One thing that really struck me on my recent trip to New York was how helpful Americans are. When we arrived at Penn Station, confused, overwhelmed and bewildered by the intricate subway map, a kind woman named Miriam approached us and offered to guide us to our stop. She even helped us to buy our Metrocards, escorted us to the platform and in true New Yorker style elbowed her way through the crowds to get us into a carriage.
Our AirBnB host was also very helpful, offering restaurant recommendations and suggestions for quirky watering holes in and around the city.
We had a fantastic six days in New York, but it was time to go home. We made it to Newark airport. It’s quite small and basic, nothing like the grand hurrah that is Heathrow. It was more like a train station in its simplicity and clientele. There was no glamour, no relaxation; just people wanting to get from A to B,like we were.
We went to one of the digital check-in points (being millennials and all it would have been rude not to). We’d paid extra to be sat together, and seeing as we had just got engaged we were excited to celebrate on the flight (boozy boarding!).
Our check in details had allocated us separate seats.
Ok, no big deal, I can just talk to one of these helpful Americans and get it sorted in a jiffy – (side note – saying things like ‘in a jiffy’ when in the States makes you feel just like Emily from Friends –so British and fake).
I swiftly cornered a smiley looking man who had a walkie talkie, a clipboard, a very smart suit and a name badge – Kevin M International Relations. He was loitering around the customer services desk and looked like the head honcho of operations.
I got his attention and, as expected, he was super excited to help. All he needed was proof we had paid to sit together and he would have it sorted in to time at all. I pulled up all my emails and communications from United Airlines, and dutifully let him read over them all.
“Nothing here shows me that you’ve paid to sit together. These are premium seats, I cant just give them to you.”
Rubbish. It ruddy did. It showed our allocated seats were 34k and 34L, which if you know the alphabet, are LOCATED TOGETHER. I said that the system wouldn’t have allocated us together by fluke, you had to pay to get these seats. If the system isn’t showing them as allocated to us, that’s the systems fault, not ours. We had paid for a service!
(Ooh I’m getting angry re-living this).
Then he made quite the speech.
“Well, when you pay to book seats together you are only paying for the first leg of the journey.”
“And as Airlines are in the business of making money, the set seats on the route (pronounced by him as rauuuuute) back aren’t guaranteed.”
“There are premium seats I can’t just give them to you. You want me to lose my job?”
I wasn’t arguing with him. I was just not taking no for an answer.
“Well” he sighed. ” Just check in to these seats and when you get to the plane ask to be sat together.”
“That wouldn’t work would it Kevin, seeing as Airlines are in the business of making money and you can’t override the systems, they aren’t just going to give us an upgrade, and they might lose their jobs according to you!”
He pulled an expression which is hard to describe. If you could imagine the face of a man thinking ‘ok lil’ lady you gon’ give me a battle today’.
“Why would we make this up? Why would we try and swindle the system to get these seats? It’s too risky! We could end up being convicted of theft or fraud and arrested on the plane. I’ve seen enough movies to know that that is a possibility thanks to undercover flight police (Bridesmaids lol). To say you are in the business of making money is ridiculous. You are telling me that your company scams innocent, hard working people and teases them with the suggestion of sitting next to someone they know, using a familiar shoulder as a pillow on this OVERNIGHT flight only to then say ‘it isn’t guaranteed’ – and”
“It says it in the terms and conditions in very small print.”
“What would the situation look like if I had 1 million Instagram followers? If I said to you I would share how amazing United Airlines had been and ‘thanks for providing me with the best seats’ I bet you could override the system then couldn’t you!”
This went on for about 25 minutes. As before, we weren’t arguing, we were debating and I just simply wasn’t having any of his codswallop.
He, incidentally, wasn’t having any of mine.
I tried crying.
I tried saying you would never get this on a British Airways flight (never flown with them in my life).
I said we were being discriminated against because we weren’t famous.
I tried everything.
The difference is I wasn’t trying to pull a fast one. We had paid for the seats. We had paid for the upgrade.
I mentioned in passing he was ruining my engagement celebrations and this moment was giving New York a bad name.
He sighed “let me see what I can do.”
I turned military ops in a heartbeat.
“KEEP EYES ON HIM. HE’S GOING TO DISAPPEAR INTO THE CROWD AND WE WILL NEVER SEE HIM AGAIN. EYES ON! THE EAGLE HAS FLOWN THE NEST”
Paul, I must add was stood next to be for the entirety of this watching on in awe, backing me up at every moment. THAT’S why we’re engaged, what a man!
Anyway, Kevin M reappeared rolling his eyes.
“As an engagement gift we would like to give you seats 34K and 34L”
I swallowed my sarcastic response of ‘not much of a gift seeing as we paid for it already!’ but I know when to keep schtum.
“In return you just need to post to your 1 million Instagram followers that United Airlines is a great airline.”
I looked at him blankly.
He burst into huge, genuine belly laughs “I KNEW YOU WERE BLUFFING ME!!”
Now, to confirm, I never said I had 1 million Instagram followers, the point I was getting at was celebrities get loads of upgrades so there would be no problem in him overriding the system.
He printed our boarding cards and we shook hands. We gave a mutual nod out of respect and I scurried off pleased with my triumphant efforts.
In the end he was helpful, so I stand by my perception of Americans being helpful. And Kevin, if you’re reading this, give my Instagram a follow. I’ll be one closer to my million followers!