In flight: Another trip of successive downgrades

Apparently I have a habit of downgrading my travel experience almost as much as I upgrade it. Today’s flight to the Pacific Northwest was another in which the promise of a big, comfy seat on a long-haul flight somehow ended up with me sitting in seat 25E – a middle – in the back of a 737-500. Huh??


It started last night, as I was contemplating the 4am wake-up that would be required for my scheduled 6am flight on United’s p.s. 757-200 from JFK to San Francisco. I had applied an upgrade certificate and booked seat 9D, arguably one of the best in the domestic United fleet. My trip was full of win. Except for that 4am wake-up. It was after 10pm and I was nowhere close to heading to bed. The 6am flight was a bad idea. Fortunately the folks in reservations were able to let me apply the same-day change policy and switch my flight. The only option available was via Houston (more miles!) but also only with a middle seat in coach for the first segment. I decided sleep was more important and confirmed the change.

The new flight was the scheduled 5:25pm departure from Newark to Houston. The aircraft was the 757-200, equipped with AVOD and power. Even stuck in a middle seat, at least the amenities weren’t awful. Besides, it gave me a few hours to hang out at the airport in the afternoon and people-watch. Then I checked the schedule again and realized that if I stuck with the newly booked itinerary I wouldn’t have time for dinner. Not a huge deal and I’m sure I could scrounge something from my bag or the Buy on Board offerings on the flights, but it still wasn’t particularly appealing. Besides, I’d rather spend the time in the Houston airport than Newark; the food options down there are better and the terminal is nicer. Perhaps an earlier flight would be possible.

I listed for the 1:47pm departure as a standby passenger and half-way through the boarding process cleared the waitlist. My seat assignment stayed the same – still 25E – but now I was boarding a 737-500 with no IFE at all. It has certainly been a while since I had a boarding pass print with "Group 7" on it, but they had already called for all passengers so no big deal there.


And so here I sit, somewhere over Virginia if I had to guess by looking out the window, eating and enjoying my Asian Noodle Salad lunch (thanks, AmEx, for the $200 credit!) and generally being happy that I’m getting where I want to be sooner. Sure, the nicer plane is, well, nicer. But being able to have a proper meal on the ground or get where I’m going at a time that is more convenient is even nicer than that.


I’d make this trade just about every time.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Awesome! Enjoy – I didn’t learn about it until too late. (sad bc it is so close) I’m flying out of PDX Monday to LGA

  2. Pretty sure there are still tickets available but my mom is flying into town and I’ve got a soccer game. Priorities…

    1. It is certainly not Rodeo Drive, but I also find the people in airports much more interesting to watch than those on Rodeo Drive.

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