I suppose this post is controversial. We have chosen to fly a few times now in the last month, and just arrived on our longer trip to the East Coast. If you saw my post on Flying During the Pandemic, you’ll know that the first time I flew back in May to Upstate New York was a decision I didn’t take lightly. It ended up being a safe decision and I’m happy I did it. Now that things are opening up in almost all states, but alas, cases keep climbing, flying is still a controversial topic. We flew to San Diego a few weeks ago since almost everything is open there, and just arrived on the east coast a few days ago. After a handful of flights under my belt, I have a few thoughts on where to strategically plan where to sit depending on the airline and how to plan it! Today I’ll cover United and Southwest Airlines as those are the two we’ve flow.
I usually always fly United whenever possible since I’m trying to get status with them. I also really like their upgrade options and that you can upgrade using miles and dollars. You can read my post on the actual experience I had while flying the airline a month ago. Something to keep in mind, United is still blocking all middle seats. I’m not sure when this lasts until, but people that are from the same household and flying together ARE allowed to book the middle seats if they call the airline to arrange this.
- Option 1: Upgrade to the first row of economy plus (AKA the bulk head.) This will allow you to have a seat with no one in front of you (a wall separates this row from first class). Although you may still have someone behind you, at least you’ll eliminate the risk of someone behind you and in front. You could also use this tactic to book the emergency exit row, making it a farther distance from you and the person in front of you.
- Option 2: If you don’t want to pay the fee to upgrade to economy plus, try choosing a seat in the row right in front of the exit row. This will give more space between you and and the row behind you.
- Option 3: If your flight looks full, you could try upgrading your ticket to business/first class. I chose to do this on my return flight from the east coast since I was worried how full the flight was. I was still sat next to someone, but you generally have a lot more room in the front of the plane. You can request an upgrade to either be automatically upgraded or put on the upgrade waitlist if your itinerary offers it. To find out, login to your reservation on the United website, then click “Upgrade this flight” to see your options. If you are able to get on the waitlist, you can check your position in the App by going to flight status > upgrade, and you’ll see what spot your name is at on the list.
- Option 4: Track the seats filled on your flight and continue to move/change your seat as needed. You can easily do this in the United App by either clicking into your reservation and selecting “change seat” OR by simply tracking the flight status, and clicking “seat map”.
We flew Southwest to southern California a few weeks ago, and again a few days ago to the east coast. I think they’re doing a fairly good job during the pandemic. I love Southwest since they’ve always had flexible flight booking, even when it wasn’t cool in the airline industry. It’s so easy to change flights on their app. When we flew to SoCal, both flights were way more than half empty. Flying to the east coast the other day was a different story. Both legs of the journey were two thirds full, meaning every seat except for middle seats were taken. That said, Southwest only boarded 10 people at a time and the planes felt fairly clean. No drink or snack service was provided.
- Option 1: Upgrade to “Business fare” or pay the $25 for early bird check-in. The earlier you check-in on Southwest, the closer your boarding position is to board the plane early. Having the ability to board before the majority of passengers lets you choose your seat strategically. We upgraded to early bird and had an “A” position, meaning we were one of the first few to board.
- Option 2: If you’re able to get on the plane early, choose the same economy options I mentioned for United. Try to grab the bulk head (front row), sit in the exit row, or choose the row right in front of the exit row. This will give more space between you and the row behind you or in front of you.
- Option 3: If you’re lucky, there is ONE seat on the plane that has no seat in front of it on Southwest. This would allow ample amount of space between you and the person two rows in front of you. Even better? The row in front of this strange seat has only two seats, and with social distancing rules in place, the airline can only allow one person in that row so you’d have the row to yourself!
- Option 4: If you don’t remember to check-in early, choose the last row of the plane in a window seat. This means no one will be behind you, and by choosing the aisle you’ll eliminate some distance between you and the flight attendants or passengers passing by to use the restroom.
Safe travels and healthy thoughts!