Inspired by an actual Southwest flight from Cabo San Lucas to Chicago.
If you’re not familiar with Southwest Airlines, it’s open boarding- which means there are no assigned seats, which means it could probably be its own sport in the Olympics. And undoubtedly, my mother Sandy will win the first gold someday. She would throw me in front of a bus to get an A seat and I wouldn’t blame her for it because I’d do the same. She raised me, after all.
To clarify, an A seat = one of the first to board. B seats= second group, right after the family boarders, woof (no offense, families.) And C boarding= you’re shit out of luck. To get an A you can pay more (of course) or try your luck at checking in exactly 24 hours before a flight, but this is tricky because the person who runs the Southwest app likes to screw with you by throwing a bunch of unexpected errors your way just to get their kicks, I assume. But every once in awhile (or when the plane is pretty empty) you get rewarded for your punctuality and get a magic A 16; the first number after the business boarders. What a treat!
There’s a certain pretension that fills the air when the ‘A’s line up to board. They flaunt their numbers with each other, A1-A60, as they take their place in line, tossing pitiful looks at the Bs and Cs (gasp) who are hanging in the background like a bunch of dopes. The plane is their oyster and they know it. How lucky for them.
Unless… it’s this one magical day when for some reason the heavens opened up and smiled on the C group and decided to give the most chill group of all, a little leg up. This is that story.
Once upon a time at the Cabo airport…
I’m always anxious at the airport but today is even worse because I have a C boarding pass and I won’t deny I’m upset about it. Sandy taught me better. But it’s my own fault because I forgot to check in… perhaps my wifi wasn’t working, or perhaps I was having beers on the beach. Doesn’t matter. What matters is that I always carry on and now I’m sure there won’t be any bin space and even if there is I’ll probably have to crawl in it because this plane looks full and I am screwed.
The A group lines up and everyone seems particularly pushy today, the flight is already 30 minutes late. I have to keep my eyes focused on my feet or I’ll go insane seeing that many people board before me. Forget my bin seat, I’ll be lucky to get a seat in the bathroom. I hear a few of the ‘A’s squabble about their place in line, one person is certain the other should be one spot behind them, and I’m reminded how the airport shows our true colors. We become a bunch of preschoolers, anxious to be first in line so we can choose the coveted seats and be the first to get our little juice and cracker snack. The A group is traditionally the most pushy, which makes sense because they’re obviously the people who care most about getting on the plane first.
The family boarders line up next and I lose count at 97 strollers. I think the Duggars were having a family reunion at Cabo Wabo. Next up it’s the Bs, the group that wants to be A, but are also happy not to be C.
The C group waits for what feels like hours. We’re the forgotten ones. A woman tosses her soda in the trash next to me and it splashes back in my face and I barely wipe it away.
When it’s finally our time to line up I jump to my feet like I usually do, ready to throw some bows to get my correct spot, but I quickly notice I’m the only one with an aggressive fury in my eyes. Everyone else is… chill? How interesting.
After my boarding pass is scanned and I start to make my trek to the plane I feel a gust of hot air and I realize something different is going on.
Due to construction, we have to be shuttled to our plane, and then will board directly from the outside. I don’t fully understand what a twist of fate this is until I board the shuttle and see the ‘B’s in the middle, and the ‘A’s in the back. They were first to get on, after all.
We’re on the shuttle for less than twenty seconds when it all starts to click. For everyone. The Cs are closest to the door and therefore will be the first off. The A group will be the last. And then all hell breaks loose from the back. “I PAID FOR AN UPGRADE,” echoes throughout the entire bus. A man and woman wearing coordinating Vineyard Vines outfits try to push their way to front but the driver tells them to stay seated.
The Cs exchange curious glances. What do we do? The A inside of me is bursting with joy, we say screw em and get off, I want to scream. This is our chance! But I’ve learned Cs don’t do this so I bite my tongue, interested to watch this human test play out.
The bus comes to a stop and the ‘A’s are trampling children and elderly to get to the front while the Cs are waiting to be told it’s okay to get off.
“Let’s go,” says a man in an official orange vest directing people on the terminal, “board to the left, we’re already delayed.” And so we get off and climb the stairs to the plane.
“It’s open seating,” announces the flight attendant, “take whichever seat you’d like.”
The eyes of every C passenger light up with joy and intrigue. There are window seats and aisle seats and exit rows, oh my! Who’s going to speak up first? I know the right thing to do, but I also know I really want to do the wrong thing. And is it wrong? It’s OPEN SEATING. There’s no such thing as first class on Southwest.
Somewhere off in the distance Vineyard Vines shrieks, “They are Cs!!! The Cs are boarding first! Someone must stop this madness!”
The flight attendant looks from us to them, the priority boarders are already on as they came over in a different shuttle to accommodate wheelchairs, the ‘A’s outside are foaming at the mouth by this point and are in full mob mentality. Some are climbing on the wings in an attempt to get on. The flight attendant takes a deep breath of defiance, “Well it is open seating– for everyone. So go ahead, we just need to get this plane boarded,” and then she grabs an oxygen mask and prepares for what’s to come.
And in that moment we the Cs had a choice. We could go to the back, to the section we were most likely doomed to be in, which was the morally right thing to do. Or we could milk this moment for all its worth and sit wherever we damn well please.
With our heads held up high we walked to back. We weren’t going to stoop to level of the people so crazily obsessed with sitting near the front.
Jk jk. We definitely milked it. We didn’t take the first rows, but the ones right after. You heard the flight attendant, we just needed to board! And then we waited and watched for the A group to come on…
Hell hath no fury like a Southwest passenger with an A boarding pass forced to sit in a middle seat.
“I’m writing an email!” “Southwest will be hearing from me!” “This is NOT okay.” “Do you understand what has happened here? DO YOU?”
All the while the C folk exchanged tiny glances of triumph toward one another. The drinks tasted colder and the tiny bags of pretzels were just a little bit fresher. What a day to be alive. Should we have gone to the back? Yeah, sure, whatever. But every underdog deserves its day. And it’s OPEN SEATING. *until the day this happens to me when I have an A and then it’s most definitely not okay.*
Regardless, an important lesson was learned by all on that memorable flight. And it’s never, under any circumstance, be the first to board an airport shuttle. Always stay near the doors.
God bless Southwest, the airline that keeps us competitive, on our toes, and glued to our phone 24 hours before a flight.