Thursday, June 25, 2009

Veal in Flight

I do my best to avoid taking airlines that do not pre-book seats but instead force you to anxiously line up at the airport gate like coiled sprinters at the starting line. I also avoid airlines that do not assign you a seat until check-in, for then I have to be poised at my computer exactly 24 hours before my flight in order to avoid getting stuck with a seat that does not recline or is wedged near the bathroom. I believe, with moral force, that a person who buys a ticket early merits a better seat choice.

Several months ago, I purchased a ticket on a cross country flight to New York to attend a wedding. The ticket was expensive, in part because I had booked the ticket so far in advance. Tonight, I will be boarding this flight. Less than 10 minutes ago, I discovered that Virgin America is one of those airlines that does not assign seats at purchase. Virgin America hadn't alerted me to its abnormal practice, and I (moron that I am) had not noticed until now that my itinerary did not state a seat assignment. By now, all the hipsters heading to New York on this flight (for Virgin America, with its soft neon groove lights and disco welcome music, specifically caters to hipsters) have already checked in on their Virgin America iphone app and nabbed the choicest seats. The only seat left -- my seat -- is 16B. Middle seat. Did I mention this is a fully-booked, six-hour red-eye?

In a fury, I started to draft an email to Virgin America on its complaint website: "Dear Virgin America, you should in the future please notify your patrons that you do not assign seats at the time of purchase. Because of your practice, which is not inline with airlines of comparable price and quality, I am now forced to sit in the middle seat of a cross country flight on your low-class, stupid freaking @#$%@#$..." at which point, I slammed my fists down on the keyboard in exploded frustration and accidentally sent the email off. Ah well.

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