Adventures in Culture and Travel

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14 January, 2014

Best seats in the sky

Just a few miles out of Charlotte on my DFW-CLT leg.
More domestic flying last week, with a quick jaunt to Dallas. Dallas is an amazing city that I have been fortunate to travel to several times over the last few years. It's like Los Angeles with less traffic and drama. Unfortunately it's plagued with a few problems.

American problems like dysfunctional public transport, and lack of cheap hostel accommodations.  There are, two hostels in the area (which I'm aware of), neither resemble a typical European hostel. Attempt to travel from the airport to Carrollton (a suburb) and you'll find yourself in the middle of a 3-4 hour road journey. Nope, Dallas is the All-American city, best driven in a car.  The moment I landed I was handed the keys to a honking huge Ford SUV, and drove to my 3 star Holiday Inn. It's definitely a huge transition for me, where even in my Stateside life I drive a Geo Metro, and travel sans suitcase with my old backpack I traveled on foot across Spain with.

Before I left for Texas, I attached a new patch to my backpack: the Belgian flag, in honor of my half-year abroad. I didn't expect the inquisition that it would create when it captured the special attention from the flight attendant as I plunked down in an exit row on a new A321.  "I need a verbal response in English", she asked everyone in the two rows, then stopping at me and slowly enunciating the words like she was talking to a child and to aid my response. "Yes I'm willing", I reply as she smirks and winks suggesting I passed the US-Air English test.

My reward: The best seat in the sky. Well, in coach at least.

Besides speaking one word in English, Exit Rows have many requirements. You must be over 15, willing to aid others (or lie about it), and not be too fat. Personally If I was in charge, I'd place fatter people in the exit-rows because you're never going to convince me that 95 LB twiggy in designer label clothes is going to manage removing an airline door and shove it out into the great beyond. The concern is of course, is that fat people will block the exit. That's right, they physically plug up the doorway. They become adipose plugs killing all the helpless skinny people on-board. What? It's almost hilarious to picture in your head, until you realize YOU ARE THE FAT PERSON. I am fortunate enough to be given by God (or Darwin-Monkey ancestor) some strange genetic compilation of fat molecules that allow me to re-arrange myself into the correct proportions for an exit-row seat. It's not pretty, but it works- and if you're on the same plane as me, it means you don't have to trust your life to Twiggy.
The legroom jackpot. Round-trip for $174

There is another trick to US-Air and many other airlines in getting the exit rows. They normally release them 24 hours before departure, which means going online right when they open up online (on US-AIR's website) and snagging them.

There's one seat on a A321 that has like five feet of  leg-room because the seat in front of you is missing!

When I flew Ryan Air, you had to pay 10 Euros more for the exit-row, but it was always worth it. It's like flying first class without the free booze. Not only that but you get early boarding too, so you're guaranteed overhead space.

I suppose that brings me to the point of this post: travel is a gift. Whether it be for business, pleasure or out of necessity, too many people complain about the inconvenience of airline travel. While some people see travel as scary, invoking self-doubt, and fear; their expectations of comfort and entitlement challenged- I see it as nothing short of a miracle. The fact I can wake up in one country and by night be in another, is just mind boggling. That I can travel for a few hundred dollars to Dallas and back again while taking a nap and being served drinks, is a wonder of the times we live in. For generations, humans have dreamed of what this generation has before them, and so many people choose to ignore it. Others find the feat a discomfort and complain. Me? You could strap me to the tail of the plane and I'd be smiling all the way, because any seat, in my opinion, is the best seat in the sky.