A few months back, I was on a flight from New Delhi, India to Newark, NJ. The flight is terribly long, more than 16 hours. A month before the flight, I contacted a United Airlines representative to secure a seat in which I could work comfortably. If one is not in First Class, either the bulkhead or exit rows work well. The agent informed me that I would need to wait until 24 hours within my flight to request an exit row, and bulkhead seats were unavailable at this time.
From experience, I knew that it is standard policy to hold exit row seats until the day of the flight. However, many experienced flyers often sweet-talk the agents to release them earlier. The point here is that exit row seats disappear as the flight day approaches, especially with international travel.
Leading up to the departure date, I called the United Premier line several times per week hoping that a bulkhead seat would become available. About a week before the flight, the agent informed me that seat 16F could be assigned to me. This seat is on the aisle, which makes it even better.
When not fortunate enough to receive a First Class upgrade, I often request bulkhead or exit row seats. I do this because I’m able to use my laptop to do my work. On the New Delhi flight, I had an important assignment requiring immediate attention, and I needed to commit at least 8 hours to it. The bulkhead seat was excellent because it had a power source under my seat.
The flight from Delhi was on schedule, departing around midnight. Upon finding my seat and putting my carry-on bags in the overhead compartment, I sat down thinking how I would schedule my work time on the flight.
A few minutes later, a woman approached those of us sitting in the bulkhead row, asking if we could trade with her because she was traveling with an infant, and our seats would give her access to the bassinet. Several of us pondered the request, but we didn’t want to give up these excellent seats.
More to the Story
When I first reached my seat, I observed this lady walk by me, and her husband was in tow. I noticed that he later walked into the Business Class cabin, and didn’t return to Economy. In hindsight, I think this is one reason I hesitated to give up my seat. The other reason, of course, was that I had a ton of work to do, and her seat would not allow me to work on my laptop when the person in front of me reclined.
I found it odd that her husband would travel in Business Class comfort, while she sat alone with the baby in the back cabin. At best, he could have given up his premium seat, and assisted her on the long flight. He did come back and “check on her” several times during the flight, but I think many wives wouldn’t be too happy with this arrangement.
I’m stuck wondering whether I did the right thing. Giving up my seat would make me feel good momentarily. However, this feeling would fade quickly after learning that her husband had a comfy seat in Business Class. Just as important, the opportunity to make progress on my work would have been lost. In essence, an entire workday would be gone.