Infrequent Fliers

December 17, 2005

I am a frequent flier. I have elite status with American, Delta, Continental and US Air. I use Seat Guru to pick my seats. I regularly read the awesome blog, “View from the Wing”. I long ago noticed the enormous difference between a Monday morning flight from Boston to Los Angeles and a Saturday flight in the winter from Boston to Miami. — Business travelers versus leisure travelers.

None of this prepared me for the folks on my Lloyd Aereo Boliviano flight 932 from Buenos Aires, Argentina to La Paz, Bolivia.

While waiting in line at the gate to try to change my seat, a Pervuian struck up a conversation with me. He was curious to know what I was waiting for. (If there is a line, maybe he should be in it.) I explained that I wanted to change my seat. He said he had not even been assigned a seat. Since I knew this was a full, but not overbooked, flight, I thought it was pretty unlikely that he didn’t have a seat. Maybe it was overbooked, and he might be one of those unlucky few with a confirmed reservation but no seat, and at risk to get bumped. After all I had not been allowed to reserve a seat when I bought my ticket and I had checked in very early. Of course, it was nothing so complicated. He showed me his boarding pass and I showed him that he did in fact have a seat.

Apparently this confusion is fairly wide spread, because I overheard a woman being directed to her seat and exclaiming, “A window, how lucky!”. I may not be typical, but I can’t imagine many people not asking for a window at check in if they wanted one. I, of course, had been disappointed to find that seat guru did not include LAB among its airline reviews.

Perhaps all this explains why they repeatedly announced over the PA that you must sit in your assigned seat. Maybe this lack of awareness about assigned seats explained why people rushed the door to board in a way that makes frequent fliers jockeying for overhead bin space look like glacial movement. I am pretty sure it was not because they had read the article that I read. It seems one passenger reported that despite assigned seats the plane actually had open seating.

Other little surprises included people trying to stow bags under their own seats rather than underneath the seats in front of them. When the stewardess gave the safety advisory people actually seemed to be paying attention. Even more shocking the woman, in her mid fifties, seated in our row did not have the card with additional safety information in her seat back pocket. She asked if after Soyan or I finished reading the card she could borrow it. I explained that I had read it thousands of times and that she need not wait. She said thank you, and explained it was her very first time flying.

As we were told we were approaching La Paz I took a look around the plane and noticed that besides my reading light there were only two others on in the whole plane. I won’t venture to guess if that is because people did not know how to turn them on, or it had not occurred to them to bring something to read. They certainly weren’t going to be reading the in flight magazine. The most interesting article (and I use that term loosely) was on “How to read your airline ticket.”

The final nod to my pavlian flyer status is that after landing while we were still taxing in to the gate I sat waited for the “ding”to spring in to action. 40 other equally impatient but less trained passengers got up and started wandering the plane assembling their things while it was still moving.

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