If you'll just pardon me briefly, I need to vent. You see, tomorrow, I'm flying on a major US domestic carrier for the first time in nearly a decade. I've spent the past nine years flying on international carriers and a smaller airline based in the Seattle area. My preferred airlines include British Airways, Alaska Airlines, Virgin, and Qantas. These have been very deliberate choices based on personal experience.
Nine years ago, Delta ran out of food on a 5-hour flight. I was seated about halfway back in the economy cabin, yet they'd simply "run out" of anything edible by the time the cart got to my row. There were still easily over one-hundred people behind me waiting to discover they were simply going to remain hungry, as well. To my logical mind, this is a plane with a fixed number of seats and passengers, so unless the people in the rows in front of us were permitted to order hundreds of extra meals - which also seems very irresponsible - this wasn't a random accidental happenstance. The plane had to have left the tarmac without enough food to begin with. Why was this permitted? Did Delta take a gamble to make a guaranteed profit?
Fast forward to this morning, when I'm checking in for another cross-country flight on Delta. It leaves in 23 hours; I am not anywhere near late for checking in for this flight. In fact, check-in has only been open less than an hour. I logged in, expecting a very smooth process. And yet, at some point between no check-in last night and check-in this morning, I and the other two people I'm traveling with were randomly assigned elsewhere in the cabin instead of the carefully chosen seats we had originally picked.
This might not seem like much to some people, but it means something to me. I'm the type of traveler who uses sites like SeatGuru to find and secure the most comfortable seat I can afford. Furthermore, I have tight hip flexors and my travel partner has sciatica, so we make allowances for our needs to stand and stretch regularly without repeatedly inconveniencing our fellow passengers. Finally, in an effort to secure seats together, we had carefully coordinated our separate purchases. Needless to say, a bit of thought and effort went in to where we were very deliberately sitting, and these new seat assignments weren't satisfactory.
In an effort to solve the problem, I called Delta and requested to be moved to the seat next to my party, and barring that, any available aisle seat would be preferred to where they'd moved me.
I was told the seat next to my party is occupied, and there aren't any aisle seats open on the entire plane. End of discussion.
As a creature of logic, I'm trying to understand the reasoning behind this. First of all, I would understand if every passenger in an aisle seat had already checked in and confirmed that, yes, they did indeed want that seat. First come, first served makes sense to me. But check-in has only been open for an hour. There is no way in hell everyone has checked in already.
Furthermore, I was one of those in possession of an aisle seat less than an hour ago. Something in the Great Seat Assignment Algorithm caused me and at least two other reservations to be shifted, which means other passengers had to be moved to make room for us. Yet, no one else in the entire plane can be moved to accommodate my request now? How was it that someone got our original seats? Blood sacrifice? Sexual favors?
It seems to me that Delta only starts to respect the details of a traveler's reservation after they've already made a mess of the whole thing, thereby trapping passengers in something they never wanted in the first place. And the saddest part is that Delta is not the most complained-about major US domestic airline out there.
I realize that very few airlines guarantee seat assignments nowadays; I really do. However, I've done my fair share of traveling over the past decade, and I have never had this kind of blatant disregard for customer request and preference on my preferred airlines, and especially not when the request was made this early. Furthermore, I think I've been pretty patient regarding today's travel rules. I've accepted a lot of changes and restrictions for the sake of traveling as safely and affordably as I can. I've been able to find reason behind a lot more inconveniences than many others. What I can't abide, however, is being subject to things that simply make no sense. That is the straw that breaks this camel's back.
After this weekend, I'm going back to my preferred airlines. In the meantime, I'm bringing my own food.