Contest: Tips for overcoming a bad plane seat. Win a “Rough Guide”!

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Mer in seat

We’ve all been there–the nightmare seat on the plane. The airline staff knows the seat is terrible when they check you in, but they still assign it to you with a straight face. It’s a seat that nobody in their right mind would trade you for. That seat that will have to be endured. But how?

Earlier this week when Pete and Mere (pictured above) were flying from Paris to New York, they landed a couple of doozies. Their seats, ominously located in aisle 13, were situated up against the bathroom wall, preventing them from reclining. Rather comically, the row was windowless, offering a view of a beige wall for eight hours. Across the aisle, a fellow traveler became intoxicated and fell asleep, drooling on his chest, and upon the large Casio keyboard he brought along.

These Cheapos experienced a flash of panic as they contemplated how to deal with this unpleasant intercontinental scenario. Their solution: distraction. They whipped out one laptop and started going through the photos they had downloaded from the trip. When the battery died, they brought out their other laptop and did the same thing. This distraction, a reminder of the more pleasant aspects of travel, satisfied several hours and the rest of the time was easily filled with eating, drinking, trying to nap, and making trips to the bathroom.

The Contest: Your nightmare seats and solutions

Have you ever had a bad seat? A reeaaally bad seat? Tell us about it below. But also tell us about how you overcame the seat and made it through the trip. Did you do some airplane yoga? Get a few drinks? Make a new friend? Lock yourself in the bathroom?

Share your story and your advice. We’ll reward the best advice for overcoming a bad seat with a copy of the newly published “Rough Guide to Europe on a Budget,” out this month. The 1,280 page book is a budget traveler’s Bible, offering euro-saving advice for 34 countries in Europe, including top sights, cheap eats, and nightlife.

The contest deadline is Wednesday, April 2, 2008. (U.S. mailing addresses only and void where prohibited. We will be in contact with the winner by email to ask for their mailing address.)

Go ahead and post your story below!

About the author

Pete Meyers

About the author: An Ohio native, Pete Meyers was bred on family road trips and the Beach Boys. When not working at EuroCheapo HQ in NYC, Pete likes to be found eating bouillabaisse anywhere in the south of France.

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9 thoughts on “Contest: Tips for overcoming a bad plane seat. Win a “Rough Guide”!”

  1. I volunteered my bitsy bahasa Indonesian to plead with the ticketing people behind the wooden counter on Sumbawa on behalf on a British surfer who had been booted off the ageing plane as it was characteristically overbooked. With only 10minutes to catch my crate going in the opposite direction, I approached the cabin crew on the tarmac. The British backpacker was frantic as his visa ran out on the day he was due to catch his return light to England from Bali. A wall of shrugging shoulders and downward glances cemented the poor guys fate. Shrugging myself and running, eyes downward, toward my plane, I was lucky to get the last seat before I suffered the same fate. The last, literally! The last seat in the tail of the plane which received the seat and passenger in front as we took off. The mechanic who had ‘repaired’ the leakage in the engine on Sumbawa sat next to me and told me how all was okay and that his job was good because he got to relax on the planes he fixed. He didn’t do seats. Flying the next leg was an ingenious measure to ensure the job was done well. He continued to inform me that he only had to get up if something serious happened. Right on cue, the guy was summonsed to the front of the crate. I swapped seats so that I wouldn’t have to bench-press the forward passenger in the likelihood that the crate was on the way down. And here I am today, posting to this site.

  2. Henrietta Stackpole

    I was on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with my parents. A man (I named him Boozehound) was seated behind me and made it his sole mission during the flight to score free booze. He was eventually cut off by the flight staff, and then he and his wife (Ms. Boozehound) kept sneaking about trying to steal the little bottles of wine. Boozehound became more spaztic as he grew more intoxicated and he jumped in and out of his seat every couple of minutes. Whenever he returned to his seat, he would grap the back of my chair for balance and yank it back and release it, which would bounce my head up and smack it against the seat back. After this happened a dozen times, I alerted my parents and told them to watch. The next time he yanked on my seat back, I pressed the release button to recline the seat and as he grabbed the seat it flew backwards to full recline. We about peed ourselves laughing, but Boozehound didn’t notice and we repeated this game multiple times in the remainder of the flight. The anticipation and the giggles made the time fly (pun intended). I pretended to pose for a picture so my parents could secretly photograph Boozehound instead, so I have a memorial of my charming flying companion.

  3. A group of friends and I were visiting another friend in Galway, Ireland, but since we all booked our airline tickets separately, we were dispersed throughout the plane. I settled into my window seat at JFK, and a clearly intoxicated woman wearing only a gigantic U.S.A. t-shirt and leggings (in winter, and before leggings came back) sat next to me and promptly asked if the plane had left yet. It hadn’t even been fully boarded yet. She began scribbling in a notebook and telling me about her reason for going to Ireland, and when I would respond, she would yell back that she didn’t want to talk to me. Although she had the aisle seat, she asked me to get her a pepsi to mix with her whiskey. The flight attendant caught on right away and invented an excuse for me to change seats; several hours later, somewhere over the Atlantic, she was found running through the aisles and was threatened with incarceration upon landing.

  4. The first time I ever flew alone I was 11 years old and was flying to Poland from Newark International Airport. Travels into Poland are quite popular during the summer as many choose to go and visit family, so my flight was packed to the brim. When I walked onto the plane I noticed many parents covertly stealing blankets and pillows for their children from the seats of other people. This left me without anything for the night and I sat huddled the whole night trying to stay warm. The “nice” lady who sat next to me didn’t even offer to help or give up hers. The flight attendants said they couldn’t do anything either and left me to fend for myself and take care of the younger lone travelers.

    If that wasn’t bad enough, my seat was at the very back of the plane where the noise from that round thing under the wing of the plane kept me up all night.

    What did I do? I stayed up and hesitantly watched the in-flight movie, Mouse Hunt until I drifted off for an hour or two. It definitely wasn’t the greatest way to pass the time.

    For the average person this probably doesn’t sound that traumatic, but for a child it left a scar!

  5. Many years ago (30+) on a flight from Sydney Australia to London I was in the middle seat beteeen very large friendly gentlemen who obviously loved garlic and were averse to showering more than once a week and brushing their teeth. I talked to the stewardess, but due to a full flight I could not move. So, I told a fib about being pregnant and being nauseous all the time and at least managed to trade seats with one of them for the aisle seat. The rest of the time I didn’t look in their direction without holding my breath. Luckily for me they got off in Singapore.

  6. I’m an ethnographer at heart, so I pretty much enjoy talking with my seatmates if they’re game. I think people’s lives are fascinating, and anyone traveling across the world generally has a good story to tell. Any flight attendant who’s willing also has a lot of funny experiences and insider insights to share.

    One flight I sat next to a man who chewed tobacco and spit into a bottle every five seconds for the entire nine hours.

    Another flight I was seated next to a Ukrainian woman who didn’t speak a word of English. Wasn’t she lucky I spoke Russian so I could help her fill out all her immigration forms! Couldn’t I order a vodka from the flight attendant to calm her nerves (it was her first time flying)? Couldn’t I order another to settle her upset stomach? (Thankfully, this story ends here.)

    Any flight these days that has a personal video screen, I have no problem finding three movies to entertain myself. I usually have magazines I’m trying to finish, a guidebook I’m scrambling to read or mind puzzles for those long waits on the runway. And there’s always the iPod to drown out the sound of your neighbor’s . . . spit.

    As for not getting shafted in the seat lottery, it pays to put the day when seats for your flight open up on your calendar (usually 90 days out) and go pick yours immediately! Use Time and Date’s Date Calculator to quickly figure out which day that is. If you don’t fly often enough to know what’s what on the plane you’ll be flying on, use Seat Guru as your guide.

  7. You people are wimps! Computers. Fun TV shows. video games. Please. In the sweltering summer of 1984, my mother, seven year old brother and I sat in the smoking section of a flight from St. Louis, Missouri to Frankfurt. I was sitting inbetween a fat lady with bags of food and my mom. A cargo door broke, so we had to sit on the runway for hours while it was being fixed, watching the sun set as potato chip crumbs flew out of my neighbors mouth. Too bad we didn’t have any modern conveniences because that might have been a good way to convince my mother my brother shouldn’t have laid across our laps to take a nap when he got tired. ipods? Get a real problem, people.

  8. If you have an iPod, I recommend filling it with lots of fun tv shows or music. Stick the headphones in and relax. Make sure to charge the battery before you head out.

  9. Seriously, I always bring sleeping pills (Simply Sleep from Tylenol is great – not that I want to be ad or anything, but they work).

    Take two and you’ll wake up at least a few hours later and have survived the worst of it.


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