Many travelers spend hours looking for a flight, comparing different airlines, considering which class they will book and planning what seat they will reserve. As a reason for spending 600 $ more for the same flight, they often cite 2 to 20 additional centimeters of legroom. I can understand that if you are a giant, but most passengers need more bellyroom rather than legroom.
I apply a different strategy in order to stretch out my long legs: I am friendly and nice (which should be natural, but thanks to the divergent behavior of 90% of customers, it becomes something special) and don’t try to transport bulky luggage in the cabin. Usually, I only carry a book and a notepad. I have never asked for a special seat, but again and again, the ground crew prints out a boarding pass with the coveted seats next to the emergency exits or one of the stewards asks me if I don’t want to move to one of the free seats there. I seem to convey the impression of remaining calm and helpful in case of an emergency. Rightly so.
When I flew from Iquique to Santiago de Chile with LATAM, I got a seat with more than 2 meters of legroom.
This is better than first class.
That flight should also be beautiful and easy to navigate for the pilot. You simply follow the Pacific coast, going south, looking down on high waves crashing on rocky coasts or tapering off on sandy beaches.
And when you see Santiago after 1700 km, you turn east, and that’s it, another flight completed. But probably, that’s not how one navigates anymore. For emergency landings, the Panamericana highway is always below, in a helpfully straight line.
The guys sitting next to me, who, in the case of an emergency landing, would also be tasked with the dirty job of pushing fellow passengers through the door, appear far less trustworthy than me, however. A 70-year old man looks as if he is flying to a date with death. The young guy diagonally in front of me is scrolling through photos of attractive girls on his cell phone (now I know the purpose of that Instagraph and that I really don’t need it). As he writes one of them a message, apparently inviting her to a date, he asks if “zoological garden” is spelled with Z or with C. His mate punches him for that, calling him an “idiot”. Nevertheless, the stewardess never pauses to pour them more “cerveza” with C and Z.
Another strategy for getting a good seat is patience. Each time again, I wonder why people are standing in a queue at the gate, often for a long time. There are seats for everyone, really. And if not, you get a huge compensation and a free stay in a hotel in Chicago or in Paris.
Therefore, I always remain seated, cool as a cucumber, ordering another ice cream, reading, observing and writing, while everyone else gets all agitated. Once, on a flight from Tel Aviv to Munich, I did the same, got up as the last person in the waiting hall and presented my boarding pass, friendly and relaxed.
The El Al guy took it and ripped it apart.
“לעזאזל”, as we say in Israel. Did I wait too long this time?
“I am sorry, this boarding pass is no longer valid. I will print you a new one,” the young gentleman then explained and immediately followed up on his promise. Wondering what all this was about, I got on the plane, and only there did I notice that he had awarded me a seat in first class. That way, I got real quality sleep for four hours and missed better food than I usually miss.
But now I am still in Chile. On the right, the sun is sinking into the Pacific. On the left, the summits of the Andes are glistening. These are the same summits that planes regularly crash into, leading to cannibalism among the survivors.
Thinking of that, I vow to make no more jokes about overweight passengers.
As if LATAM guessed that I would go on to write this article, they gave me a seat in the first row two weeks later.