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Tuesday May 1, 2012

Flying by the seat of one’s pants

Now look here. I don’t know which passengers Skyscanner interviewed for its recent ‘perfect seat’ air travel survey, but they’ve got it all wrong.

Having questioned 1000 airline passengers, the flight comparison website concluded that the window seat 6A is the most desirable money can-or in the case of some budget airlines-cannot buy. I’m not at all sure about that. As a regular easyJet commuter I find that those in the speedy boarding queue will practically rugby tackle their nearest neighbour to sit in the aisle seat of row one.

A few weeks ago I arrived at the airport early and as the first passenger on the plane, bagged one of the two aisle seats in the first row –the most convenient for leaving the plane speedily on arrival in London- and was swiftly reprimanded by the passenger who sat down beside me. ‘That’s my seat!’ he growled ominously. I cheerily countered that to the best of my knowledge it didn’t have his name written on it and he grudgingly had to agree. After a tricky start we ended up best of friends which was just as well as it turned out we had rather a lot of Majorcan and expat contacts in common.

According to Skyscanner’s survey passengers generally prefer the first six rows because of the reduced engine noise, easy access to the exit and better selection of food although on a short flight this is surely not a problem. As a reformed-ish nervous flyer my reasoning is more bland or should I say, absurd and illogical. I like to monitor at close hand the expressions of the flight attendants particularly should the plane begin to shake, rattle and roll. If they maintain some kind of sang-froid and even manage a smile-rather than exhibiting flared nostrils and a look of abject terror-I reassure myself that we might all survive.

All the same on a flight back from Indonesia some years ago, one of the airhostesses broke down in uncontrollable sobs during an electric storm and I thought we were all done for. Another stewardess, observing my sickly pallor, knelt down confidentially at my side and explained that her colleague’s histrionics were due to her being ditched by a fiancé and that the storm was the very least of her concerns.

At Palma airport there used to be a charming lady, what one might call a ‘seat tzar named desire’, who could intervene to get you good seats on certain routes. Sadly she left her perch some years ago.

Meanwhile, sixty-two per cent of those quizzed said that they preferred even numbers, while only one per cent actually chose the middle seat. No surprises there. Being wedged between two potentially bulky and anti-social travelling companions is never much fun.

Of course this survey comes at a time when easyJet is launching book-able seating with a starting price of £3. Apparently one of the most sought after hot seats in the front section will set passengers back £8. Too much? I suppose that all depends on just how much a particular seat means to you. Or perhaps more to the point, whether you wouldn’t mind ending up in 31E- the most unpopular middle seat on the back of a plane- with a Cyclops on one side and a loquacious knitter on the other. As some might say, it’s better to be a sitting tenant than a sitting duck.

Please feel free to comment on this article. All comments are moderated, so it will appear after I have checked it. Thanks!