More Leg Room! Only $79 And The Tears Of A Child
I have found that it's well worth the $79 dollars to upgrade my seat to the "Economy Comfort" section of Delta. Being 6' 3" and over 300lbs, I'm a tight fit in most seats. The upgraded seats give me somewhere to put my legs, and I can often turn a little sideways to keep my arms and elbows from poking the people next to me. I also like being near the front of the plane so I can get the hell off as soon as possible.
It's not cheap, but in the broad scheme of things, the minimization of my frustration makes everyone else's life so much easier. So it's really a service I pay for to keep everyone else from having to deal with a frustrated, angry, bitter, cramped, pissed off Joe Peacock. It's worth it I believe.
For this flight, I was running late. I was among the last people to board. When I enter any airplane, I immediately start looking for my seat. I do the same thing when I enter a restaurant or movie theater. I suspect we all do this; we like to know where it is we're going to fit. When I got on this plane , there was a kid sitting in my seat. He was next to another kid, and they were both playing with their Nintendo DSs and laughing. I asked the flight attendant what I should do about my seat.
She took my boarding card and approached the seat. Immediately a woman stood up, and explained that she thought it wouldn't be a problem for the two boys to sit together; that he was a friend of the family and was accompanying them to Atlanta, and while they were all NonRev (comped -- either employees of the airline or buddy pass or somehow riding free), they had to pay for his seat and the only one available was many rows back.
When the kid realized what was being discussed, he immediately started turning red in the face and tearing up. It was obvious he wanted to sit next to his friend and have fun, but I think there may have been some separation anxiety mixed in there. I was a kid once; I remember what it was like feeling like I was going to have to be separated from my friend and isolated. To have that happen on a big airplane flying across the country? That's probably a terrifying thought.
I stood there like a gigantic tattooed lummox. I immediately realized what was happening -- I was about to be that gigantic bully who told a kid they couldn't sit next to his friend. It didn't matter that I paid for the upgrade, and that the seat itself is clearly marked with big blue embroidery "Economy Comfort Seat" -- indicating it was a special row. A little boy, probably no older than 12, was about to be told that adults are all dicks and he was going to have to be alone on a five hour flight.
I couldn't let that happen.
When the flight attendant turned to come back and tell me what was going on, I interrupted her. "I heard the story. It's totally fine, I'll move back there."
"Well, they're NonRev," she said, "And you're a paying passenger... You can take the seat if you like."
"No ma'am," I said. "As long as I can get the refund, I'm fine with the other seat."
"Are you sure?" she asked about fifteen times.
"Yes," I said sixteen times.
The family thanked me and the people around the rows who heard the situation all smiled as I passed. I have no idea if I'll get my $79 back. And I also know, having been 12 years old, that the kid has no idea what it means for a 35 year old hulking burly man to give up a paid seat upgrade to sit in a cramped seat farther back down the plane. Right now, he's just relieved that he's with his friend. He was a very polite boy; he said thank you and wasn't a jerk about anything. But the full weight of what it means to sacrifice won't hit him until he's much older.
And that's the point. When he's 35, I hope he remembers what it means to be 12, and if something like this happens to him, I hope he doesn't start someone else's vacation with a friend's family off on the wrong foot. Not that I'm awesome or super special for taking a different seat on an airline -- I'm still going to get home, and in a few hours I won't remember this aside from knowing it happened. But I absolutely believe that we all owe it to each other in this society to not ruin each others' days.
Although, I do hope Delta gives me my $79 back.
** UPDATE 3:17PM EDT **
The very kind people with @DeltaAssist on Twitter saw my tweet and got me a refund for my upgrade, so that part's done :) Thanks for helping me out, Amber!