Notes from the future
The picture at far left is the view forward from row 11 on this evening's 6:50 United flight from Chicago to GSO (I missed my original connection). The picture next to it is the view to the rear of row 11. (Click images to enlarge)
What's going on? An industry that has forgotten about customer service.
Almost nobody opted to pay $30 bucks extra to sit in "economy plus," which promises a few inches of extra legroom. When it became clear that the flight would be packed six across from row 11 back while row after row sat empty in the front, people asked if they could move up. The flight attendants said no, you have to pay for those seats. Not very customer-friendly or situationally aware, but comprehensible.
So a guy asks if he could pay on the spot. Nope. People were laughing at the United's cluelessness, but it wasn't very friendly laughter.
Salable When the drink cart came by I bought myself $5 worth of stress relief and asked the flight attendant (politely) why she could sell me a drink but not a seat. She looked at me like I had two heads and said they are in no way set up to take reservations, you have to do that with a service representative.
I started to say I didn't want a reservation, I wanted to hand her $30 and move up one freaking row, but it felt like I was on the phone with Bangalore and couldn't get a supervisor, so I just shut up and drank.
There are a thousand things wrong with the airline industry. None of them cannot be fixed by letting them all fail and start over. No exclusivity at hubs allowed. Competition reigns supreme. No absurd union rules about flight time etc. Departure has to mean wheels off the ground not pulling away from the gate and then immediately moving back to let the crew off to eat dinner. (Many times the "mechanical problems" cited for being late are not that at all. Union rules require that flight crews have an hour to eat a meal after X hours of flight time. Frequently, they'll board the passengers, pull away from the gate thereby meeting FAA requirements for "on time" and then move back to the gate. You sit and wait while the crew goes for dinner. If you're lucky they don't take the full hour. Oh, and a swing crew will babysit you while you wait.)