Q: I always fly Southwest Air into St. Louis. I always go online for my boarding pass exactly 24 hours in advance so I can be in an early boarding group. When I board and spot an empty seat I ask the person sitting next to it if I may have it. Invariably, the person is saving a seat for someone boarding in a much later group. This irritates me greatly. Could the Southwest announcers at the gate address this before all passengers board? I'm sure this is a frequent issue.
A: Well, I can't speak for Southwest, but in my opinion, if you're going to have a unique boarding procedure like Southwest does, you ought to enforce it. That means no seat-saving. It's not fair. An announcement before boarding or a reminder from the flight attendant as soon as passengers step on the plane certainly couldn't hurt.
Q: The first time I flew with a child in tow I tried to analyze why a child (mine, normally well-behaved) would do something so out of character as to kick someone else's seat. I noticed the following:
1) Airline seats are not designed with children in mind, so a child's legs often hang at an odd angle or stick straight out, beautifully aimed at the seat in front of her.
2) A child's sneakers are often heavy, relative to the owner's size, and this compounds the discomfort of having his legs hanging at an odd angle. The discomfort often causes the child to shift more in the seat, trying to get comfortable.
3) Any time the child wants to shift in the seat, she naturally uses her legs. However, her legs are not braced against a floor -- they're hanging in space. This results in her kicking the seat in front of her.
4) Children's shoes are designed to protect the foot. Therefore, the child feels far less impact than the person sitting in front of him.
I found that removing the child's shoes at the start of the flight alleviated a lot of everyone's discomfort. It won't stop the kicking (often accidental) altogether, but it will make the child more aware of it and less likely to do it out of sheer boredom.
A: I think all of those are good points. While parents are, of course, still responsible for making sure their kids aren't annoying other passengers, it's important for those other passengers to remember that kids are probably not kicking your seat for the specific purpose of annoying you. They don't fit well in the seats. Also, I love the idea of removing the child's shoes for the flight. Those little sneakers are chunky!
Email travel-etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at firstname.lastname@example.org.