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“I Can’t Take Much More Of This” – Rocky Start With Good Finish To Baby’s First Long Flight On Delta

I shared how excited we were to take Baby Weekly Flyer on the first long flight. Overall the flight ended up going well, but it wasn’t without excitement or frustration. I’ll share the details of how our three economy comfort seats were separated and how we ended up getting reunited for our 3.5 hour flight down to St Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands.

I had booked three economy comfort seats at the 42,500 award level about 10 months prior to departure. The reservation was initially in one PNR. I had planned to use the free one-way on the return different than Mrs and Baby so I recall asking Delta to split the PNRs. This would prove to be my biggest mistake. The separated PNRs would later cause our seats to get separated when there was a change to the flight. Correcting the seat assignment issue would end up being a complex game of seat chess with the Delta phone elite line, Delta Assist and finally the Judge Elihu Smails (from Caddyshack) look-a-like in seat 21 D.

Downgraded – Seats Are Changed From Economy Comfort

I logged into my account the night before the flight and noticed that my seat was no longer next to the economy comfort seats 21 E and F that I had confirmed Mrs Weekly Flyer and Baby Weekly Flyer to be in just 2 days prior. I had monitored our reservations for this very issue. Since our reservations had been split (separate PNRs) I had contacted Delta reps and supervisors on numerous occasions to get them merged back, but each time I was met with the same answer that it was a technical reason why the reservations couldn’t be merged back. So I constantly checked back on the reservation, even confirming our seats 2 days prior to departure. When I realized my seat was changed, I did not check in since that would lock my seat in the reservation and cause all types of more work to get the check in un-done.

Weekly Flyer Seat

Instead, I logged into Mrs Weekly Flyer and Baby Weekly Flyer’s PNR to check their seats. Sure enough, their seats were changed as well, but to non-economy comfort seats. I did take comfort in seeing 6 economy comfort exit row seats available, non of which Baby Weekly Flyer could sit in.

Mrs and Baby Flyer Seat

For those of you with small infants, you know that sitting in a row together is very helpful. First, a baby in a car seat must sit in a window seat due to safety reasons, so the current seats wouldn’t work. In addition, not having a row would mean that the infant couldn’t nurse on take off which is a great tactic to help calm the baby. So I was eager to get us back into our originally booked seats or some seating version where we are at least able to switch easy with another economy passenger to sit three together.

What Caused The Issue

The issue that caused the seat switch was a last minute (day before departure) equipment change. The type of 757 plane was switched out for an unknown reason. There was a major rain storm in Atlanta the night before departure and it was the holiday season, so no one knows for sure. Since our reservations were now split Delta automatically bumped Mrs and Baby Weekly Flyer back to regular coach due to lack of status and being on an award ticket. First, I called the Delta Platinum line. But they said the airport had control over the seats and they could not move us into the economy comfort seats in the exit row. Then I got in touch with Delta Assist, where I’ve had great experience in the past. But they too, couldn’t move our seats together at first. Until I made my first move.

Complex Chess Match And Move To Check

My next move was complex, and if we could pull it off, would mean we’d all be back in economy comfort, just not together. This move would still require a subsequent check mate move at the airport to get us into the same row of economy comfort. So I got to work and called the Platinum line again and tweeted my idea to Delta Assist. I asked Delta Assist to move my seat away from 22 D, a non-exit row economy comfort seat and I would move up to 20 F, an exit row economy comfort seat thereby freeing up a non-exit row economy comfort seat for Baby Weekly Flyer.

The seat switch was completed with me in seat 20 F.

Weekly Flyer New Seat

Mrs Weekly Flyer was moved to seat 20 E (next to me), an exit row economy comfort seat. Baby Weekly Flyer was moved to seat 22 D, a non-exit economy comfort seat.

Delta Mrs Weekly Flyer and Baby New Seat

By giving up my economy comfort non-exit row seat, this allowed us to meet the goal of getting us all back in economy comfort without having to check in at the gate. But the next move would prove complex. We still had to get Baby Weekly Flyer (<1 year old) to sit next to one of us. But with all of us now in economy comfort, the next move should have been written in stone. Simply switch another economy comfort passenger(s) with us, so we can all sit together. But on the way to the airport, two of our original seats, 21 E and F opened up and I put Mrs Weekly Flyer and Baby Weekly Flyer into those seats.

Check Mate Or So I Thought

I thought this was check mate. We would go into the plane as seats 20 F, 21 E and 21 F. I mean, who wouldn’t want the economy comfort seat with some of the best legroom on the entire plane? Only one person, the Judge Elihu Smails (all honor to his name) look-a-like in seat 21 D.

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At the Gate, Delta did all they could to try and accommodate us back together. The gate agent paged Judge Smails (passenger 21 D) several times, but he never showed up. There were 3 other open economy comfort seats that they could move the Judge to. One was in the row behind him in the middle seat, and two were in the exit row, one aisle and one window, my seat. So he could have moved to an aisle or window seat just one row in front of him. Since he wouldn’t return the page, my next move would have to come on the plane. Once onboard, I quickly attached Baby Weekly Flyer’s seat into the window seat 21 F, got Mrs Weekly Flyer settled and then went to the head purser. I politely explained the situation, and very nicely asked for any assistance with requesting the gentleman in 21D relocate to another economy comfort seat. The Delta flight attendant couldn’t have been nicer or more reassuring.

Flight Attendant: It will all work out, I’ll help anyway I can

And she did just that.

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Enter Judge Smails. He looked almost exactly like the Caddyshack character and had that same smirk about his face. I approached him and politely asked:

Mr Weekly Flyer: Excuse me Judge. My wife and infant child are seated next to you. I have an open economy comfort seat just one row ahead of you, is there anything I can do to convince you to switch seats and let me sit next to my infant and wife? 

Judge Smails: [Looks to wife, then looks back] Yeah, we’ll have to see how this works out in a bit.

At this point, I wanted to tell him what a tremendous slouch he was for not taking an identical seat one row ahead and keeping a family from sitting next to each other, but good judgement overcame my initial thought and I resisted. Instead, I killed him with kindness and talked about the aircraft switch impact on everyone. He also had seats next to his wife that were changed and had booked several months ago as well. So I understood his situation but I still didn’t understand why he would want to sit next to an infant and a mother when the seat in front of his wife was open. Mrs Weekly Flyer and I used to always split our seats to the best ones available. An economy comfort exit row seat is so much better than a regular economy comfort seat next to an infant baby. There must have been more behind his reason to not want to switch seats. At this point we were about to leave the gate and the flight attendant got onto the loud speaker to really kill the Judge softly. She explained in front of everyone over the loud speaker:

Flight Attendant:We are very sorry for the equipment change and realize that many seats have been moved around. The only thing we can ask is that you consider the open seats and feel free to move around within your seating section. 

Pretty much everyone in the economy comfort section of the plane was giving this guy the evil eye. But he just stuck his head in a Seduko puzzle while his wife put on standard iPhone ear plugs. If they weren’t going to pay attention to each other, why sit next to each other? They later would wish they had won our noise canceling headset giveaway.

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Mr Smails didn’t budge. So I gave it one last shot by asking:

Mr Weekly Flyer: Sir Judge, is there anything I can do to convince you to switch into another economy comfort seat? It would mean a lot to my family and I.

Judge Smails: [Looks to his wife]

Wife Judge Smails: I want you right here.

So the Judge had a heart after all! It wasn’t him that was preventing the seat switch. He apologized and said he’d see what he can do once up in the air. I thought, “you should man up” this is your call, don’t be surprised if Baby Weekly Flyer goes the nuclear option. The nuclear option refers to an option where a baby cries making the entire cabin uncomfortable and no one wins. And the nuclear option is just what Baby Weekly Flyer did. Just as the plane was taking off, baby began to cry loudly in the car seat and then in Mrs Weekly Flyer’s arms. I couldn’t take the baby in my arms either because I was in an exit row. 20121229-110157.jpg

After about 10 minutes of this the Judge finally gave in and looked at Mrs Judge to say:

Judge Smails: I can’t take much more of this

Soon after, he quickly got up and moved to seat 20 C, the economy comfort exit row directly in front of Mrs Judge. I took the high road and walked over to shake his hand and thank him profusely. Once the drink service came around, I bought him a bottle of red wine and presented it to him like it was a bottle of 1999 Dom Perignon and he was in a First Class Suite onboard a Singapore A380. Finally the Weekly Flyers were reunited and Baby Weekly Flyer was able to rest comfortably next to both Mom and Dad. We settled Baby Weekly Flyer down and then put the car seat into lie-flat mode.

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Baby Weekly Flyer began to rest comfortably and fell asleep for about 2 hours. After baby woke up, we got our first experience with the inflight changing table. It isn’t glamorous traveling with kids. Something to note. Not every lavatory has a changing table so make sure and check them out before the flight or ask the flight attendant.

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Bottom Line

A last minute change to the Delta equipment operating our flight caused our 3 economy comfort seats to be moved to 2 coach seats and 1 economy comfort seat. Due to a series of complex chess moves I was able to get us all back into economy comfort for our Baby Weekly Flyer’s first long flight with Delta.

The lesson I learned here is to never split a family PNR and be patient if seat changes occur because everyone can be effected. If people have a big heart or realize it’s in their best interest, they’ll eventually switch seats to allow a family to sit next to each other. The flight attendant was right, it all worked out in the end. Baby Weekly Flyer’s first long flight wasn’t perfect, but Delta did everything they could to make our experience more enjoyable and we rolled with the punches as they were thrown. How did your baby’s first flight work out? Was it as smooth as ours or worse? Wonder what other issues we could have experienced.

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About the Author

About the author: The Weekly Flyer is writes about travel from a business traveler perspective. He travels the world every week accumulating points and miles along the way. Feel free to reach me at theweeklyflyer@gmail.com

{ 22 comments… add one }

  • MileageUpdate January 3, 2013, 6:06 am

    Nice touch w the Caddyshack references. I love it.

  • Gerard January 3, 2013, 6:27 am

    So you value you sitting next to your wife more than somebody else sitting next to his?

  • The Weekly Flyer January 3, 2013, 6:35 am

    Hi Mileage Update – Thanks, glad you liked it.

    Hi Gerard – That is not the point at all. I knew this comment would come up. The guy wouldn’t switch seats at all. There were 3 seats available in EC. Two in the same row even, he could have sat next to his wife if he was willing to discuss. Seats 20 C and 20 F were open. I’m sure 20 D and E would have moved over to E and F and he and Mrs could have taken 20 C and D. He just wasn’t willing to speak with us until the baby started to cry.

  • Janina January 3, 2013, 6:45 am

    I’m not sure it would have mattered if you’d been on the same PNR. We generally are and with an equipment change have still been split up, as in seating the 4 year old and 3 month old together and my husband and I in two single seats at the other end of the aircraft….it did work out in the end, but only after similarly protracted discussions with the airline and gate agents.

  • The Weekly Flyer January 3, 2013, 6:53 am

    One other point to reference. The judge in seat 21 D and Mrs Judge in 21 C were equally dissapointed by the outcome of their initial seats. They would have much preferred to be seated in their original seats 22 B and C economy comfort. But since they were across the aisle, they weren’t even talking. I overheard the Mrs tell the Judge “It’s not our problem, it’s the airline’s problem” but all along the airline was pleading with them to discuss making a change. They were simply not open to making a change prior to boarding, during boarding, not until after the baby started to cry did they seriously consider making a change.

  • Scott M. January 3, 2013, 8:13 am

    Some people are jerks. I once switched seats with a young girl on a flight from VCE-JFK. I was not at all happy about moving from an aisle seat to a middle seat in economy for an eight hour flight, but the girl’s family was split up. When her mother asked me to switch so the girl could sit across the aisle from her, I did what I had to do. It was the worst flight I have ever been on, comfort-wise, but it was necessary.

    I could have taken a bump on that flight, but why I didn’t is another story.

  • Rapid Travel Chai January 3, 2013, 8:23 am

    A tour de force post!

  • Abhi January 3, 2013, 8:27 am

    I recently sat next to a young man who happily volunteered to swap his 3F seat with 3B, where my wife was sitting, so that we both could sit together.

    I think it also helped that a beautiful young lady took the 3A seat. :)

  • DJ January 3, 2013, 9:07 am

    Our son’s flight was Delta JFK-AMS-BOM at 3 months age, yes 18+ hours in Business Class. I was able to join my wife on the first leg as I was going to Europe for Business. We created a little bed area on the floor so he was fine for our meal service but then it got colder so he wanted to be in our arms and the dark was scaring him. The 2nd leg my wife was on her own and was originally seated next to a male and asked the FA to move so she could nurse comfortably. The man switched with another lady, which seemed perfect until this lady became too drunk and when going to the restroom spilled wine all over my wife and son! She then was moved to another seat by the FA so the seat opened up next to her and my son slept the rest of the flight, strapped in the seat. Other passengers were also really friendly to her and offered to hold my son while she ate.

  • Heather @ passthedressing January 3, 2013, 10:11 am

    I dunno. I guess one would have to be there to understand exactly what was going on. I don’t think I would have switched away from my seat, even if I saw attractive open seats. Knowing my luck, as soon as I sat down, the flight attendant would scream at me to get to a middle seat at the back of the flight.

    Ideally, the flight attendant could have come over and shown any couple more attractive seats together and requested they switch to accommodate your three-across.

    Thoughts? Or maybe I am just not fully understanding the post.

  • Josh January 3, 2013, 10:24 am

    Wait until you’re on a plane without a changing table in the bathroom!

  • David January 3, 2013, 11:04 am

    There is never a good reason to keep parents away from their young children, especially an infant. We flew from SNA – GRU with a five month old, so I know how it can be. Would never hesitate to change for a family.

  • The Weekly Flyer January 3, 2013, 11:13 am

    Hi Heather – Yes, that was done too. The flight attendant sat on his arm rest and explained to him that he could switch seats to the aisle and his wife could be moved to sit next to him. He was dense and wasn’t having any part of the seat switching game.

    Hi Josh – That would be dreadful.

    Hi David – I concur, I’ve done it plenty of times pre-baby days. Have even more sympathy now.

  • Allen January 3, 2013, 11:37 am

    Lets be clear. You chose to travel with a young child and YOU chose to split your PNR.

    You were asking for a FAVOR from a fellow passenger and through out this post bemoan the fact that they weren’t initially willing to change seats and how you couldn’t understand their reasoning.

    Maybe people on the plane couldn’t understand your reasoning for deciding to put your child through a physically demanding and stressful situation so you could vacation together.

    The point being that when you are asking someone else for a favor just be thankful that you eventually got what you wanted and that stranger’s willingness to move solved a problem that YOU helped to create.

    It isn’t for you to need to understand their reasoning or complain in a blog that they weren’t eager enough to help you.

  • Allen January 3, 2013, 11:41 am

    “He was dense and wasn’t having any part of the seat switching game.”

    Wow…you got what you wanted in the end… What part of NO OBLIGATION TO MOVE do you not understand?!

    Look we all are sympathetic to a family being split up…and yes it would have been GREAT if he had been accommodating from the start. BUT you got what you wanted in the end…

  • Delta Points January 3, 2013, 1:17 pm

    @Allen – I don’t have kids. But I applaud PM&M for getting an EXTRA seat for his little one. Few do that and just go infant in arms.
    .
    Beyond that, travel is stress. Stress on little ones is not good for them! I would JUMP if I could help out a family like PM&M. He was offered the SAME seat for crying out loud!
    .
    Maybe I am the only one but I hope I do not have to fly next to you one day!

  • Segments January 3, 2013, 3:08 pm

    @Allen — +1.

    I appreciate that Weekly Flyer bought a seat for Baby. That said…

    I agree that Weekly Flyer presumes his value of a fair trade. I personally hate exit row seating – couldn’t care less about leg room, worry about narrow seats if the tray table is in armrest, and difficulty reaching my personal item (there isn’t always storage). And an exit row window seat is too cold!

    I’ll move so a child isn’t seated alone, but don’t understand the need for a entire family to sit together, especially when you initiated the problem by splitting the PNR.

  • The Weekly Flyer January 3, 2013, 3:25 pm

    Hi Segments – The Judge found value after hearing the baby cry.

    So your saying you’d rather sit next to a crying baby in a mother’s lap for 3.5 hours rather than an exit row?

    And I didn’t initiate the problem, I booked and reserved our seats together. Delta changed the equipment less than 18 hours before the flight and everyone in the plane got moved around.

  • Segments January 3, 2013, 5:07 pm

    I’m not saying I wouldn’t change seats… and I did express appreciation that you bought Baby a seat rather than flying infant in arms.

    I have in the past changed seats to permit families to sit together. I’ve also volunteered to sit next to large lap babies sharing a seat with their very pregnant mother because they encroached too much to make an adjacent gentleman comfortable.

    I usually enjoy PMM posts… this one just reeked DYKWIA.

    You knew splitting PNR might result in problems (as you indicated). You made multiple calls to the Platinum line including expressing frustration that wife/baby, no longer on your PNR, weren’t getting your Elite benefits to Econ Comfort seats. You vented that Judge didn’t understand your logic that these were identical seats or that your needs were greater than his (whether window exit is worse than aisle next to infant is debatable). In comment 3 you proceed to regale how you could re-configure multiple other pax to accomodate your wants while letting Judge sit next to his wife. Most FF understand that cascading seat swaps are a nightmare for multiple reasons.

    Showing a little more humility that you ultimately got what you wanted and understanding that you were asking for a favor would have gone a long way. Instead the post reeked rightous entitlement. For example, your comment about presenting the wine like a bottle of Dom came across as sarcastic rather than gracious appreciation.

  • The Weekly Flyer January 3, 2013, 5:20 pm

    Hi Segments – I hear you. Sorry you didn’t like the post’s tone. Thought it would be a helpful story to share, but I guess it could be taken as DYKWITIA from some. Thanks for reading.

  • Segments January 3, 2013, 5:49 pm

    :-)

    Can’t win them all…

  • Erica D. May 15, 2013, 2:14 pm

    It seems like this always happens to us on Delta and American Airlines. They always end up with equipment changes and we get split up no matter if we are on the same reservation or not. I have taken a liking to flying southwest for that very reason.

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