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Thread: Ridiculous Airline Crap

  1. #11
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    Best "Secret" Seats on Airplanes...

    I am a sucker for a good airplane seat. When I was really traveling, hard-core, I got over 50% of my sleep on airplanes. Here are the really great economy-class "secret" seats that you don't hear about...


    1) Bombardier CRJ-700 and -900 series "Regional Jet" airplanes are usually outfitted with a small First Class section. This section usually consists of 2 or 3 rows with only 3 seats per row. The seat on the left side of the aircraft in each of those rows is a solo seat... It is both a window seat and an aisle seat. The seat has a natural recline, in addition to the manual recline feature. Very comfortable. On a 2-hour flight, I can easily sneak in a snooze of at least one hour.

    2) Some Boeing 757s have a little treat waiting for you... an exit row window seat with no seat in front. Once the seat-belt sign goes off, there's even enough room to sprawl out on the floor and get some real "lie-flat" sleep, if you want. The location varies among airlines, but look for the second exit row in the twin-door mid-front aircraft exit area.

    3) "Poor Man's First Class"... This is just a general rule, which works on most narrow-body airplanes, such as the Airbus 320 series and the Boeing 737 series... When you book your ticket, find a seat in a row where only the window or aisle is already taken. Book the window or aisle seat in that row, leaving the middle seat empty. Obviously, if you prefer an aisle or window seat, then find the row which meets your needs and book it. The closer you are to the back of the airplane, the better. When you initially book the ticket, it is best to pick the seat which you want that is the closest to the back of the airplane. If you book early, you may need to check the airline's website occasionally, so that you can change your seat selection, if needed. The premise here is that the very last seat on the airplane which will be filled is a middle seat near the back of the airplane. So... If the airplane is not completely full... that's what I call "Poor Man's First Class." Once the boarding door closes, give a quick glance to your aisle or window "buddy", then flip those armrests up!
    Last edited by Speedy1; 08-25-2016 at 06:03 PM.

  2. #12
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    More "Secret Seats"...


    4) Crew Rest Seats... Many wide-body aircraft, particularly Boeing 767 ERs, have "Crew Rest" seats in the passenger cabin. These seats are getting more difficult to find, as newer aircraft and interior refits are moving these seats out of the passenger cabins and into crew-only areas. However, they can still be found. You best bet for finding them is on aircraft used by non-U.S. Flag carriers which haven't refit their aircraft interiors in a while. Most U.S. carriers have moved their crew rest areas into crew-only areas. These seats tend to be located near the rear of the aircraft on the right-hand side of the aircraft. This makes sense, as the rear galley on wide-body aircraft is usually the most popular "hang-out" for cabin crews working the coach section of the aircraft. These seats will be "blocked out" on long flights, particularly transoceanic flights, which is why the ERs were built. Those seats will be open on shorter flights (mostly domestic flights), unless someone else books them first. I usually find out where the aircraft is coming from, look at the seat map for the transoceanic flight to see where the blocked out seats are, then book one of those seats for my domestic flight.

    Scamming one of these seats on a long flight is difficult, as they are, in fact, designated as crew rest seats. However, a little "shmoozing" with the cabin crew can't hurt your chances. The seats will usually be empty during meal service periods, which can take up to 2 hours. If can you find a willing flight attendant, they'll sometimes let you catch a 2-hour nap in a crew rest seat. They're not supposed to let you do that, but on the list of Flight Attendant sins, it's way down the list from the "death by firing squad" offenses. I had a good deal set up with an FA who flew regularly on the New-York/Moscow route, a few years back. I regularly traded with him... a bag of Ghirardelli chocolates and a bottle of Jack Daniel's Black Label for a crew rest seat for the entire flight (total cost of $50). He couldn't sleep on an airplane, anyway (not uncommon among flight attendants), so he just played with his notebook computer in the aft galley during his rest periods. He kept the other FAs quiet by tossing them a few chocolates and telling them that I was a travel writer/consultant (actually... True). I would switch from my assigned seat to the crew rest seat about 30 minutes after departure, and then make a big show of looking around a touching stuff for about 3 or 4 minutes, followed by jotting some notes down in my little notebook. Any passengers who happened to ask about me would be told "Oh... he's a travel consultant, checking out the crew rest area and other parts of the aircraft." That, combined with my little show, silenced any further questions. As far as I know, nobody ever got in trouble, and everybody was happy about the arrangement. Obviously, an arrangement like that is too much trouble to set up, unless you fly a specific transoceanic route, with a specific airline, on a regular basis. But... you get the general idea of what is possible and practical.


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    Make any seat the "Best" seat...

    Obviously, I'm not talking about transoceanic business or first class seats here. I'm talking about economy seats, and how to turn them into "better than economy" seats.

    1) We all know that airline economy seats don't recline nearly enough to provide good "bed" sleep. Most people will recline the seat as much as they can, and sleep in that not-much-better-than-sitting-upright position. Some people can sleep in that position... I cannot. If you're a "side sleeper" or "stomach sleeper", my personal solution may work for you. My "personal item", which I take on all flights, is a simple 2-compartment backpack, which I stuff with mostly clothing. It's basically a long, slightly firm pillow. I also always wear a North Face TNF Apex jacket on all of my trips. It's light, breathable, soft, waterproof... and its pockets hold a ton of stuff. When I'm ready to sleep, I put the backpack on my lap, cover it with the jacket, and then... Nighty Night...

    That's what works for me. It might work for you, or it might not. If you're going to be doing some serious traveling, then my best advice to you is to experiment at home. Get a regular kitchen-table-type chair, and figure out a way to sleep in it, comfortably. Don't count on being able to lean against anything... it's only the chair and whatever you bring onto the airplane with you. I strongly discourage "medicating" yourself to get sleep... I've had nothing but bad results from doing that.

    2) The "Poor Man's First Class", which I described in my last post, works quite well for couples. Book the aisle and the window in the same row, with an empty middle seat. Once again, the closer you are to the rear of the airplane, the better your chances of success. Keep checking your seat assignment right up until the day of departure. The worst that can happen is that someone will book the middle seat... and believe me, they'll happily trade the middle seat for the aisle or window, so that you can sit next to your sweetie. Most likely, however, you'll end up with a 3-seat row all to yourselves, and that's Golden. Flip those armrests up! On most airplanes, that's about 4.5 feet worth of couch/bed. Bend your knees, put your head in honey-pie's lap, and... sweet dreams... This trick can also work by booking the aisle seats (middle seat empty) in the middle 3-seat row of a wide-body.

    3) Creativity can really help you to score a good situation. This is one trick that I have used on at least 5 occasions...

    Some airlines outfit their wide-bodies with 4-seat center rows. The Airbus 380 and the Boeing 747 just naturally accommodate 4-seat center rows. It's hard to set up in advance, but you'll often find that the 4-seat row next to you contains a family with young children... typically, a young couple with 1 or 2 children, having booked the entire 4-seat row. Now... you and I and everybody else on Planet Earth know that those two 4-year-olds are not going to be spending the entire 17-hour flight sitting quietly in their seats, watching Peppa Pig.

    I make nice with the family for a little while, before and after takeoff, then offer them a deal... you guys can have my seat, so that you have the 2 seats next to the same aisle, where your kids will be playing for the next 15 hours. Meanwhile... I'll be sleeping in the other 3 seats in your row, earphones in, blissfully oblivious to anything that happens during the next 10 hours. Now... what's it gonna take? I'll pay for your hotel transfer, I'll buy you a few drinks... what's it gonna take? Look for that kind of stuff. If you build it, they will come.

  3. #13
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    Other ways to make your seat more comfortable...

    1) If you have poor circulation in your feet or are not comfortable with your feet on the floor, then book a "bulkhead" seat. It is actually not very healthy to be in a seated position for 10 or more hours. The flight attendants and many of your fellow passengers won't like it, but it is actually more healthy for you to plant your feet on the bulkhead in front of you. My position on this is... do it with respect for your fellow passengers. KLM and a few other airlines used to hand out socks for passengers to use in the cabin. Not many airlines do this any more. For health reasons, it is best if you remove your shoes once the aircraft is at cruising altitude (you should leave your shoes on during takeoff, in case an emergency evacuation is necessary). However, at altitude, even with a pressurized cabin, your feet swell, and leaving your shoes on for more than a few hours at altitude is unhealthy. In rare cases, it can even be deadly. Here's what I do... Of course, I take a shower prior to heading to the airport. Then, once the airplane is at cruising altitude, I take off my shoes, and put my "Over Socks" on, over the top of my regular socks. I spend the entire flight like this. I don't put my shoes back on again until it's time to prepare for landing.

    In your "bulkhead" seat, plant your feet on the wall in front of you. Once again, the FA and your fellow passengers might not like it, but you've wearing fresh, clean socks. If anyone gives you shit about that, then tell them to go pound sand. If you're not sitting in a bulkhead seat, then try to elevate your feet as best you can, by using a backpack or something else as a footstool. Try not to sleep with your feet on the floor. DVT is a real threat at an 8000-foot cabin altitude. If you sleep with your feet on the floor for 7 or 8 hours, you could have a serious life-threatening situation on your hands. When you're not sleeping, try to walk around for at least 5 minutes every 4 or 5 hours, at least. Don't put your shoes on. Walk around in your "Over Socks."

    2) About 4 or 5 hours into the flight, your butt is going to start hurting. Why? Because the seat cushioning in airline seats is made out of concrete, with an outer layer of 440 stainless steel. And NO... it's not any better up in First Class... believe me. There is only one way to deal with this... bring out the backpack, again. Your backpack should be stuffed full of clothes... mostly clothes... plush, soft clothes...

    Take out as many layers as you need, and build yourself a "butt cushion" in your seat. The guy sitting next to you will laugh at you like you're an idiot... so will the guy sitting across the aisle. Then... the guy sitting next to him will say, "That's a pretty good idea." Then someone else, nearby, will say the same thing...

    3) Generally speaking, the best seats for pure quiet and sleeping are the window seats farthest from the bulkheads. Bulkhead seats are often the "bassinet" seats, with accommodations for infants... and that means crying. Infants don't know how to equalize the air pressure in their ear/airway areas, and the pain that infants experience on airline flights, particularly during descent, can be excruciating. They are going to cry... a lot. Ironically... I myself have permanent hearing loss in one ear, due to being transported by air as an infant.

    But, for sleeping on a flight, as I said, pick a window seat as far away from all bulkheads as you can. Bring earphones or foam earplugs, and you'll sleep like a baby, as long as you can get into a comfortable sleeping position (see my previous post).

  4. #14
    Moderator Speedy1's Avatar
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    Back to the "Tax" issue...

    All tax obligations are between the business and the government. In other words, YOU are not ultimately responsible for paying the taxes on an airline ticket, the airline is responsible. The airline simply passes those taxes along to you.

    Well, the same thing goes for hotels and other businesses. Here in Costa Rica, the tax on hotel rooms is 13%. The hotel will add that tax to your room rate, but once again, the hotel is ultimately responsible for making sure that the government gets its 13% "Cut."

    Here is what happened to me in Costa Rica on one occasion, for those of you who might want to use this tactic. It is a bit of a hassle, and requires a lot of patience. Saying that the Costa Rican judicial system moves at a "Glacial" pace is an insult to all Glaciers, which move at light speed, compared to the Costa Rican judicial system.

    As far as taxes go, the same rules apply to hotels that apply to airlines... If you don't actually fly, the government is not supposed to collect the tax, even on a "Non-Refundable" ticket. Similarly, if you don't actually check into the hotel, you are entitled to a refund of the room tax, even if the room charge is non-refundable. Of course, the hotel won't volunteer this information. It's an extra 13% that they don't have to pay the government... goes right into the hotelier's pocket.

    Normally, if I have to bail out on a hotel at the last moment, I'll let them keep the entire room charge, taxes and all, for their trouble. However, on this one occasion, I canceled the reservation 3 weeks in advance. When I asked for the refund, the hotel quickly responded, "No Refunds." I replied, "That's not correct. It says right here on your website that I can get a full refund if I cancel the reservation at least 7 days in advance of the reservation." The hotel replied, "That's only if you pay with cash. You paid by credit card." I said, "Your website and the confirmation that you sent me don't say Anything about a credit card reservation not being eligible for a refund."

    Hotel: Well... That's the way it is. No Refund.

    [At that point... I was Royally pissed off. Normally, I wouldn't pursue this issue... But these guys were yanking my chain, and I was not in the mood for it. They picked the wrong day to pick on the wrong Gringo Asshole... And I assure you... I can be a real Mother-Fuckin' Asshole when I wanna be.]

    Me: No Refund, Eh? Well... Alright... If you say so. But I do expect to get a refund for the 13% tax on the room that you charged me.

    Hotel: We can't refund you anything. The taxes are a part of the room rate.

    Me: Au Contraire, there, Pedro... According to Costa Rican law, your hotel is not obligated to pay the 13% tax on a room which is not occupied. And since I won't be checking into your hotel, how exactly are you going to prove to the Costa Rican government that I was ever in your hotel? I'll answer that question for you... You CAN'T prove that I was ever in your hotel. Therefore, you are Illegally charging me the 13% room tax, which is not only a violation of Costa Rican Law, but also constitutes Larceny under Costa Rican Law. In addition, since you are misrepresenting the legality of the tax charge, you will also be guilty of fraud. So... That's unlawful billing, theft, and fraud. But hang on there, Gonzales... there's more...

    Since, as you so correctly stated, I did pay with a credit card... now you are in violation of your agreement with Visa, Inc., as well as your contracts with your card processor and your bank. You are also in violation of international bank fraud laws and agreements. Oh... Señor... Before I'm done with you... Visa will send a guy to personally scrape the "Visa Accepted" decal off of the front door of your hotel. So... Gomez... You had better fuckin' refund the entire amount of the room charge... including the 13% tax... right the fuck now... or I will personally ensure that Visa and the Costa Rican government come to your hotel, and pry open your books and your bank account, and find out exactly how many people you have not refunded the 13% room tax, every day, since the very first day that your hotel opened. For each instance, that's one count of theft, one count of fraud, one count of illegal billing, one count of international fraud, and two civil counts of breach of contract. Your hotel has been open for a few years, so I'm guessing that by the time you serve just the bare minimum sentences for all of those counts, your great-grandchildren will be dead of old age.


    ------------


    The real leverage here is getting Visa, Inc. involved. Ticos often laugh at gringos who threaten legal action, assuming that the Costa Rican legal system will be on their side. But Costa Rica can't tell Visa, Inc. how to do business. Visa is based in California, USA, and Visa will not hesitate to put the hammer down on any merchant which is making illegal charges. No hotelier in the world wants to be on Visa's blacklist.
    Last edited by Speedy1; 08-26-2016 at 04:56 AM.

  5. #15
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    Speedy1....Having had about 13 years experience in the travel industry (as a tour operator/wholesaler) I always enjoy your articles about the airline industry. Any day I learn something new is a good day. I got into the business in '78 and was in it on and off (mostly on) until '93. So I saw the regulated industry, deregulation, the free-for-all atmosphere that deregulation created and finally the capping of commissions and travel agents starting to charge the customer for their services. I worked in the industry in very chaotic times. Hell! I even remember when almost no retail travel agencies had computers and made all their reservations on the phone. I was there for a lot of changes in how the travel business operated.

    One of the things you stressed above was that when you find yourself with a problem while travelling is to BE POLITE. I couldn't agree more and with your kind indulgence I will relate a little story that illustrates "you will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar".

    For various reasons, from '88-91 I lived in Tampa but ran my wholesaler based in Washington, DC. This meant I commuted weekends between the two cities. Same flight every Friday night and every Monday morning. One year, my Friday flight was 2-3 days before Christmas. I got to National and the 7:00 pm flight was listed as delayed 30 minutes. I went to the airport bar and awaited updates. The delay turned into a "rolling delay" with the expected departure time being changed every 30 minutes. There really wasn't much I could do. All flights for Christmas Weekend were packed. Finally about 9:30 pm the flight was cancelled. I went to the gate and naturally the line was a mile long with angry customers waiting to be rebooked. I went to the bar. After a couple of hours the line was finally down to about 3 people so I took my place at the end of the line.

    When I got to the head of the line I smiled and said to the gate agent "MERRY CHRISTMAS". She recoiled in shock and horror! The booze fumes had probably nearly knocked her out and I expect she was expecting me to turn into a booze-fueled Mr. I. Rate. HAHAHA

    I told her that I understood that this wasn't her fault and that I just wanted to see if there was a way I could get home for the weekend to see my wife and 3 year old for Christmas. She recovered quickly, smiled and thanked me for being so understanding. She explained that the flights for the next couple of days were all full and that the same was true of the other airlines that ran the route. I was flying on a bulk ticket with no printed fare that clearly read "VALID EAL ONLY" so she couldn't rebook me on another airline anyway. She told me that Eastern was trying to lay on an extra section for their morning flight but that it was currently uncertain. She offered to get me a hotel and a voucher for dinner at the hotel. I told her to save the money because Eastern needed it too much (they were in Chapter 11 at the time) and that I would just stay at the bar and read my book until they closed and then sleep on the floor until the time for the morning flight.

    She thanked me again and then handed me a voucher for the bar saying "this will buy you a few drinks plus if you explain the situation they will sell you a 6-pack to go at closing time. She then asked me....you are "the flower guy...right?" (I always brought a cheap bouquet of flowers to the airport on Friday night and gave a flower to each of the gate agents at EAL counters--that always got me an upgrade to 1st class). I said that yes I was "the flower guy". She thanked me again for being so understanding and handed me a voucher for 2 round-trip tickets from DCA to TPA.

    Yeah....you'll catch more flies with honey than you will with vinegar.

    The rest of the story and a funny side note....

    The next morning I reported to the gate and they had layed on an extra section. Usually, I would give the gate agent my ticket and business card and ask if by any chance there was an extra seat up front. I didn't this time. I wasn't going to ask for favors on this busy weekend. The gate agent looked up my res, read for a few moments, smiled and printed my boarding pass. She said..."We have you confirmed in 1st class Mr. Hunter1 and all the EAL employees here at Washington National want to say thank you to the flower man. Enjoy your Christmas."

    Funny side note.....When I first started doing this commute smoking was still allowed in the last row of 1st class and the last few rows of coach. Then they changed the rules so that smoking was only allowed on flights of more than 2 hours. My flight had always been scheduled for 1 hour and 57 minutes. As soon as the rules changed, EAL changed the schedule to reflect a flight time of 2 hours and 1 minute. It was a nice touch for us smokers.

    I had a lot of fun in the travel business. Banged a lot of travel agents and traveled to the Caribbean pretty much whenever I wanted at little or no cost. Never made any decent money at it but I surely did have fun.

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