As nearly every airline has jumped on the bandwagon of selling discount, piece-meal basic-economy seats, there is the chance that your cheap ticket will exclude something as simple as seat assignments. In booking those basic seats, you know the risk of being in a middle seat on the dreaded red eye leg of your itinerary. There is nothing you can do to prevent it except shell out hundreds of dollars to upgrade to “main cabin” economy or pay for a seat selection. Or is there something you can do?
On a recent flight from Athens to New York, an 11 hour flight by the way, I opted to save $124 and book a basic economy ticket. While the savings felt great at first, as I got closer to the flight I began to worry about being assigned a middle seat between two complete strangers for that long especially during a global pandemic. While I would have paid for a seat selection at a reasonable price, at the time the cheapest non-middle advanced seat selection option was nearly $80, which would have completely cut out most of the savings in the first place. Not the way to go.
After calling American and pleading my case as a minor traveling alone internationally and getting a firm no for any confirmed, free seat multiple times, I decided to risk it. At check in, after the agent verified the forms that allowed me to reenter the United States including my negative covid test, I kindly asked if she could place me in any window or aisle seat. I had looked at the seat map and I knew seats were available, but the agent once again told me that she would not be able to do it without a charge. I would not back down. I had not come this far to give in to American while they suck every last penny out of my wallet. I wanted my $124 savings to stay at $124.
For my last attempt I went to the gate agent. Although originally flustered, she was finally able to confirm me in an aisle seat for free. Perfect! But on the seat map it still showed that there were completely empty rows, a much safer option. The gate agent told me she could not move me again, which was fine, so I tried my final move.
When I boarded the flight I quickly asked the flight attendant if I could sit in the empty row that showed up on the seat map on my phone. Although hesitant, she agreed and told me that if anyone claimed those seats with a correct boarding pass, I needed to go back to my luckily assigned aisle seat. I happily agreed to the terms and plopped myself down in what stayed an empty row. The sigh of relief I felt when the captain announced they had closed the doors and the flight attendants should prepare for take off was amazing. I had done it. I got an entire row to myself on a basic economy budget, while still holding onto my $124 savings.
While getting a row to yourself will not always occur, the lesson to learn here is that even if the first person tells you something is impossible, and the second as well, try again. It’s always worth asking. Additionally, even if you buy basic economy tickets, know that often you can avoid an unhappy middle seat flight as long as you are resourceful. Good planning may keep your hard earned money where it belongs: in your pocket.
Leave a Reply