SDC, screwed-up seats and some crazy karma

One could argue I wimped out. When I left home 13 days ago the plan was for a 16 day trip. I was in Paris for the annual air show and in Dublin for the Future Travel Experience conference and managed to snag a quick holiday in Antwerp in between. But the plan was to stay in Ireland a few more days. Norwegian is flying inaugurals from Cork and Belfast to Providence on Saturday and, given I was so close, why not sick around for the fun? Alas, I got tired and a 737-800 isn’t as much fun as the MAX so I skipped the party and came home early.

Fortunately I had my choice of award flights across multiple carriers from Dublin to New York City mid-week, even booking less than a week out. I chose the afternoon United flight in hopes I’d sleep in and relax before heading home. When I woke up at 5am on Wednesday, however, it was clear that I needn’t worry about that extra sleep thing. The 9am flight still had tons of open seats so I used the SDC option to switch, assigning myself 21A the window seat in an empty triple, and headed out to the bus and eventually the airport.

With a few hours to kill before departure I was not moving particularly quickly getting off the bus. That turned out to be beneficial to another passenger who was struggling with three large bags he needed to get to the check-in counters. With time to spare and feeling friendly I grabbed one of the bags and helped him along. Turns out he was also flying United so I even pulled him through to the Premier Access lane with me, skipping a bit of a line and generally being a nice guy.

Fast forward a couple hours and it was time to board the flight. The PA system wasn’t working so I didn’t notice until they were well into the process so maybe that’s why I was flustered. I had been stalking the seat map most of my wait and noted that I still had the full row to myself. Except when I got on board there was someone in 19C, the aisle seat. I checked the app and confirmed that was accurate so I sat in 19A, just like I booked, and contented myself that at least we’d have the empty middle. It was only 15 minutes later that another passenger came on and pointed out that I was in his seat. I’m completely at fault on this but I sat in the wrong row. I really do not know why, but I did. Not my finest moment in travel, to be sure.

Economy Plus seating with plenty of legroom. Empty adjacent seat was a big win, too.
Economy Plus seating with plenty of legroom. Empty adjacent seat was a big win, too.

When I pulled out my BP and he saw the 21A on it he looked back and saw the empty row (still showing as such in the app, too) and offered to trade. At this point I was settled in and didn’t want to move so I agreed. A few minutes later, just before they closed the door he still had lie-flat coach. I even mentioned it to him when I got up at one point and walked past.

Rainy morning in Dublin as we headed on to the runway
Rainy morning in Dublin as we headed on to the runway

So I was surprised when I turned back during the meal service to the commotion of a guy vomiting in the aisle of row 21. It seems that a couple passengers bought up to Economy Plus on board and one of them got really, really sick an hour into the trip. Around that time our plane made a noticeable right turn, veering closer to Iceland than I expected en route. I briefly considered that we were diverting because of the sick guy. Turns out that didn’t happen, just convenient timing for hitting a waypoint.

Other than that, the flight was completely reasonable. I chose the chicken for my main meal, though I wish there was more information about other ingredients on offer before choosing; it included mushrooms which I don’t like. Still tasty overall. That said, no dessert was served. Is the upgraded, multi-course meal service only eastbound??

"Chicken" for lunch on United from Dublin to Newark
“Chicken” for lunch on United from Dublin to Newark

Second meal wasn’t much. Just a glorified (and hot) turkey puck, in fact. But compared to a few other recent TATL trips I was pleased.

The turkey puck, reimagined with pretzel bread and heated
The turkey puck, reimagined with pretzel bread and heated

Plenty of movies to choose from though I mostly slept and eventually the system at my seat crashed. All in all a completely reasonable trip, especially at saver levels booked just a few days out.

But I’m the idiot who accidentally sat in the wrong seat, gave up lie-flat coach and somehow still ended up with a better overall arrangement on the flight.

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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. Compared to the general, at-large passenger, I consider myself aware, rule-abiding, and relatively versed on things airline. But even so, if I could have a dime for every time I had inadvertently and unintentionally sat in the wrong row (or on the wrong side, somehow dyslexic between “V” and “D”), I could… well, I could afford to buy a drink in coach or a half hour of Wi-Fi 🙂

    Glad in this case it worked out for you.

  2. Seth: I think all that have flown alot, have made the wrong-seat mistake at one time or another. As flying goes, it ranks way down at the bottom of travel errors & it has an easy remedy: move or trade. Lucky you, looks like an empty middle seat was a bigger reward that vomit in the lie-flat row!

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