I know, I’m a boring bastard – but you just bookmark this stuff now for when you grow up and have kids m’kay…. I spoke yesterday about how I had shifted my strategy towards frequent flyer programs by adding in Delta, SouthWest and JetBlue. I transferred enough Amex Membership Rewards for 3 JetBlue seats, even though our little cherub could fly for free (really free) as a lap infant.
Most parents will tell you – buy the damn seat. The reason is that you can feel confident that you can put the child into a car seat between entertaining them in order for them to nap. Having done both with and without a car seat, I can say its pretty helpful, though we managed to get from New York to Spain without one (even if it meant I had to stand for a while as someone stole the seat….
Anyway, back to JetBlue. After making the transfer, I decided at the last minute to only ‘buy’ 2 seats, a window and an aisle, in the hope that we might get lucky and have a free middle seat. Below is our seatmap (we are in row 8A and 8C – I have a funny feeling that across the aisle from us are some other savvy travelers….
As you can see, the plane is almost empty, and if you were going to select a seat you’d think it wouldn’t be in the middle when there are so many windows and aisle open right?
So the goal is to get all three in a row, and then hope for the best, you approach the gate and ask if there is anyone assigned to that seat and if not could you please bring the car seat with you. When we did this last on an American Airlines flight they moved the other person out of his middle seat (which he didn’t mind at all) so we were free to use it.
We’ve done this twice, and had issues both times. So it isn’t plain sailing. The first time we did it the gate attendant opened up the middle seat for us, but then sometime between then and the 15 minutes before the gates closed someone was assigned that seat. It was a really stupid thing because there were at least 8-10 open seats, including further down the plane in Aisles and Windows, which were much more desirable. However, we had just installed the car seat into the middle when the passenger came up with a boarding pass, and we looked like we were stealing his seat. Cause a bit of a stir, but he moved and was ok about it all.
The second time (the return trip) the plane was just chock full and we had no option to make this happen. However, we just gate checked the car seat and made the best of it. I’m pretty sure it should go smoother than that, but it’s good to see the screw ups so you have perspective.
Tracking the flight
I don’t have an automated tool for this, but i’ll be dropping in periodically to check the seats on the plane and how busy it is. With some airlines, such as American Airlines I make a dummy booking and get as far as ‘choose your seat’ before bailing out again. I have found that searching for a revenue ticket is better since American and other carriers list different inventory for Award Seats vs All Seats. IE you could look at the plane and seat only 3 award seats left, but the cabin is still empty. If this JetBlue flight should start filling up, I’ll go back and buy the other seat.
I have the miles, but I am just being a big cheapie. A penny saved is a penny earned and all that…. I wasn’t going to go for the free seat in this case, but with so many empty ones it seems very unlikely that I’d need to pay for the seat. The way I see this worst case scenario I do pay, and perhaps the price in points increases (it is demand based pricing) or really really worse case I have to sit with him as a free lapchild. The duration of flight (3hrs 45 mins) makes that something I can live with at a push.