12B or not 12B, that is the question

I spent an unexpectedly long time getting up to Shetland today. 

The View from Seat 11A

The day started so early that I did wonder if it really qualified as being late yesterday, but never the less I managed to catch my on-time flight from Heathrow to Aberdeen.  There I was met with the unwelcomed news that there were problems with the flights to Shetland, and that the flight I was booked on was certainly going to be late. 

Getting up to Shetland does have the potential to be disrupted.  If you go by boat you might get strong winds or wild seas delaying your travel. If you go by plane you might get messed around by snow or by fog, and its fair to say that other circumstances can intervene too.  I’ve had flights disrupted by planes going ‘technical’ (which I think is short-hand for breaking down) and I’ve been booked on to a flight that didn’t exist (ah, the joys of airline code-shares).

Today the problem was fog.  By the time I got to Aberdeen the first flight up the Shetland had already been cancelled and everyone from there rebooked onto the flight I was due to take.  This flight got gradually later and later and eventually the plug was pulled on that too.  So the passengers from both flights were encouraged to go back landside to talk to the ticketing agents about ‘alternative’ plans (options offered included giving up, getting a later flight or getting the overnight ferry).

I opted for the later flight option, and was pleased to be told that there was a seat on the next flight north (a couple of hours later), so I was rebooked onto that, then pointed to the check-in desk where I was asked if I was happy to have a back row seat on the flight.  I (with hindsight, foolishly) said that as long as it was inside the plane I was happy. So I wandered back through security clutching my boarding pass for seat 12B (the planes up to Shetland aren't very big).

I joined the group of 30-something passengers waiting at the gate to get onto the plane.  After a while I heard my name being called (“… make themselves known to the gate staff”) - occasionally on big flights I’ve had this when I’ve had to be re-seated or very occasionally upgraded (there is nowhere to be upgraded to on a Shetland flight). “I’m sorry sir, we’ve sold 34 seats on this flight and there are only 33 seats on the plane, and you were last… would you be prepared to go on the next flight”.  I supposed that I would be prepared, and as the person at the gate started to make this happen, the last remaining seat on the next flight disappeared too.  “I’m sorry sir, we’re going to have to rebook you onto the 5PM flight” (to put this into context, I’d been in Aberdeen in time to connect onto a 9:30 AM flight).  I indicated that I wasn’t very happy!

The best compromise was that I should hang around at the gate until all the other passengers got on and “we’ll see if there is a space”.  To everyone’s surprise “Mr White”, despite checking in several hours earlier, didn’t show up for the flight so suddenly they had 33 passengers and 33 seats.

So at the last minute, I was walked out to the plane and showed my boarding pass - “Hmm, there isn’t a 12B on these planes anymore, sit in 11A, it’s the only one left”.  Seems that when Loganair refurbished some of their little Saab 340s they swapped some of them from 34 seats to 33 seats - where once upon a time all the planes had 10 rows of 3 plus 4 seats at the back, now they have 11 rows of 3 - each row with an A, a C and a D seat.  The elusive seat 12B has become a rare commodity, so if ever you’re offered seat 12B on a flight to Shetland just ask if it really exists.

They might not be able to count seats, but I'd never criticise Loganair's in-flight catering.

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