Q. My husband, son, daughter-in-law and I recently flew from Milwaukee to Ft. Lauderdale on Southwest. We paid the extra fee on each of our tickets to board early. We checked in exactly 24 hours in advance and received a boarding number of 32 & 33, our son and his wife got numbers 30 & 31. When we boarded, there was ONE woman in the middle of three seats with the row in front of her empty. When we tried to sit in the row, she said no, she was saving those seats – and put a small carry on suitcase in the middle seat in front of her so no one sat there. When general boarding started, some of the last people on the plane were her travel companions – they strolled in and got seats all together and didn’t have to pay a cent for it. We got seats together a few rows behind this person, so it wasn’t a big deal at the time. But the more I think about it the madder I get.  Is this a way to get around those fees? Should I have told a flight attendant?

A. This is not at all allowed. Yes, you should have contacted a flight attendant immediately. Or politely returned that small suitcase to her and sat down with your family. I’ve heard of this thing happening on cruise lines (people saving deck shares) and around resort pools, but never on a plane. Carnival Cruise Lines has begun cracking down on this practice, by placing stickers with the current time on chairs that been “claimed” by passengers with books, towels, etc. After 40 minutes, if the chaise is unoccupied, staff remove the items and leave a note where to claim them.

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