have to agree they’re getting preferred seats in this case. Also, if only middle seats are left, those up front offer you to disembark quicker when you arrive.
Next, Scott says he sees some seat maps where an unusual pair of seats are roped off:
I might agree with him, but here’s my experience. On United, if you look at many flights ridiculously far out in the future where probably no one has a booking yet, they “rope off” a couple of pairs of seats, often the D & E ones. On many aircraft, those particular rows have armrests on the aisles that extend fully upward to allow a wheelchair passenger to easily slide in. Now if those are actually roped off as preferred for purchase, that’s an obvious no-no. Without knowing what he was looking at specifically, I’ll just give my partial disagreement here.
Here, I’ll sort-of agree with Peter:
American’s new Preferred Seating program has gotten some criticism as huge swaths of seats are now considered preferred, often stretching far back into the cabin. Peter’s example of 21 out of 27 seats open being preferred means American designated the windows and aisles as preferred with six “regular” seats (middles, I’m sure) open for free. Ah ha! Did I contradict myself about the middle seats? I don’t think so in American’s case since they’re focusing on windows and aisles as premium. A $4 seat is one of those windows or aisles, Peter, probably further back.
Scott then continues that paying a preferred seat fee is outrageous:
What you get when you buy an airline ticket is a confirmation of travel from Point A to Point B. Every airline’s contract of carriage explicitly states, “seat assignments are not guaranteed.” Do people really read the CoC? Probably the same amount of people who actually read the “I’ve read and fully accept the terms and conditions” of any online agreement, but I digress. Also, unbundling has been around now in the airline industry for a while, so Scott shouldn’t be so shocked, and he noted earlier that, “You buy your ticket, but that doesn’t guarantee you a specific seat.”
Those points aside, I’d encourage you to read the full article. They do hit correctly on some hot topics, including:
- How United is screwing their low-level elites out of E+ seats until time of check-in.
- Being pressured into paying for a preferred seat out of worry of being bumped off the flight.
- The delay-inducing effect of more people trying to carryon their bags by avoiding the checked bag fee.
- Efficiencies gained by charge-happy carrier like Spirit Airlines.
Anyway, I have a love-hate relationship when I see articles like this. I tend to nitpick, but I also believe in putting more truth out there.