For all those of us who are or have been traveling consultants or those that have ever clicked “Road Warrior” on a job board, what is the greatest bonus you can think of in exchange for all the pain? By pain, I am referring to hours of airports with bad and expensive food and hours on planes, again, with bad and expensive food. The answer of course, is airline incentive programs. I would like to congratulate my friend and consultant Jack who just recently reached Gold Medallion status on his not-to-be-named here airline. Congrats Jack. Enjoy your rewards and upgrades.
I however, in general, I try to live by this rule: “If Southwest Airlines doesn’t fly there; I don’t need to go there.” I am exuberant about Southwest’s recent purchase of AirTran because in one little year, Southwest will fly to Atlanta, a city I came to enjoy very much at HiMSS 2010. I find Southwest Airlines to be easy to fly and cost effective – no bag fees, no change fees, no snack fees, and no fees to print your boarding pass at the airport. Seriously, pay to print my boarding pass? Didn’t I just pay for the ticket?! Finally, I live in a huge city, but am from a smaller town. Southwest Airlines provides me access to both. I just love Southwest Airlines.
I also recognize that there are quite a few Southwest haters out there. So, here I will offer up some tricks for Healthcare IT consultants to successfully flying Southwest and look forward to all your comments.
Number 1 – You can check in and not print. This is the best option for getting on early and avoiding paying the extra $10 for that privilege. Many of us think that just because we’re not by a printer, we have to wait to check in. Grab that smart phone and check in! Just pop by the kiosk on your way to security and print your boarding pass. Even better, if you aren’t checking a bag, Southwest has kiosks just for you to print and be on your way to the “A” boarding group. No waiting in the long line.
Number 2 – Pick your seat on the plane according to whether or not you checked a bag. Checked a bag? You’re just going to have to stand around and wait at baggage claim anyway, so you may as well sit at the back and relax. Also, everyone wants to sit at the front so the likelihood of getting your own row is greatly increased by heading for the back. Ah, stretch out those legs in the back! Now, if you didn’t check bags hit the front and get outta the airport!
Number 3 – Trick seats! The last row does not recline and neither do the two rows in front of the emergency exit or the row behind it. The best row on the plane is the one behind the emergency exit row. When you can recline, but the one immediately before you can’t . . . beautiful!
Number 4 – This is what you’ve all been waiting for: how to avoid the middle seat on a Southwest flight. Now, since you’ve gotten yourself into a decent boarding group by checking in and printing at the airport, oh wait, that didn’t happen? Alright, well, here is what you do. I would also like to quickly credit Tom Lewis, another avid Southwest flyer, for creating this full proof system. As you know, all the window seats fill up first. In order to ensure a non-middle i.e. aisle seat and plenty of arm rest room, pick an aisle seat towards the front of the plane and then wait. The magic announcement you are waiting for is, “This flight is completely full therefore please pick the first available seat you see.” This is it! This is the call to action. Start looking for the smallest person in line coming onto the plane. Male or female, it doesn’t matter, just a small person. When you see this person, LEAP into the middle of aisle blocking their way. When I say leap, I mean JUMP out in the shape of a star – legs out, arms up!! Do not let this small person pass you by. Now, offer this person the middle seat! “Would you like to sit down?” “Please, let me help you with your bag.” “The plane is full, but nobody is sitting here!”
Oh yeah! You’ve done it! You (or your client) didn’t pay too much for your flight, you’re near the front of the plane, and you’ve got plenty of arm rest.
Now, do you plan on flying any airline but Southwest? 😉