Although I know many readers of this site are more interested about the flight itself, I tend to be more intrigued with what goes one between searching for a ticket and stepping on to the plane. Odd for some, I know, but I wanted to share my own insight.
My most recent adventure started when I decided to go to Paris (CDG) from Seattle (SEA) for vacation. After some work, I narrowed my dates to flying out on a Thursday so that I could have a full weekend in-country. Last year, I made the same trip on Icelandair and chose that airline mostly on having the lowest fare. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go with the lowest fare this time; I was also interested in the experience, so I decided to start my ticket hunt early. This all resulted with me flying on a British Airways Boeing 747-400 out of Seattle.
Since I was planning so far ahead, I thought that I had plenty of time to shop for the best deals. I didn’t record every airline’s prices but once again, Icelandair had the best at $887. The other airlines I was considering were all priced between $1050-1080. Although more expensive, I was considering Delta, since they are the only airline that flies non-stop between SEA and CDG.
I probably got a little over-confident and gambled that the prices would drop. Soon, I saw the Icelandair tickets go over $1000, then over $1300. I rushed to Delta’s website and their cheapest option went from about $1000 to $1300. Finally, I checked British Airways and they were still hovering below $1200. Sweet. Although I spent more than I wanted, I still ended up with the cheapest ticket at the time and, even better, on a larger aircraft.
I started the booking process and then realized that I wasn’t able to reserve my seats with British Airways – well, at least not for free. I saw a little box that explained that for as low as $12 a flight I could choose my seat. I prefer the aisle, so I thought an extra $24 to make sure my SEA-LHR-SEA flights were not in the middle seat was worth it. Unfortunately, that $12 was for the shorter legs between LHR and CDG. The long-haul segments would have been $41 per flight – not as good of a deal and I did not feel it was worth it any longer.
I decided to take my chances, since BA lets you pick your seats 24 hours ahead of the flight. At least I could prepare if I ended up in the middle seat (aka a few extra beers at the airport).
24 hours to flight time, I went to check in online. First, it made me add my passport info: my full name as it appears on the passport, my number and the expiration date. Nothing all that challenging, so I quickly did that and hit “submit.” Error – of course. The system stated that I had to fill in all the boxes (which I thought I did) and was nice enough to delete all the information I already put in the system without telling me what I had done wrong.
Normally I would just say, “screw it,” and check in at the airport, but I was fighting for an aisle seat, so remained motivated. Over and over again I try with the same results. Finally I try my “full name as on the passport” without my listed middle name (which IS on my passport) and it works. Sigh.
By this time, I did not even care, I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t in a middle seat. Row 50, seat C (aisle). Deal!
Exactly three hours before my flight I arrived at the ticket counter in SEA. There was no line and I found myself in front of a very friendly ticket agent. She made small talk with me about my day and my plans for the trip. It was a pleasant surprise, since many other ticket agents are pretty grumpy.
After clearing security, I was off to the British Airways lounge, located above the South Satellite. I need to be a bit honest here; I had never been to an airline lounge before. Originally I was slated to review a premium product for AirlineReporter.com, but while that fell through, I was still offered lounge access.
When I arrived, there was a sign indicating it was a lounge, but the doors were frosted glass panes with no handles. Heck, I didn’t even know for sure that they were doors. So, I loitered outside a bit to finally see a guy hit a button that looks like the automatic door at retail stores, and disappears beyond the panes. After taking a deep breath, I followed his actions and sure enough, it seemed that I had found the elusive lounge.
Immediately I was met by a very nice man who requested my boarding pass. I knew I was authorized to be in the lounge (the ticket agent let me know), but I was still nervous, only having an economy ticket and no status on any airline. Would I be outed as a lounge noob? Luckily, no.
I found a place to call my own for a while, logged onto the airport’s free WiFi and then started browsing on my iPad. Soon, I decided to look around a bit and noticed food and a bar set up. Was this stuff free? I was pretty sure it was, but I didn’t want to end up stealing stuff. After getting confirmation that the stuff in this lounge was indeed free, I settled on some crackers and cheese. Then, up comes the attendant asking if I would like anything to drink. Hmm, yes please.
Looking at my options I choose an Alki-tini (a play on a Seattle-area beach). He saw my Canon camera and let me know that he is a photographer, but shoots with a Nikon. He also tipped me to the best place to go to catch the British Airways 747-400 arriving – now that is service!
Soon, it was time to leave the high-life and join with my economy brethren to board.
After that, it was a lot like any normal flight for me. I found my seat; my seatmates were a bit annoying, but passed out before we took off. After takeoff, I played on the in-flight entertainment, ate some free economy food, slept, drank ,and then landed 20 minutes behind schedule.
I told you earlier I wasn’t too much into the flight thing… as long as I get to my destination without major hiccups, I am happy. Although I must say that I prefer the larger cabin of the 747 to the 757, but I only wish that I was on the upper deck. My continuing flights to France and my trip back home both left me happy. Now, I’m looking forward to the ticket-buying-game of my next flight, whenever that might happen.