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Gee Midwest, what a difference a year makes

Every year, I fly a bunch of times on jetBlue, occasionally on some other airline if jetBlue is full or the schedule doesn’t work, and then once on Midwest to Kansas City with the kids to visit my dad and step-mom.  jetBlue is usually as good as it gets for affordable air travel.  Weather and FAA rules kind of screwed me earlier this week when I was trying to get back from Chicago, but throughout the jetBlue crew was nice, shared as much info with us as they could, and even added a flight the next morning to get us all home.  You can see why they’re always my first choice.

But jetBlue doesn’t fly from NYC to Kansas City, so I always pick Midwest.  They’ve proven over the years to be reliable, and they serve hot chocolate chip cookies in-flight.  They never have enough vegetarian meals for purchase, I’m talking never once when I’ve flown them, but whatever, I know by now to bring my own food.  And they don’t have TVs.  But again, whatever.  It’s two flights a year.

One thing I’ve always liked about the NYC-to-Kansas flight on Midwest is that there have always been four seats across on the whole plane.  I sit with my daughter, and my son sits across the aisle, usually with a businessman who is initially annoyed that he’s sitting with a kid, but my son wins him over with his politely lisped questions and good behavior (he’s an awesome flier).

So, I just went to the Midwest website to check in for tomorrow morning’s flight.  When I purchased the tickets a few weeks ago, I noticed that I wasn’t given a chance to choose our seats, and since I only fly them once a year I couldn’t remember if I usually get to do that at purchase or not.  Well, when I checked in online, I had a couple of surprises.  Number one, more than half of the plane (the back half) now has five seats across, instead of four.  Number two, seats had already been chosen for us.  And three, none of us were sitting together.  We each had a window seat, spread over four rows.  My kids ages are on the reservation, so they know that they just separated five- and eight-year-olds from their mom for a three-plus-hour flight.

But wait, I don’t have to keep those seats!  Why, look at this!  For only $35 extra per seat, I can purchase a “signature seat” in the roomier part of the plane, and we can all sit together!  Now, I have no problem paying for upgrades.  I always buy the “extra legroom” seat on jetBlue.  I do last-minute upgrades to first class when available (they’re usually pretty cheap at that point).  I don’t mind spending extra money to get more of something.  But I don’t like to be tricked into it.  I feel like Midwest has set things up completely on purpose so that I’ll say “Oh my gosh, I can’t let my kids sit where I can see them!  I have to buy the upgrade!”  Not to mention, it’s not an upgrade, it’s just a restoration to what I got as a matter of course last year.

I’m not going to do it.  I’m going to speak nicely to the gate agent tomorrow morning.  And if they won’t put us together, then the people around us are going to have to put up with it.  I’ll make it as easy on them as possible – it’s not the other passengers’ fault, and I’m guessing that someone will offer to switch with me so that I can at least sit with my daughter.  But I’m not going to pay just because a bunch of people sat in a boardroom and said “OK, how can we pigeonhole people into paying more and make them think they’re getting an upgrade?”  Nope, not gonna do it.  And if the situation is the same next time I fly to Kansas City, I’ll be looking for another airline.

UPDATE: So, as it turned out I didn’t really get to make any kind of issue of this.  I was at LaGuardia Airport during Saturday morning’s bomb scare, and as soon as the airport re-opened we were rushed through security to get to our flight (they were trying to get all of the scheduled flights out as fast as possible, in order, and ours was one of the first).  As we were getting on the plane I mentioned to the gate agent that my kids weren’t seated with me, so he put my son in the first row and me and Fiona in the second.  He thought those seats were free when he did it, but they weren’t and so at least two people had to sit farther back instead of in the great seats they thought they had.  One guy glared at me as he went by, the other didn’t seem to care.  At that point there was really nothing to be done.  I’ve never seen them load a plane and get it in the air so fast.  So, yes, I felt bad.  I wanted us to sit together, but I didn’t want to kick other people out of their good seats to do it.

Originally posted on Selfish Mom.  All opinions expressed on this website come straight from Amy unless otherwise noted.  Please visit Amy’s Full Disclosure page for more information.

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