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The Best Of Hong Kong
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By Kate Springer | October 3rd, 2015

A travel tell-all by Kate Springer.

Ever since moving to Hong Kong four years ago, I have been regularly taking weekend hops about twice a month for work — yeah, I know, great job, right? While I have come to expect budget airlines to nickel and dime me on short flights, I expect more when it comes to long-hauls.

Cathay is my go-to, but if the prices are sky-high then I opt for American Airlines since it’s also part of Asia Miles and I enjoy collecting miles as much as the next chump. But as much as I value my frequent flyer points, I value honesty more.

And that’s why I won’t be flying American Airlines again anytime soon. Long story short: The airline duped me into thinking I had to pay to reserve a seat online on a recent trip to the US.

Long story long: a couple years ago the airline started charging passengers who wanted to reserve “preferred seats”. Or in other words, almost every seat on the plane — front, leg room, bulkhead, aisles, windows — except the middle.

So if you want to pre-select a seat that’s not the middle, then you’re going to have to pay for the privilege. Is it shitty? Yep, but what’s worse is the airline seems to be messing with the online seating chart to make the plane appear full, ostensibly creating a fear of shortage.

When I logged on to reserve a seat, my Hong Kong-Dallas flight looked completely packed aside from a dozen or so middle seats and a half dozen aisles that go for an extra US$65. The possibility of a jam-packed flight filled me with anxiety: Will I get bumped? Will I get to sit with my partner? Am I going to be sandwiched between mister potato chips and little miss-has-to-pee-every-two-seconds?

But when I got on the plane — guess what? It was EMPTY. Literally. Every single aisle seat was full (so multiply by US$65 a pop!) and all of the middle seats were vacant. That tells me that pretty much everyone on the plane was under the same impression: that it was gonna be a full flight and they had better pay the damn fee to reserve a seat.

It’s not exactly news that airlines are getting stingier when it comes to charges, but this is not just cheap — it’s an obvious sign that American Airlines doesn’t give a flying fuck about its passengers.

Have you had the same experience? What do you think about airlines charging for seating? Tell me in the comments below or find me on Twitter @katespringer, #theloophk.