At the airport check-in counter, the agent told us they couldn’t seat our family together.
We planned the family vacation one year ago. When we bought the tickets, the airline told us due to a computer glitch, we couldn’t select seats.
When checking in online just hours prior to the flight, we still couldn’t select our seats. “This function is not available at this time,” the computer displayed the error message. “Please see gate agent.”
So we did as told by a machine.
We were early. At the gate, there were only a dozen or so people waiting. “There should be plenty of seats available for us to pick from,” we thought to ourselves. We couldn’t imagine ourselves as the only ones excluded from the seat selection process.
The gate agent busily typed away our information on the keyboard. She looked distressed. She couldn’t seat us all together. “All other seats are taken. These are the only ones left. I’m sorry. Your family have to be in separated seats,” she delivered the bad news.
“All other seats are taken?” We protested. “How is that possible? I thought there was a computer glitch preventing seat assignments. There are less than ten of us here checked in. How does other passengers pick their seats?”
The flight agent shrugged, shook her head in silence.
Should we make a scene? We were afraid a squad of goons would show up and drag us out of the airport. We may end up in the hospital with broken bones. We read it in the news. Some passengers were beaten up at the airport because of an overbooked flight. They refused to forfeit their tickets and were met with violence. We were flying that infamous airline that assaults their own customers.
What to do? We had three very young children. They still needed sippy cups to avoid spillage. How were they going to do on their own, among all strangers without any parental help? Would they spill their drinks everywhere? Spill on the passengers next to them? Would they be too scared to go to the bathroom alone and wet the seats? The youngest one was not even strong enough to open a water bottle. He had not learned to talk intelligibly yet. How would he ask for help?
What if the children get motion sickness and vomited? Or couldn’t adjust to the cabin pressure changes and start to cry?
Athena was upset. She expressed her concerns firmly to the airline and why it was not a good idea to separate us. “You keep us separated. You will help the children. You feed them and take them to bathrooms. You will clean up their mess. You will deal with their crying,” Athena told them.
Each of us were at least two seats and two rows apart. After everyone was boarded, the flight attendants politely asked if anyone was willing to exchange seats with us. No takers. “I’m willing to put up with a crying child but not giving up my seat,” one answered. “I’ll take my chances with the child throwing up. No way am I moving.” The other one concurred.
Athena silently hid her tears. The children, all alone, started crying. No one made a move. The people sitting around the crying children started reading magazines, drinking wine, or taking a nap, as if the distressed children were invisible.
It was a four hour flight. All the passengers put up with the troubles caused by the lonely, scared, crying, screaming, and messy children, yet still no one was willing to move during the entire flight.
Some passengers were clearly annoyed by our children. “I wish they would sit still,” some people grumbled.
“Would you like the change seats?” Athena asked, “then the boy wouldn’t bother you anymore.” Athena tried to be helpful.
“Your boy is annoying. I wish I’d seat next to an adult,” the passenger next to our son replied. “But this is my seat. I’m staying right here.” We had never seen a more determined passenger.
“But my seat is in the better section. It’d be an upgrade for you. You’ll gain a few more inches of legroom,” Athena said.
“No. I’m loving my seat. I’m not moving.”
No one took up on the seat upgrade offers. They were determined to endure whatever abuses the children flung their way to hang on to their assigned seats.
We must have been on a flight reserved for assigned seat fetish lovers.