Thursday, January 26, 2006

Are you in the "A" line?

I fly Southwest Airlines almost everywhere I go, business or pleasure. Their frequent flyer program is great (translation: I earn lots of free flights) and the prices are great especially for flying up to Islip from Baltimore. With my frequent travel I’ve come up with a few strategies for making the most out of their lack of seat assignments.

1. Control your own destiny – If the flight is full and you are in the A group you’ll have your choice of seats. Choose wisely, otherwise if you have my luck, you’ll end up attracting the odd people who make me feel like I’m in the movie Airplane sitting next to Striker. If I’m traveling alone I will actually sit next to someone who seems normal instead of looking for an open row. My theory is that if there are two people in a row already most people in the B and C groups will look for a row with one person to inhabit.

2. Check-in and get an A boarding pass – While this seems like a no-brainer, the A pass allows you to relax in a chair at the airport vs. waiting in line like the B’s and C’s. Personally I don’t feel like lying down or sitting on the floor in any airport. Take a moment to think about where people’s shoes may have been previously. Maybe an airplane bathroom that’s hit turbulence or an airplane on which a child may have thrown up on the floor. With Southwest’s latest change to allow a 24 hour window for checking versus the day of, it’s much easier to get an A, vs. staying up until midnight for a 5 am flight the next day.

3. Double check the fit of your carry-on – While SWA uses the same planes for their fleet, some overhead bins vary in size. I made the unfortunate mistake the other day of trying to maximize the overhead space by turning my bag lengthwise. What I failed to recognize was that this bin was smaller than other Southwest planes. What happened? My bag was pulled and checked – now I’m headed to the baggage area. Always do a quick fit check by closing the bin. Making all that effort to get an “A” so you can bring a carry on shouldn’t go to waste.

If you have any other strategies for Southwest please let me know.

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