Sigh. GorT isn’t a big complainer. In fact, being around folks who do complain wear on GorT. People get bad service, bad luck, and have bad experiences all the time. And yes, sometimes GorT will share but I strive to be objective and move on from it.
The things that get me, however, are instances where the situation is easily remedied – either through better use of technology or a bit of better thinking. Case in point: airline seating.
GorT and family have taken three long-distance flights in the last 5 years and has one coming up this summer: DC to Seattle, DC to Hawaii, DC to London, and DC to Rome. In all four cases, the carrier chosen has been United. That choice may become a thing of the past. GorT has a family of five and he booked these flights relatively early – easily at least 180-200 days out. In all four cases (as I just checked our seating for the upcoming trip), our seat assignments have changed.
Traveling as a family of five isn’t easy. Most hotels aren’t set up well to accommodate it and seating on planes usually results in some dispersement of the family. In some cases, namely the trip to Hawaii, it was weather-induced, as a hurricane was passing through the islands and all flights to Hawaii were canceled*. I don’t blame United in this case and the agent in the terminal was helpful in rebooking us. The quirks in that case were an inability to assign seats for some reason when we at the terminal for the first time (when we found out about the cancelation).
In two of the other cases, United changed the equipment (meaning the type of plane) for the flight. They didn’t notify us even though I register multiple phone numbers and an email address on the booking and marked that they should send updates to me. The third case remains a mystery that they never were able to explain. In both international trips, the planes were originally the 2-5-2 seating plan (Boeing’s 777-200 v1) which we were happy (unlike most) to take the 5 across in the middle. It fits our family perfectly. In both cases, they changed to the 777-200 v2s which is a 3-3-3 seating (GorT dreams of Business class). In the first case, our seats were totally distributed with three single seats and one pair distributed as far as five rows apart. No United agent, either at the terminal, at the gate or on the plane, would assist us in trying to remedy the situation. And an 8-hour interational flight isn’t the best for children (all under 16 at the time) to be seated apart. Luckily, we found several other helpful passengers, including another family of four in the same situation, that together, we were able to form two groups of seatings for us. The other flight has us in the three middle seats and the aisle on either side. Not ideal, but about as best as can be done, I suppose.
United, in three of the four cases, fell back upon a single stance: seat assignments are not guaranteed. Given how many people will state that they “have” seat 14B (or whatever), it is likely that airlines don’t make this policy prominent enough.
There are two general approaches that I would recommend:
- Follow the Southwest Airlines approach and do boarding order assignments. They have ways to favor their loyalty program members and business class – and some adjustments might need to be made for airlines with different seating classes (First, Business, Economy Plus, etc.) versus Southwest’s single seat type.
- Have people register a few preferences – aisle or window; front, middle, or back of plane; left or right side, etc. Then develop some optimization programs that take the seating preferences, the number of people in their party, and maybe weigh in their loyalty level and generate seating assignments. GorT has to believe that it would be better than what currently happens and doubt the airlines are doing anything along these lines.
For now, I’ll cross my fingers and hope for safe and pleasant flights. If any airlines would like help on developing such a solution, reach out, I’d be happy to consult.
* Yeah, when you’re flying 2+ hours over water to a small, isolated set of islands and there might be a hurricane there when you’re scheduled to arrive, generally the flight will get canceled. There aren’t places to re-route to.
GorT is an eight-foot-tall robot from the 51ˢᵗ Century who routinely time-travels to steal expensive technology from the future and return it to the past for retroinvention. The profits from this pay all the Gormogons’ bills, including subsidizing this website. Some of the products he has introduced from the future include oven mitts, the Guinness widget, Oxy-Clean, and Dr. Pepper. Due to his immense cybernetic brain, GorT is able to produce a post in 0.023 seconds and research it in even less time. Only ’Puter spends less time on research. GorT speaks entirely in zeros and ones, but occasionally throws in a ڭ to annoy the Volgi. He is a massive proponent of science, technology, and energy development, and enjoys nothing more than taking the Czar’s more interesting scientific theories, going into the past, publishing them as his own, and then returning to take credit for them. He is the only Gormogon who is capable of doing math. Possessed of incredible strength, he understands the awesome responsibility that follows and only uses it to hurt people.