Finals ended a week ago. I'm flying home to LA at 9AM on June 17th.
I usually fly Southwest Airlines whenever I fly home. If it weren't for a lingering stash of in-flight drink coupons and my feeble attempt to get one last free flight with my Southwest Airlines Credit Card, I'd be flying Jetblue all the time, every time. Southwest Airlines treats you like cattle, gives you peanuts for the inflight meal, and provides no real in-flight entertainment. I can only read so much Skymall and Spirit Magazine before I want to gouge my eyes out and vomit all over my shoes. The biggest issue I have with Southwest, though, is that the first-come-first-serve seating system ends up being a total zoo.
Anyone who has ever flown with Southwest knows that passengers are separated into three boarding groups (A, B, and C), and that there is no assigned seating. The A-group has traditionally been populated by go-getters, people with their shit together, and very lucky bastards. They get first dibs on seats, get to stash their luggage anywhere they want, and pretty much don't have to worry about anything.
The B group is the moderate-stress group. You want to be first in line in the B-group so the net effect is that you still get first dibs on seats. If you're in the middle of the pack or towards the end of B-group, you're searching for a dwindling supply of acceptable open seats. You get a bit more choice too: do you sit next to the hottie on aisle 9A, or next to Mrs. Trunchbull
C-group boarders are pretty much hosed. Choices are limited: do you sit next to the hottie on aisle 9A, or next to Mrs. Trunchbull in 14B? Well, sorry buddy, you get neither. You get to enjoy the presence of screaming baby #29 near the front of the plane. Oh, and I'm sorry sir, but there's no more overhead space and we'll have to check in your luggage below. But that's full of martini glasses and fine china.
Tough luck, big shot. Beggars can't be choosers.
Here's my little secret though: I usually log in at the stroke of midnight to print out my boarding pass the night before (technically the day of). I've been doing this for years now, and I've always been in boarding group A. Let me tell you, it makes the whole day so much better. You don't need to worry about rushing to the airport early to get to the front of the B-line because you're guaranted to be one of the first 40 or so people to choose seats. You can stash your luggage wherever you like. However, it has recently come to my attention that I'll have to switch my choice of carrier soon.
It's 12:01 A.M. I log into my Southwest Airlines online reservation system, fill out a few web forms, and click on "show and print my boarding pass." Half a second later, it shows up on my screen.I'm in boarding group B.
What the hell just happened here? Do you know what this means?
That means in the space of one minute
, forty people -- possibly more -- managed to log into Southwest Airlines' website, check in, and print out their boarding passes before I did. How many people know about this trick? And how long before I log in the same time, do everything right, and still get slotted into boarding group C?
So, it seems that if I want to keep ahead of the curve, I should start flying Jetblue from now on. I will be landing at a closer airport (Long Beach), get a bag of actual snack food (chips and pretzels), watch TV, enjoy fresh airplane scent (aka newer planes), AND have guaranteed assigned seating. I can even change my seating choices at the airport.
But tell me this: what the hell am I going to do with $24 worth of Southwest drink coupons?