So you want to fly for a dollar on Southwest, but you?re tired of sitting in the middle seat, at the back of the plane, smelling the restroom sanitizer spray? Yes, THE SECRET isn?t some law of attraction, it?s getting a good seat on an ?open-seating? flight. After flying on gazillions of Southwest planes, touring as a corporate comedienne, I?ve figured it out! Here are ways to raise the odds that you?ll get a decent seat too.
IF THE PLANE ISN?T COMPLETELY FULL AND YOU?RE IN THE ?A? OR ?B? LINE. . . you of course want to get in a row where the middle seat stays empty!
Sit in rows 5 through 8. . .
According to my unscientific research of watching people-patterns (no lab rats involved), I?ve noticed a people-pattern. Passengers tend to fill up the front couple rows first, THEN, starting with about row 5, if they see a person sitting in that row they head to the back, searching for a better seat! I HYPOTHESIZE (like a scientist) that they can?t see the back until about row 9, and then it?s too late to do that salmon swimming upstream move, so they?re stuck. Park it in rows 5-8, where one person is already sitting, and there?s a really, really good chance that the middle seat will stay vacant. BONUS TIP. . .I?ve even noticed (ahem, studied) that people fill up the LEFT side (as you?re walking down the aisle) first; so you should sit on the right side.
Sit in a row that already has one person in it. . .
If you sit in an empty row, there?s the chance that TWO people traveling together will sit next to you.
Sit in a row with one person in it. . .where the overhead bin is FULL. . .
Most people have a carryon the size of Kansas, with all sorts of valuable toothpaste that they have to sit near. So if the bin is full, they?ll keep going! You of course checked your luggage, so you?re a free agent to sit underneath the bin-filled seats. If you have a carry-on, make sure you sit in a seat where your bag fills the bin up. This is a good time to have a bag the size of Kansas.
IF ALL THAT?S LEFT ARE CENTER SEATS BECAUSE YOU?RE A ?C? PERSON. . . you still might avoid the ?C is for Center seat? fate.
Look for people who match, with an empty middle seat in-between them. . .
Twin Budweiser T-shirts or the same Harley tattoo means they?re probably traveling together. Eureka! Start to sit in THAT middle seat, because, guess what? One of ?em will move over to be near their honey, and you?ll get an aisle or window even though you?re a ?C? person. Brilliant!
Sit behind the exit row. . .
If you?ve got a short (like 30 minute) flight to a hub city like Phoenix, and you?re not changing planes, but rather going on to an even longer flight, sit in the row behind the exit row, even if it?s the center seat. Chances are the exit row people will exit at the hub and you can move up. BONUS TIP. . . Don?t wait for the flight attendant to let you move. Do it while everyone is getting off the plane (just make sure you?re seated for their headcount!). And NEVER sit in the row in front of the exit row . . . those seats don?t recline.
IF THE PLANE IS DEFINITELY GOING TO BE FULL. . . you can still have a decent ride.
Hand pick your partner. . .
You?re gonna be stuck with potluck if you aren?t proactive and make eye-contact with desirable people. Lure them in with a quick smile and show them that you?ve got a book, which is the universal travel sign for ?I won?t bother you with my chatter.? Of course YOU define ?desirable?. . I?m tall, so I?m looking for small people who look like they bathed. BONUS TIP. . .As you?re waiting in line, memorize the first person in the ?C? line. When the ?C? leader starts through, you?ll know it?s time to get serious with your ?come hither? looks.
BONUS, BONUS TIPS.
A bag on the seat does not mean someone is sitting there. . .
Ask, ask, ask because that person is being rude, rude, rude. They could be trying to hog a whole row by pretending the seats are full.
Bolt for the exit row. . .
If you?re one of the first people in the ?A? line, check out the exit row immediately upon boarding. Many, many people only think to sit up front, and forget about the great leg-room in those seats. I?ve gotten the exit row being 20th or later in line!
Check in 24 hours in advance. . .
Even if you?re in a hotel and can?t print the boarding pass, you can check in, and then print the actual pass at the airport. (FYI if you print your boarding pass on your printer, look at the number at the left hand bottom. That number is the number you checked in at – I?m #1 lots of times!)
Take the first flight out in the morning. . .
Because the plane is there, it?s not coming from somewhere else, so you have a better chance of an on-time flight. AND no one is sitting in the prime seats, like the exit row, from an earlier flight.
Of course a friend of mine who was split up from her son, got to switch seats by handing him a barf bag and telling him (loudly) to ?use this when you get sick.? The person next to him switched seats with her. Hey, use what you got! Here?s to more comfortable travel. . .for a buck!