Airlines can’t even be nice without screwing up. My wife prefers window seats; I like the aisle. So, if we decide to sit next to each other, one of us suffers—which is the only way to describe a middle seat on an international flight. Generally, we try to sit in the same row, with my wife at the window, me at the aisle and possibly a stranger between us.
Retrospectively, it seems IcelandAir does not approve of this arrangement. When we tried to choose our seats in advance, the airline’s website automatically “upgraded” my aisle seat to a middle seat next to Laura. IcelandAir supports the preservation of the family and does not want to split couples. But, if we reserved seats in separate rows, the computer got the hint. So, one of us was to sit in row 18, the other in 19.
When we checked in at the IcelandAir desk in Helsinki, my wife and I confirmed our seats, telling the clerk that we were quite happy with what we had. I looked forward to a four-hour flight from Helsinki to Reykjavik with room for my legs. Of course, airlines are a cure for happiness, and my luck took a southward turn.
At the gate, the clerk printed slips of paper for my wife and me when scanning our boarding passes. Having noticed that we weren’t sitting together, the computer reshuffled the plane. My wife and I were moved to row 7, much further forward than rows 18 and 19. But, I knew immediately what this meant. I was relegated to a middle seat. I would lose my legroom.
The fucking Nordic oaf sitting in front of me felt the urge to recline, despite sitting in an exit row and having plenty of space in front of him. I responded by driving my knee into his back and shifting it frequently, causing him to look over his shoulder often … though failing to change his behavior. Meanwhile, the arrangement worked out for my wife. Laura still had a window, and there was no seat in front of her; she could stretch out her legs.
Of the many ways an airline could screw up, this is by far the most creative.