by kai on 28/10/2012
As some of you might know, I travel quite a bit and I could tell you lots of aviation-related stories covering the whole range from bizarre to awesome and funny. Currently I’m about 2/3 through a NZ-Singapore-Germany-Singapore-Australia-NZ trip and on yesterays’s flight from Brisbane (where I was working with a client during the last week) to Melbourne (where I’m going to run a full day jQuery Mobile workshop and present at cf.Objective(ANZ)) something interesting happened: I was faced with a moral/karma dilemma. Let me explain the situation and then I’d be really interested in your opinions.
I’m a Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyer. For the non-frequent flyer types among you: What this essentially means is that I fly often enough with them to have “earned” a somewhat preferential treatment when traveling on Qantas. Some of the benefits (that are relevant for this story) are access to the front economy rows of the plane, seat selection at time of booking as well as a rather “undocumented” feature that Qantas will go out of its way to block the seat next to me provided the flight is not full. The latter is rather nice as I’ve got a subscription to Expertflyer.com, which allows me insight into the actual booking systems to plan my trips, see “real” seat maps (and not the airlines’ “cut-down” versions etc), get real-time booking class availability etc. The essence is that I can pretty much plan my travel in a way so that I get the most convenient and nice trip experience, have more personal space to do work etc.
This morning’s flight was on a 737-400. Doemstic setup, rows 1-3 are business class (which on this flight means 3-3 layout with a “blocked middle seat” in each block of seats). I was in 4C (the first row of economy) because I knew that the flight had lots of availability anyway and 4B was blocked due to my status, 4A was free yesterday when I looked at the seat map the last time.
After boarding, there was a lady in 4A, no worries – lots of space between us, I placed a pile of newspapers on 4B but realized that she was already looking around nervously towards the back as if she was looking for someone. Something was bound to happen here. We’re out of the climb, seat belt sign goes off and she’s off racing to the back, coming back with a guy and says “Could you please let back in, my partner and I couldn’t get a seat together when we were checking in”.
Now, here’s the dilemma: I understand her desire to sit together with her partner. But I also wanted to get some work done and particularly booked this flight (about 2:20 hrs long) and organised everything in a way so that I could get 4C and 4B blocked and I wasn’t quite willing to give up that idea. So – I decided to politely decline and explain that Qantas had blocked the seat next to me as a frequent flyer benefit. Luckily the purser was nearby and overheard the conversation, chimed in and agreed saying that 4B is blocked but that she’d be happy to seat both of them (her partner was in 18A or so) in the totally empty exit row 11 or 12. The other option for the lady in 4A could have been to offer the person in 18B (next to her partner) to swap their seat to 4A (which would be a big improvement for them anyway) and bite the bullet sitting at the back of the plane. She was kind of unhappy either way but ended up moving to row 11/12 slightly unwillingly.
I’m seriously interested in your opinions here: What would you have done? Sucked it up and given away your benefit of the blocked seat next to you? Was it rude/inappropriate of me to politely decline her demand for her partner sitting in 4B instead of her moving to row 18 herself? I felt a little bit bad about the potential negative impact on my karma balance, but I personally think she’s earned more negative karma for being annoyed after the flight attendant had offer her a decent solution.