Life on the road

On my trip back from Vegas this week I encountered two innovations that really struck me.  The first isn’t new to me, though I think it’s quite a find for many: the airline seat map service SeatGuru.Com.  Nowadays most of us book enough of our flights and checkin online that we choose our own seats.  If we only knew the best seat on the plane, we wouldn’t end up with such a random flight experience.

SeatGuru knows.  Culling from visitor reviews, SeatGuru has maps of each kind of plane flown by each airline.  It knows which rows have an inch more of legroom, which rows have power outlets, and which rows are to be avoided because you can smell the bathroom or galley odors.  And of course, they know which rows are Exit Rows.  Even if you don’t get to checkin until you’ve gotten to the airport, I often write the best seats on a small card and slip it into my pocket.  Then I can ask the desk agent to book me into a better seat.

The second innovation I found was at the moment of checkin.  I’d already chosen my seats from my computer in my room at the Sahara, but since I didn’t have a printer I still needed my boarding passes.  As I checked in, I was offered a $135 first class upgrade right there at the terminal.  Seeing as I still had my credit card in my hand and it was a small amount I took it instantly.  I didn’t regret it for a minute.  They served pasta for dinner, doted on me, and left me alone in a large seat to try and sleep through the flight.

The airlines will make a lot more money from this in the future, I suspect.  There were two first class upgrades left on my flight and I took one.  The other next to me was empty.  I don’t doubt that most people returning from Vegas are broke (unlike me), but this is yet another way in which the airlines can maximize their revenue.  And they could compute different upgrade amounts based upon the kind of passenger and the kind of fare I was traveling on.  In fact, if they could get the fulfillment right, I’d have been happy to select a purchasable meal that would have been delivered on the plane right there on the spot.