I’ve never been happier to be in seat 37E


Yes, 37E is a middle seat. Yes, it also happens to be in the last row of the United Airlines A320, which means limited recline. In just about every situation it is the least desirable seat on that plane (though I’d say 37B is worse because of the lav on that side, but only by a small margin). It is simply not where you want to be sitting. And yet I was incredibly happy to be there.

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Do you want to sit here??

I was on my way home from Colorado and really wanted to get home in time for a reasonable dinner at home. Alas, the flight which let me do that meant a 28 minute connection in Denver and – not surprisingly – they don’t let you book those normally. So I booked the cruddy connection and planned to just run for it when I made it to Denver. Of course, when booking the cruddy connection I didn’t actually mean to book the REALLY bad one which would get me home near midnight but apparently that’s what I actually did. All of a sudden this SDC/standby game became much more important for my sanity. We landed on time into Denver and I checked the flight on mobile.united.com and it said seats were available. I was off to the races, from B69 to B37 (about half a mile, at altitude with a rocking hangover and people to dodge).

I made it to the new gate at T-12 minutes, and that’s when the agent told me there were no more seats available. Ughhh. The cutoff for passengers to be on-board is T-10 minutes and there were two not yet on-board so I had a chance. She added me to the list and told me I was first in line. They paged the passengers again and one showed up. Then the other showed up. Not good news for me. Except that apparently one of the passengers was intent on playing shenanigans.

It seems that one of the two was a non-rev, looking to fly on her pass benefits. She gave her name to the agent and a BP was printed and then, as the passenger was getting on board, the agent called out to stop the boarding. Apparently there were two people on the flight with the same name, one male and one female, and the non-rev accidentally got the paid guy’s BP. I’m not 100% certain that they were playing games with refundable bookings and trying to block a seat for the non-rev, but it sure seemed that way to me. Either way, it was now T-10 and the one passenger hadn’t shown up. The gate agent printed my new boarding pass and I was off down the jetway as the last passenger to be loaded on the flight.

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View from all the way down the back of the plane

So, yeah, not the most comfortable place to spend 3.5 hours, but I got home in time for a late dinner and I even managed to sleep a bit in that middle seat with limited recline. I’m not going out of my way to choose it again for next time, but it turns out I survived just fine.

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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.

23 Comments

    1. @Kerwin: I was actually thinking of you as I settled in. Last time I was in the middle seat in the last row of a plane was 25B on JetBlue, sitting next to you as we flew LGB-OAK during AYCJ a few years back. Worth it then, too.

      @Joey: A second passenger showed up and took the BP but it was not actually her BP. So she got tossed off and the passenger she was impersonating never showed. I got the seat. Sorry that was so confusing.

      @FW&M: I definitely wasn’t paying attention to whether there was a row 12 on our specific plane. :p

  1. Seth, this keeps things real which I think many of us points whores lack. Being back at home can be worth more than the miles in our accounts!

  2. glad you made it home. I got confused though — you wrote “They paged the passengers again and one showed up. Then the other showed up.” … then later stated the other passenger never showed up? Regardless, you’re back home and made it in time for dinner. Kudos to you. I would have done the same thing rather than wait a few hours just to get the comp upgrade to First class.

  3. Was happy to see you walk on last night – seat next to me was open up until almost the last minute, and I was worried they were going to stick you there 🙂

    Oh and you’ve got the wrong seatmap – we were in V2 of the A320 (with a row 12). Not that you would’ve noticed that from row 37, but it’s not very often that I get to point out that there’s a mistake in YOUR post!

  4. So perhaps if she hadn’t tried the stunt, the seat would have been sold to someone else and unavailable to you, right?

  5. So *that’s* what the view looks like from back there! Always wondered!

    :p

  6. Were the non-rev pax and friend playing booking games? Bank on it. Those with the knowledge and access to manifests do it far more often that you might imagine. If they get caught – they are in trouble, but that is rather rare – leaving a Real-Rev sitting at the gate, wondering. I’ve seen it more than once. You got lucky.

  7. I once had the confusing experience of having someone with my identical name on the same flight. Our PNR records were “mixed” in the system with only one seat allocated for the two of us.

    It was near the time of the NWA/Delta IT handoff, so I suspect that had something to do with it. Imagine the puzzled looks on the faces of my “counterpart” when we both approached the gate agent after being called for our first class upgrade!

    A lot of head-scratching later … along with a few laughs … and we were off. Incidentally, I do not have a common name (e.g. John Smith or Bob Jones), so it was very strange.

  8. Been there playing the game out of LGA trying to get home to ORD on a Thursday night. That’s a tough game to play. Don’t think I’ve ever had 37B/E, but plenty of 33+ in B/E.

  9. Seth,

    Just discovered your blog, and I’m a fan. I’m subscribing. As other travel bloggers write about how you MUST fly elite in order to get home in one piece (true story. look it up), your perspective is more “real world.”

    Over the last couple of years, I’ve felt, for some reason, that I didn’t connect with a lot of online travel writing. I couldn’t understand why. But then I realized that a lot of travel bloggers gave the impression that one MUST have elite status and MUST have a zillion hotel points and MUST use those points to fly first class and stay in a Bali villa.

    The truth is, not everyone can do that. A lot of us still like travel, but don’t necessarily need, or want, to hole up in a hotel their entire trip.

    Anyway, blah, blah. Ramble. You see my point. Keep writing. There’s an undiscovered market for “everyday” travelers like us.

    1. To be fair, guy, I have top elite status and that’s what got me on the plane in the first place. And I do like many of the benefits that the status offers. It just so happens that first class upgrades are not anywhere close to my top priority in terms of the benefits. Similarly, the fancy hotels and over-water villas aren’t really my thing. Maybe for a day or two, but I know I’d be bored after that.

      I don’t mind that others are so focused on those things; that’s more opportunity for me to get what I care about instead.

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