Air Tran Boarding and Zone System Kind Of Sucks


As I’m writing this, I’m now in San Francisco. I took a flight yesterday out of PHL to Atlanta, and then from Atlanta to SFO. And I decided to book with Air Tran because they had the cheapest flights. When I booked my tickets, I did not block a seat for myself. I decided that I was going to do that when I checked in online. Since my flight was at 2pm EST, I figured I would be “awake” and be at the computer and be the first one to check in online.

After a few early attempts when I was told I could not check in yet, I finally managed to proceed with the online procedure. On my first leg, I chose seat 11D which was an aisle seat and required no additional payment. I figured I could tolerate being cramped for 2 hours. I upgraded to a first class seat (seat 2D) for $129 on the second leg to SFO (which was a 5 hour flight). After I printed my tickets, I realized that I was assigned Zone 8 for the first leg and Zone 1 for the second leg since I was sitting in first class.

Being in zone 8, I was one of the last to board though I was sitting just 2 seats behind the first class seats. I did not know then, but later found out that Air Tran gets the passengers in the last rows to board first (after the first class folks board) to fill up the back, followed by those that sit in the middle and finally by those who sit in front. The problem I had was that by the time I board, there were no more places for my carry on luggage! Worse still, I had to go all the way to row 22 before I found any space. Once I got back to my seat, the person sitting in the middle of my row and no more space to put her carry on. She had to check in her bag (free of charge off course). She later told me that the attendant was rude to her. She wanted to write her name on her carry on, but was told not to do so because they were in “a hurry”! She did it anyway. When she got back to her seat, she was on the phone bitching and moaning about it to someone on her cell phone! The flight stewardess later apologized for the attendant’s rude behavior.

So when the plane landed, I was the first to get up from row 11 and went all the way back to row 22 to get my carry on. Then as everyone walked out, I realized that there were carry on’s in the cabin above row 14, 15 and 16 even though the folks have left the plane. That can only mean folks sitting behind put their carry on in the cabin which they are not supposed to. Anyway, I was pissed off with the whole episode. Yes, I did not pay the extra $10 for early boarding. And though the system of getting folks in the back row to board first made sense, somehow, I was left frustrated with this. I mean, a person sitting in row 11 should never have to put their bags in row 22?

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