What if dreams could come true, and there were a way to increase your chances of guaranteeing an entire row to yourself on your next flight? Brace yourself.
Gilbert Ott from travel blog God Save the Points recently shared information with readers about ExpertFlyer, an app that tracks airlines’ seating charts in real time, giving travelers the ability to change their seats as space opens up.
Plenty of airlines allow you to pick your seat when you purchase your ticket, but ExpertFlyer monitors the available seats between the time when you book and when you fly. So, if a window or aisle seat becomes available, you can swap it by calling the airline or, if you’re at the airport, asking at the gate.
This gives you a competitive advantage over other flyers who are also lobbying for better seats by asking gate agents. “The app does that for you,” Ott says. “Once check-in has begun, the app may continue to work and show a live seating chart. If it does, everything is great and easy. You just wait people out and then ask for a seat wherever you see a whole row, or at least an empty seat.”
Ott told HuffPost that the system is not foolproof, and some airlines now “try to black out their seating map once check-in has begun.” That’s where, he said, you come in.
“The app helps you get the best seat possible before check-in, but then it’s up to you to politely ask at the desk, after everyone has checked in, if there are any seats without someone next to you, or ideally an entire row,” he said. “It’s completely possible though, that ExpertFlyer, or even just the airline’s mobile app will work all the way through to boarding. Some airlines even let you create a new mobile boarding pass in their app.”
But Ott uses the information pulled from the seating charts to inform his move at the gate either way, whether it's finding out if an upgrade is available (“the app lets you know if seats for upgrade using points or certificates are available,” he said) or leveraging with the airline staff.
“If I had a cheap/economy ticket, and a snooty agent wants to tell me that that ticket is sold out on every other flight, I can quite literally prove them wrong, or more politely, point them to the specific fare class and flight number when I’ve found it still available,” he said. “The reactions, oh my...”
ExpertFlyer offers a paid subscription option: $4.99 per month for basic service and $9.99 for premium, both which allow users to track multiple flights at a time (ideal for frequent fliers) with the more expensive version offering even more alerts. But if you’re only using it for occasional travel, the free service should suffice.
One lingering question: Does a traveler look suspicious to the airline if he or she is constantly changing his or her seat? Ott said, “Not at all.”
“Airlines know they’ve made life complicated,” he said. “It’s entirely understandable to want an entire row, and if you’re polite and ask nicely, you might just get one.”
Talk about friendlier skies. Head to ExpertFlyer to learn more.