Tag Archives: Seat selection

How to complain

When you travel stuff happens.  We know that.  Flights are late, transfers don’t arrive and sometimes hotels don’t meet up to your expectations.  Having been in this business for more years than I care to confess online I have seen a wide range of travel problems and also a wide range of how different people (and companies) deal with this.

Getting there – the flight – Wow.  Is there anybody out there who has never been impacted by a delay, a cancellation, a “we’ve run out of meals” situation, a mix up in seat selection?  If there is please let me know because that would amaze me.  I remember boarding a flight once in New York with my family (2 adults and 2 kids) with our seat selection clearly stated on the boarding pass only to find once on board that the row we were assigned to did not exist.  We stood to one side while a harried looking flight attendant got everybody else on board while she tried to figure out where to seat us – and yes – we wanted to sit together.  She had the brilliant idea of upgrading us to business class (thank you very much) until she realized we had 2 kids (5 and 12) and suddenly it appeared that we were not eligible for an upgrade.

I think we deserved business class!

I didn’t complain at the time – or afterwards.  Should I have?  I might have got a voucher for future travel from the airline but in the moment all I really wanted was four seats together for me and my family.  So it’s all about priorities.  I was living in the moment and when we eventually got four seats together I was OK.

Another time checking into a flight at an airport I pointed out that I had originally reserved a particular seat and now it had been changed for no reason that I could see.  “Oh” – says the check in agent “You will have to speak to your travel agent about that – they are always doing that.”

“Um … I am my travel agent.  I made the booking.”  She had no answer.

Everyone has a different way of dealing with travel problems so I want to use an example of a very reasonable couple who experienced problems with their vacation and how they dealt with it.

Let’s call them Dave and Heather.

The flight – a special seat selection service had been booked and prepaid with printed documentation and tickets stating the seats.  At check in they were told that these seats were not on the “manifest”.  Dave and Heather pointed out that they had paid extra for this service.  They were asked to produce their Visa receipt????   They realized they were not getting anywhere so offered to pay again for the seat service but were told they could not.  Go figure.

At the hotel they had problems.  Now it is strange but sometimes it is like a weird kind of karma.  Once something starts going wrong those ripples turn into waves and those waves turn into a tsunami.   It went from bad to worse.  The staff were well meaning but ineffective and Heather decided not to waste her precious holiday time with negative feelings and complaints.  It was therefore a bit of an eye opener when a few days later, while standing at the reception desk, she witnessed an absolute melt down with someone checking in and after raising the roof the staff quickly upgraded this person to a presidential suite.


Hmmm – Heather thought to herself.  Maybe being polite and optimistic is not the way to get things done.

Isn’t that sad?  Doesn’t that say something about today’s society.  The Squeaky Wheel – the Threats – the loud voice.

So what should you do when things go wrong when you travel?  Here are a few pointers

  • Take down names. Most airline staff have a name badge.  Make a note of the time.  Airlines and hotels can check shifts and names.
  • Contact the onsite rep – if you have booked through a tour operator there will be a local rep who will either be based at the hotel or will have a desk or contact number so you can reach them and make them aware of your concerns. The local rep keeps in touch with head office in Canada or the USA and is the one most able to quickly deal with any problems.
  • Keep your travel agent up to date – a quick email just advising that you have had problems (and maybe a brief description) and that you are in contact with the local rep. Your travel agent will then be able to monitor things on our side with the tour operator in Canada or the USA.
  • Write it down – a full chronological report of all and everything that went wrong is a great help. If you have your cell phone take a few pictures too.


But keep your complaints real….. not like these courtesy of Thomas Cook UK.

“The beach had too many fat people …it was gross.”

“The street signs were not in English.  I don’t understand how anybody can get around.”

“The local women were too beautiful.  It made me feel bad about myself.”

“No one told us there would be fish in the sea.  The children were startled.”



Things that go bump on the flight

There are lots of strange noises, bumps and sounds that happen before, during and after a flight.  Some of them may be very frightening ….

….. but often they are quite normal.   A very useful article put out by Travelers United lists some of these noises and the explanation for them which might calm some fears. For the full article go to Scary noises on planes)

Are you scared of flying?  Don’t worry – you are not alone.  Some very famous people have experienced this fear – people like Ronald Reagan.  Can you imagine being President of the United States and being scared of flying.  That’s a fear he had to overcome.
Ronald Reagan grew fearful after a rough flight in California in 1937 and for nearly 30 years he criss-crossed the US by train. As a politician he had no choice but to deal with his fear. Once a fellow passenger congratulated him on beating the phobia, to which he replied: “Overcome it? Hell! I’m holding this plane up in the air by sheer willpower.” (courtesy Conor Pope of the Irish Times).

Even Marge Simpson had her problems.  The whole issue of fear of flying was covered in an episode of the Simpsons which received some of the highest ratings – obviously a lot of people wanted to see how Marge coped with her phobia.


Marge did the right thing – she educated herself and analysed what her fears were –
Image result for marge simpson fear of flying

Of course there are other fears you might experience on a flight – such as the fear of sitting next to a stranger.  I am not sure if this particular fear has a name but I know for sure my husband suffers from this.

Steve Martin and John Candy in "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"

Travel agents always laugh about making bookings for family members as they turn out to be the most high maintenance clients out there.

Every flight we take is a process…. first we identify the flight, we check the type of plane then we go to the seat map.  Before we even put the flight on hold we have to check how many and which seats are available.  The absolute best is a case when it is the two seats on the side.  Then he can safely sit next to me on the aisle seat because God forbid he should be trapped in a window seat even by his own wife.  Never mind about me being trapped

As well as a fear of sitting next to strangers he also has a background of flying experience having flown gliders in South Africa competitively.  This makes him a delightful travelling companion.  Every thrust of the engines, tilt of the wings or flare before landing produces either a complimentary grunt or a disgusted shake of his head.  Yes he mentally flies the plane the whole way …. and gives me (his dear wife) regular updates on altitude and speed. His very best flight EVER was when he was able to hear air traffic control through the headphones.  That was HUGE …. as Mr Trump would say.



You gotta get the right seat

It’s very important – and airlines know it.  That’s why so many are charging for the privilege of selecting your seat in advance.  What to do?  Pay up or take a chance with the 24 hour check in.  It depends how neurotic you are about where you sit on the flight.  And believe me – I think most of us are totally neurotic where you sit on the flight.

That’s why websites like http://www.seatguru.com are essential in order to prepare.  Some seats look perfectly innocent on the airline’s website seating plan.  Go check that same seat on seat guru and you will find that it doesn’t recline fully or there is an obstruction on the floor minimising your leg room or maybe it is too close to the washrooms or the galley.  Yup – thank you seat guru people for this advance information.

However it can be a problem knowing up front that you have a crappy seat.  Let’s say you have booked a last-minute flight and you have to take what you can get.  You go onto seat guru and read that your seat has limited recline and limited leg room.  Aaargh – now you have to stress about that until you get to the airport.  Then you can try to change your seat at the gate.  Isn’t it funny how there is always that crowd of people hanging around with boarding passes in their hands and hopeful expressions on their faces.

Unless of course you happen to be that Double Platinum Uber Frequent Traveller – well duh!  Of course they are going to change your seat – right?

Mmmm – maybe not.

The people at the desk have the power.  THE POWER!  They can get onto that keyboard and click away – for AGES – doing stuff.

You ask them nicely.  Always a big smile – that helps.  Click click clickety click.  Don’t try to see what’s on the screen.  It won’t make sense to you anyway even if you could.  Click click click.  Mmm – does her face look hopeful – is there any clue you can glean from her expression.

You did tell her that you have difficulty in a middle seat because of your small bladder.  Explained it was a genetic problem.  If she could … perhaps….it would be wonderful …. really appreciated… realise she is very busy….etc etc.

Still no eye contact but suddenly brrrrp brrrrp brrrp – and your new boarding pass is being printed out.  Here you go – she says.  Just hands out the boarding pass – no information about where or what or if she has changed it.   And then she is off to the next person.

You go back to your seat – sit down and put on your glasses.  Look at the boarding pass.  HOLY MOLY!  You have hit pay dirt!  Aisle seat in emergency exit row.
Yeah Baby!  You take that you Platinum Double Edged Diamond encrusted frequent traveller.  I am a NICE person and I deserve this.

How to select your seat on KLM

KLM has come up with a doozie …. when you select your seat you can do it online with Facebook so that you can check out your fellow passengers and see who you might like to sit next to.  What?  Are you kidding me?  If I am travelling alone the only person I want to speak to is the flight attendant.  I don’t want to become BFF with the person sitting  next to me – yes that very same person who stole the arm rest and snored all night.  I also don’t want to exchange chit chat with someone who has been creeping through my facebook page and laughing at all those really really stupid moments of my tagged life.

But hang on – there is an upside to this too.  I guess it would help to know in advance who to avoid on a flight.  You could probably tell this by their facebook profile, the films they like, the books they read, the music they listen to, their friends, their political views, their “status”.  Actually this gets worse and worse the more you think about it.  Do we really want or need all this excess and often stupid information.  Facebook started off as a good idea and made Zuckerberg a lot of money  but I dunno.  It’s starting to give me the creeps.