It was the folks at Cunard who said “Getting there is half the fun”. And crossing the Atlantic in style on an ocean liner certainly was. But whatever your mode of transportation, getting the right seat can make for an enjoyable or miserable trip.
On Metro-North, I usually go for a window seat. However, on crowded trains, any seat is better than none. But I can still get an “upgrade”, if I pay attention.
Heading into New York, I watch for people getting off the train in Stamford. Their seat check usually has a torn corner, so I look for them when boarding. And you’ll usually see those folks gathering their stuff just before arriving at the station. That’s when I pounce.
Leaving GCT I try to arrive early to board my train so I get my first pick of seats. I usually opt for the window on a three-seat side. That way, if someone else arrives just before departure, they can take the aisle seat and the train will have to be SRO before anyone opts for the dreaded middle seat.
But it’s on airplanes that seat selection is crucial.
Never go for an emergency exit row. There may be more legroom, but the seat dividers are rigid and the arm rests can’t be raised.
Try to sit forward of the wing for minimal engine noise. It’s not by chance that the cheapest seats are in the rear, next to the lavatories, where the jet noise is the loudest.
Some people prefer aisle seats so they can get up and walk around. But a recent study showed occupants of those seats have the greatest chance of being sprayed with germs from other passengers and crew. Consider wearing a face mask for your own protection.
Again, I prefer a window seat so I can see where we are going. But even booking in advance these seats are hard to get, depending on the airline and your frequent flyer status.
Something like 20% of all airline revenue now comes from “add-ons” to ticket prices for things like seat assignments, checked bags, food and yes, seat assignments.
The travelers’ advocacy group Travelers United cites an example of a passenger flying from NY to Chicago on American Airlines who really wanted a window seat but was told it would cost an additional $42. She refused, waiting until she got to the airport to check in to try again. There the airline said her window seat would cost an extra $76… more than her one-way airfare!
That she could fly 700 miles for 10 cents a mile is ridiculous and speaks to how much airlines are “unbundling” their products. Their profit comes not from the transportation but the amenities. You can take Greyhound on that route for $54 (if you don’t mind a 22 hour trip). But “riding the dog” comes with two free checked bags, seat-side power plugs and free Wi-Fi.
Families flying together have it particular challenge trying to get adjacent seats. But last fall Congress tossed air travelers a bone, requiring airlines to seat families together at no additional cost.
Whatever your mode of transportation, being it cruise ship or jetliner, planning ahead is key to scoring “the best seat in the house”.
Posted with permission of Hearst CT Media