The Irritatingly Successful Seat Poachers
S towing my bag before I sat in an aisle seat of a Boeing 777-300 aircraft to which I was assigned, a woman comes and places her bag on what was to be my seat for the next 14 hours for a transatlantic flight; and on that seat was a clean unused pillow.
“Could you please remove your bag from my seat?” I asked politely.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she grunted indifferently as she plunked another bag on my seat so that she may stow a third bag into the overhead bin with which she and her husband were traveling.
This flight is already not starting off well for me; but it is a minor issue. Besides, I switched what was to be my pillow for a clean pillow from one of their seats without them knowing about it while they were busy getting settled. I have no idea where the undersides of those bags were before they touched what was to be my pillow; and I had no desire to get into a kerfuffle or brouhaha — or some other silly word which can mean noisy confrontation — for such a long flight seated in the economy class cabin of the aircraft.
Yes, I know: who knows where the pillow had been before I arrived at my seat; and when was the last time it was cleaned. However, I would say that there are better odds that a pillow is cleaner than the underside of a bag.
Expecting this to be a fairly full flight, I get settled in my seat as the boarding of passengers continues; but please allow me to “set the stage” first, so to speak…
There are four seats abreast in the middle section of this aircraft: D, E, F and G. I am sitting in G, which is a seat next to the aisle closest to the starboard side of the aircraft; while D is located next to the aisle closest to the port side of the aircraft.
The couple sat down in seats D and E. F was empty. I was seated in G.
Eventually, the boarding of passengers had concluded; and F — the seat next to me — was still empty. Yes! I thought — an empty seat for the long haul…
…until the male half of the couple — probably in his 50s — decides to move over one seat and sit next to me. What?!?
“There is an empty seat,” he volunteered to me as I sat there stunned. “This will give us more room.”
Yeah — it will give you and your wife more room. What about me?!? I originally thought for a moment that we would “split” the empty seat for more room — or at least use the seat back table to store empty food trays until the trays were taken away by the flight attendants.
I tried employing the “hint” method first. “You would rather sit next to me than your wife?” I semi-jokingly asked the man, to which he replied: “She is tired; and I want to give her room to lay down and sleep.”
Never mind that I just had a layover of 14 hours after concluding another flight having sat in a seat in the economy class cabin for greater than seven hours — but no one else but me caused that to happen; and I take full responsibility for that. I was fine; just tired. Normally, this would be no big deal — but who was he and his wife to declare themselves the final arbiters of how the empty seat should be used?
I decided to inform a flight attendant of this issue; and she then addressed it to the man by coming over to him and informing him to move over and take his assigned seat.
“This is my assigned seat,” he responded.
Yeah, right, I thought to myself.
“May I see your boarding passes, please?” asked the flight attendant.
As I sat there anticipating his moving over one seat within the next minute, he took out his boarding pass and showed it in plain view — and what I saw astonished me.
He was originally assigned to sit in seat F — the middle seat next to mine.
How could that be?!? That makes absolutely no sense — but it does not matter: he was assigned to F; and he had every right to sit there. There was nothing I could do at that point as the flight attendant walked away, as there was nothing she could do either.
Eventually, there was an announcement by the pilot that the departure of the aircraft would be delayed by ten minutes or so to unload the luggage of a couple of passengers who did not show up for the flight…
…and that is when it hit me: the couple “poached” seat D, which was the aisle seat — or perhaps they poached E, which was the seat next to it; but that seemed like an unlikely scenario — and the person originally assigned to that seat never showed up for the flight. That was the only logical explanation on a fairly full flight — otherwise, why would they book the two middle seats unless they booked the flight late and it was already crowded?
Either way, a poaching of a seat did happen — and I would have liked to see what the outcome would have been had that missing passenger showed up.
Meanwhile, the man sat next to me for the entire duration of the flight instead of his wife — all 13 hours and 15 minutes of it, which did not include taxi, takeoff and waiting at the gate.
Yes, I do realize that I did not pay for that empty seat and neither did they; and yet, for a while I could not help but feel like I was cheated — even though I know that I was not cheated in any way, shape or form…
…and then I figured out why I felt that way even though it was completely erroneous: had the couple taken their original seats to which they were assigned instead of “poaching” the aisle seat, this would not have been an issue for me in the first place. The man would have sat next to me all along; and I would have just sighed, shrugged my shoulders, and murmured “oh, well…”
I have written articles about seat poachers in the past — including this one; as well as seat poaching purportedly from the other point of view — but I have never come across a situation quite like this one before.
Have you experienced anything like this? What are your thoughts?
The photograph at the top of this article shows the actual row of seats in question before the couple showed up. My seat is the one on the left. Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.