Saturday, June 13, 2015

Past the 200K Miles Mark - In Flight

Remember how my father was so nerdy that he did advance research on what movies they would be showing on the in-flight entertainment device?

Well, funny story...

Recall that my parents booked this trip somewhat last minute (3 weeks before departure). When you book a flight to Israel that close, you will often find that all the seats left are singles (usually middles). That'd be fine for a couple, but very difficult for a family with a young toddler.

This is what the seating chart approximately looked like for my family of three (this chart was taken at the time of the post, not at the time of our actual booking).

So my father called United and pleaded them to find a way to seat us together. The best the phone agent could do was Seats 35A and 35B together, but 35C was taken. She offered us 34E (a middle seat) so that we were close, but my father opted instead to take 19C (an aisle seat in Economy+ with extra leg room) knowing that it was a better bargaining chip for the person in 35C.

So worst case scenario, my father and I would sit together in the back and my mother would be upfront by herself. However, the plan was to arrive early to the boarding gate and ask the gate agent if she could possibly call the individual assigned 35C and preemptively ask for a trade before boarding started. After all, that would be a lot easier than that individual having to fight against the current to go from row 35 back up to row 19.

Instead of doing that, however, the wonderful gate agent took down our info and said to hang tight. She said she was going to try and get us together as close as possible.

Then boarding started and we found ourselves waiting in the lane when the speaker called for my father to approach the counter. The wonderful agent was able to secure us 3 seats all in row 21, except that my father was in 21F. Across the aisle, my mother and I would be in 21J and 21K, with a stranger sitting in the window seat, 21L.

So now the plan was to see if 21L (window) would switch with us to take 21F (aisle). To make the offer more enticing, my parents made sure that I was seated in 21K (next to the stranger).

As it turned out, the Israeli gentleman assigned to 21L was more than happy to trade and gladly took 21F as my family took over the entire 3 seat row (21JKL). Win-win for everyone, right?

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case. It turned out that several in-flight entertainment devices in the headrests were not working correctly, including 21J that my father had, but more importantly, 21F that the kind stranger had traded for.

10.5 hours is a long time to fly without a working entertainment screen. Fortunately, the gentleman in 21F was very kind about the entire situation and saw that my father's screen was also malfunctioning. Of course, he didn't raise the fact that his original seat (21L) had a working system.

My father offered to buy him a drink when the beverage cart came by, but he politely declined and just made do with his tablet and eye-mask. After all, it was the middle of the night when most normal people were sound asleep.

We were so grateful this kind soul was gracious enough to trade and also not complain about a broken IFE. In fact, my father was stressing out about it more than the stranger (who didn't have an adorable toddler sitting next to him with a working IFE that he could take over).

FYI, my father watched American Sniper like he planned, but instead of Kingsmen, he decided to watch Exodus - Gods & Kings because, seemed appropriate given our destination.

Overall, we were very, very lucky that this flight ended up being as smooth as it did.

Now, we'll see if United will respond to our claim for some mileage compensation for the broken in flight entertainment units. My grandmother received 7,500 Mileageplus miles for the same inconvenience on her Seoul-San Francisco flight. Those miles are worth about $150 to my family, so a very generous deal if we can swing it too.

[UPDATE: June 16 - United responded with two (2) electronic travel certificates for $175 each. Very fair, I'd say.]

In the meantime, I'm having a blast with my grandparents here in Israel.

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