Day 860 and Get What You Pay For

I flew a new airline on a transcontinental overnight. The airline is called Condor. The business class offering from Seattle to Frankfurt was very reasonably priced so when my husband said “let’s do this one,” I didn’t question it at all. He knows what he’s doing.

Perhaps I should have asked more questions. When I arrived at the check-in counter, I was surprised to learn that there was no assigned seating. You wait to be assigned at the gate and it is done first come first serve even in business class.

I wasn’t pleased with that situation at all, as I had to bring several medications with me including an expensive refrigerated IL-17 inhibitor. The gate agent told me my carry on was too heavy (it was 10kg) and instructed me to unpack as much as I could into my checked bag or I’d be forced to check the carry on as well. I stripped my carry-on to just medications and basic clothing, losing most of my electronics and work gear in the process.

At the TSA Pre-Check security line the guard tells me she has to throw out “my water bottle” as it’s had too much liquid. I do my best to explain that it’s actually a frozen ice pack inside a bottle meant to keep my injections cold for 24 hours without refrigeration and has perhaps melted a bit in transit. Thankfully she let me through once I pulled out the medicine.

Once I got to the gate I made a second attempt to secure an assigned seat. I got in a long line at least ten people deep. As I was in line it extended to well over 30. The area was packed with families ranging from elderly grandparents to anxious babies.

The gate agent said if I was at the front of waiting line I’d be more likely to get assigned a better seat but she couldn’t assign me one. This meant it was more likely my bag wouldn’t get gate checked. But I’d have to wait for them to call me for my assignment which happens during boarding. Weird.

I didn’t have it in me to fight for a seat and stand in a line for two hours so I kept asking how can I get an assigned seat? Are there any options to get a seat and priority boarding?

I’d assumed a business class product default came with them. But then again I’ve never been asked to repack my entire suitcase to overstuff my checked bag so my carry on could get under 8kg either

I’m glad I label everything when I pack and keep every category of item in separate packing cubes. My 3 bag cascade system for avoiding losing crucial items to gate checking and bad seating assignments came in handy. The effort was not wasted.

At the check-in area before security, the agent mentioned something about upgrading to Prime which was $300 and that was the only set of assigned seats the airline does. I was too confused to pull the trigger on buying it before I cleared security I thought surely the gate agent will find another way to get me an assigned seat. Nope! The only assigned seats are the prime ones. So feeling defeated and confused I paid up.

This long jet lagged story does have a happy ending though. Despite the confusion and chaos of having no assigned seating for business class, once I paid for Prime boarding the actual seat ended up being great.

My seatmate was an extremely cool and very stylish woman who I ended up bonding with over the length of the flight. She’d had a similar experience to me being confused by the lack of seat assignments and also paid up. We even exchanged phone numbers. So the $300 was worth it to meet her. Hi Fatima!

But if an airline doesn’t assign you seats or guarantee your priority boarding with a business class product I think maybe you need to consider another name for the product. Like international gladiator style flat lay perhaps. And maybe next flight I’ll fight it out. But this time I’m glad I paid up.