Monday, February 1, 2010

Exit Row Excess

It can be really difficult for a grown man of any age or size to contain the child-like glee of finally going on vacation and being at the airport, just itching to get on the plane and get going. This was my frenetic state as I presented myself, the very first of what would be over 400 people flying to Auckland, New Zealand that night on Qantas from Los Angeles. I had purposely scheduled a whopping six-hours in Los Angeles between my connecting flights; I wanted a cushion for any delays but also to be as early as possible to see about getting a better seat.

I'd pre-reserved my preferred seat, a window, at the time of the reservation but it wasn't forward of the wing where I like to sit. I was hoping for better luck the day of departure at the airport but was told again that those seats were not only completely full but reserved for the "premium" economy customers. My current assignment was somewhere along the middle of the wing which didn't offer the best of views even if most of the flight was in the middle of the night. I politely asked what other options there might be for the flight.

They had barely opened for check-in when I arrived so there wasn't a line behind me; that gave the counter agent all the time in the world to indulge me with the all-important selection of a seat for the 12.5 hour flight. This American Airlines agent was professional, courteous and even shared in the infectious humor of the man-child fidgeting excitedly before him. He found the seat that, I thought, would do the trick: an exit row window. Yes!!

Exit rows are usually held until departure time by the airlines and I felt I had found Solomon's gold as he ran my boarding pass. I laughed at the absurdity of Qantas actually charging $130 for the "privilege" of the aisle or even the middle seat in the exit row, feeling they had missed the boat in giving this particular window seat away scot free. Why? There was reduced legroom at the window, the agent explained, because the over-wing door was right in front of it. The compartment attached to it that holds the evacuation slide bulged in enough, they felt, to impede any real comfort and thus "value" in sitting there. Having sat in such seating on other airlines I felt that the legroom was perfectly fine. I forgot that on those occasions I was in Business Class.

When boarding finally begins I race, as much as a crowded aisle will allow, to my coveted seat and promptly saw exactly what the agent was trying to explain from the cues on his computer screen. The slide pouch was about as far from my knees as any other seat in coach would have been. Worse, I didn't even have my own window. This close to the door I had a solid panel next to me with only a hint of the outside world from the window positioned one row behind me. Shhh-ucks!

The saving grace was that my right leg, at least, could stretch its full length in to the space between my seat and the crew jump seat facing towards me from the forward edge of the door. And the married couple seated next to me didn't seem to mind if my leg got a little too friendly with one of theirs during the flight. Or at least they didn't mind enough to say so.
I wonder if they paid the up charge.

Gotta go!

No comments:

Post a Comment