Archive for the Seat Expert Category

Airplane seat selection tips for non-status flyers

Posted in Airlines, Delta, Seat Expert, Seat Guru, Travel Tips, Uncategorized with tags , , on May 10, 2011 by getgowing

I understand that most people flying (and probably most people reading this blog, if anybody is actually reading it) don’t have the luxury of elite status with an airline, and thus don’t have first dibs on those prime seats in coach.  Don’t fret!  There are ways to score those exit row, bulkhead (first row of seats behind a wall divider), or front section of coach aisle/window seats!

First thing I used to do is reserve the best seats I could without any status and without paying extra.  Use sites like Seat Guru and Seat Expert to help make your decision.  I know with Delta, there are many versions of the same aircraft, so having the seat map provided by the airline website open along with one of those websites to do a side-by-side comparison of which version is helpful.  For instance, Delta flies 8 different versions of a Boeing 757-200, but they all differ slightly.  Look at where coach seating starts, ends, how many seats are in the first row of coach, how many seats are in the last row, what row are the exits….these are where they differ slightly.  Also, their First Class cabins may also differ slightly, so compare those too.

Once you have chosen your seats, you can’t do much else until the departure day nears.  I would recommend checking in at the earliest possible time, which the US-based airlines allow online check-in at 24 hours before the first flight.  At this point, they MAY release all seats to be chosen by anybody.  (This is the trick I used when flying to Japan in 2006.  Its how I scored an exit row with infinite leg room for the 13.5 hour flight).  Try to see if you can change to the premium seating then.  If not, all is still not lost.

I would try again at the airport baggage check counter.  When you are checking in your bag ask the agent if there are any seats available closer to the front of the cabin.  If not, then just keep your seats and drop off your bag.  The next place to try is at the gate.  Its here where you will probably have the most success.

On Delta, if there were any seats available that were blocked for elite/medallion selection only, they get released at 3 hours prior to departure.  So they are fair game at T-3 hours, FREE!  You can call a Delta customer representative to try and get the seats changed, or just ask the gate agent to change them.  If there is a line, just go to a neighboring gate agent that isn’t busy with customers.  However, the best coach seats are probably still taken by elites at that point.

When the agent first gets to the gate (usually about 60-90 minutes before departure), be sure to be waiting at the desk.  Let them know that you are interested in changing your seat.  See if they can do anything at that moment.  If not, ask them if it looks like any elites will be upgraded out of coach into first, and if it seems like there will be any, ask if you can take their seat after they get their upgrade cleared.  They will probably say come back in X minutes when I clear the list.

About 5-10 minutes before they start boarding the flight, they usually call names to go to the desk.  These are the elite members who received their first class upgrade, as well as anybody on standby who was cleared onto the flight.  Now I would linger around the desk before they clear the list.  If the agent is busy with a line of people waiting, you may be out of luck getting a better seat.  I wouldn’t ask for a seat change if they have a long line of people needing help, it may just annoy them further.  But assuming everything is fairly calm, I would make sure they saw my presence (they should already know why you’re at the desk).  If there were just 2 or 3 people needing help, I would stand AT the desk, but on the side so I could still easily talk to the agent if he started clearing the elites.  When the time finally comes, hopefully the agent reassigns your seat right after the elite upgrades, but before the standbys get cleared.

One little caveat…you may get stuck with a middle seat, but in a much better row like an exit row.  A risk you should be willing to take if it gets down to the wire.

Try this tip out next time.  I hope you manage to score those coveted bulkhead seats.  Oh…one more thing I forgot.  Delta blocks a few bulkhead seats for gate assignment for any passengers with babies, or elderly, etc….so you may be able to snag those if nobody needs them without much hassle.  GOOD LUCK!!

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