I’m not one to brag on myself too much. I’m humbled to say I’m the greatest husband, father, poker player, amateur basketball player and human in the world. But those are just simple facts. #blessed
If there’s one area of my greatness that often gets overlooked, it’s my ability to pick the optimal seat on a Southwest Airlines flight at any time, under any conditions. Today I’m here to rectify that omission and give credit where credit is due. To myself.
A few weeks back I flew Southwest to Arizona for my Spring Training trip. I was appalled by the terrible decisions being made all around me. It was like a 2005 game of Texas hold em! (If you don’t play poker, trust me, I nailed that joke.)
Because I’m also the world’s greatest humanitarian and philanthropist, I’m going to share my Southwest secrets here. I know that some day, I’ll be boarding a Southwest flight, about to crawl into the most optimal seat on the planet, when out of nowhere a young buck will sneak in and beat me to the spot. As I look on with both shock and horror, he’ll wink at me and whisper, “I read your blog.” I’ll have no choice but to chuckle, tip my cap and move on to the seat right behind him, where he will be kicked in the back for the next two-and-a-half hours.
Let’s start with this: the Southwest game is rigged. If you fly regularly or pay for an upgrade or are a privileged white male, you’ll be in the A group. If this applies to you, I would like to give you a polite golf clap followed by a middle finger. You won’t need to read the rest of this story because you can pick any dadgum seat on the entire plane.
This blog is for the other 99%. Those of us who are either too poor to too cheap to spend our hard-earned money on 5% less waiting time in line. Those of us who play for the love of the game, the challenge of getting just as good a spot as the jerk who could be flying first class on another airline but wants to force us into being the slice of pepperoni in between an 800-lb marshmallow sandwich near the restroom instead. Those of us who set an alarm for exactly 24 hours before our flight and immediately check in, only to wind up at the end of the B group while Southwest executives howl in laughter and fist-bump each other in between lap dances.
Step one to optimal seat procurement is to do a little basic math in your head while you’re in line. After all, unless you’re a Fortune 500 CEO, you’ll be waiting in line with a scowl while the A group boards. Might as well make the most of your wait. Like someone famous said, “If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.”
If you are B44 (like I was), there will only be 20 or 30 people boarding after you. Look around the gate — if there are 20 or 30 people behind you in line or waiting at the counter for standby seats, it’s going to be a full flight. If nobody is behind you, you might have a chance at the holy grail — an empty seat next to you. So adjust your expectations accordingly.
The most common mistake by far comes when first walking aboard the plane. Your eyes naturally take you to the back of the plane, where there are often open seats. It’s easy to assume you’ll find an open spot back there and mentally relax like Hillary did in 2016 (too soon?). Stay on your A game. Your eyes aren’t factoring in the people who are ahead of you in the plane line but aren’t in their seats yet. The worst outcome possible is to walk all the way to the back of the plane, find no window or aisle seats available and have to squeeze in to a middle seat in the back.
This is where your pre-boarding math will come in handy. If you know roughly how many people are behind you in line, you’ll know what your chances are of getting the kind of seat you want.
Now it comes down to priorities. If you have a quick connecting flight, you’ll want to be up front. If you are super tired, you’ll want a window seat. If you just ate two Cinnabons, you’ll want to be near the bathroom. If you want to meet your soulmate, you’ll want to walk into the bathroom, look in the mirror and re-examine your life.
If you’re like me, you generally don’t care about any of those things. All you want is space. My legs don’t fit naturally into the space allotted and it’s dynamite when I can steal a little bit of someone else’s space.
If the math doesn’t look good for an empty seat next to me (and that is becoming more and more rare these days), the next thing I want is a window seat. But when you’re in the back of the B group that is also a highly unlikely proposition. Then we look for aisle seats. These are more available than the window seats, and what I’m looking for is couples. If two romantically involved people are flying together, they are going to be cuddling with each other and giving the stranger next to them on the aisle a little extra room.
This was the situation I capitalized on when I flew to Phoenix. The moron in front of me missed out on this amazing opportunity. He took an aisle seat with an empty middle seat next to it. I could have taken one a few rows behind that. But they had announced a full flight already, so there was no chance of striking gold with an empty seat. Like someone famous said, “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.” I knew this would be a good spot for me, while homeboy in front of me ended up with a lady who set up an entire home entertainment system in the middle seat next to him. Poor chap.
If you’re among the last people to board, you know you won’t be getting a window or an aisle seat. What you’re looking for in that spot are women with a book or small screen in front of them, and you want them on both sides of you. They’re going to be scrunched up, locked in to their thing and giving you a little extra room.
When it comes to men, you don’t want the business type. They have a 32-inch laptop and posterboard-size New York Times out and they’ll be taking a leak at the least convenient moment possible because they’ve had three cups of coffee already. You want the jock type like David Puddy from Seinfeld who will just stare straight ahead the whole flight.
When it comes to women, you want to avoid the ones who somehow have five bags with them. And the ones who look like they are hoping to meet their soulmate. They’ll be staring at you with puppy eyes behind five layers of makeup. Avoid at all cost.
When it comes to the elderly, you’re probably fine next to an old lady. She might even offer you a Werther’s Original. You want to avoid the men, because — and I love that this is LITERALLY true — they do not give a flying F. They will spread their legs as far as they please and possibly even cross one leg over the other while they do their crossword puzzle. When they go to the bathroom, they will pretend your legs do not exist and will tear your knee ligaments to shreds.
When it comes to children…I mean come on, not even you are that stupid.
So now that you’re in the perfect seat, sit back and enjoy your flight. Be sure to take note of the people who boarded right ahead of you and soak in the glory of your superior selection. That’s what life is all about.
Oh, and one more thing. When you’re walking past those first few rows, make sure there are no disabled people up there and then crop dust the hell out of the rest of those A-group bastards.