The Exit Row Seat No One Wanted — Reader Mistake Story

Dec 7, 2016

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One of the things I love most about being The Points Guy is getting to hear stories from readers about all the positive ways award travel has affected their lives. That being said, while I love hearing about your successes, I think there’s also a lot we can learn by sharing our mistakes, and I’m calling on readers to send in your most egregious and woeful travel failures.

From time to time I’ll pick one that catches my eye and post it for everybody to enjoy (and commiserate with). If you’re interested, email your story to, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Include details of exactly how your trip went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made it right. Please offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what precautions the rest of us can take to avoid the same pitfalls. If we publish your story, I’ll send you a gift to help jump-start your next adventure (or make up for any blunders from the last one).

Recently, I posted a story from Bunni, who ran into trouble when booking one trip on multiple tickets. Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Renee, who had a bad experience with a pre-flight seat change. Here’s what she had to say:

Photo by Emily McNutt
Emergency rows sometimes come with unexpected (and unwanted) extras. Photo by Emily McNutt.

I booked a flight from Cleveland to Singapore, the longest leg of which was about 15 hours. I couldn’t believe my good fortune when I checked in, because there was an exit row seat available and it didn’t require additional payment. I should’ve known something was up, but being a novice international traveler at the time, I thought it was just luck and good timing.

Well, the reason that seat was available had nothing to do with luck or timing. As I soon found out, it was up against the storage space for an enormous ladder that would drop down and inflate in case of an emergency. It stuck out directly in front of my seat so that my left leg (the one nearest the window) was just about locked in and unmovable. That made for a very long trip to Singapore.

It was a rookie mistake, but now I know to be leery when I see an exit row seat available. Next time I’ll make sure it’s not an exit row with a gigantic protrusion coming from the wall!

Renee’s story is a good reminder that not all seats are created equal. It’s reasonable to expect variation when comparing different airlines and aircraft — like the stark disparity between the best and worst business-class seats within Europe. However, even in a single class of service on a given plane, the level of comfort offered by each seat can be inconsistent. I’ve had my share of uncomfortable seat experiences over the years, and my solution is to make sure I know in advance what I’m getting into.

Fortunately, that information isn’t hard to find. One of my favorite tools for award travelers is SeatGuru, which shows you the seating configuration of each aircraft and warns you about deficiencies in a given seat (like a lack of storage space, proximity to lavatories, or perhaps an invasive piece of emergency equipment). Routehappy is another helpful service that makes it easy to compare the seating (and other) options available on different flights. Both sites are free to use, so check them out before you book your next trip.

For more tips on avoiding undesirable seats, check out these posts:

SeatGuru can warn you of undesirable seat features so you don’t get stuck in an uncomfortable situation. Image courtesy of SeatGuru.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Renee for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 Visa gift card to enjoy on her travels.

I’d like to do the same for you! If you’ve ever arrived at the airport without ID, booked a hotel room in the wrong city, missed out on a credit card sign-up bonus, or made another memorable travel or rewards mistake, I want to hear about it. Please indulge me and the whole TPG team by sending us your own stories (see instructions above). I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Featured image courtesy of Servet Yigit via Getty Images.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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