Airline Madness: The Final Four

Airline Madness is Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances. You can catch up on all of the previous tournament action here.

gadling airline madness tournament final four

After two weeks of voting – along with intense debate in the comments – we have reached the Final Four of Airline Madness. The second round continued the drama that has become the trademark of this tournament, as #13 seed Obese people who take up two seats pulled off another upset by crushing those crying babies (and their inattentive parents). Meanwhile, when it comes to your money, #6 seed Change fees/no free standby won an upset of its own, proving to be way more annoying than the lack of free food. Annoying passengers and Legroom showed why they’re the top two seeds of the tournament by advancing in dominant fashion. Now it’s time for you to vote on the Final Four to see who advances to the championship. We’re not wasting any time, so read on to cast your votes!

gadling airline madness annoying passengers obese people
#1 Annoying passengers vs. #13 Obese people who take up two seats

The tournament’s two most impressive performers finally battle. Annoying passengers come in all shapes, sizes and aromas. No matter which type you encounter (be it the chatty neighbor, the loud talker or the smelly traveler), they’re sure to ruin your flight. Meanwhile, obese people who take up two seats try to steal what you paid for. That’s your seat and no one should be able to annex part of your space.

Only one of these on-board menaces can advance to compete for the championship.
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gadling airline madness change fees standby legroom
#6 Change fees/no free standby vs. #2 Legroom

In our other Final Four match-up, two classic airline pet peeves square off. Switching flights at the airport used to be a breeze. Now? Get ready to pony up $100. And standby? Yeah, that will cost you as well. Once you get on the plane, however, that’s when legroom becomes an issue. Legroom isn’t just a problem for tall people. Virtually everyone feels cramped – if not completely claustrophobic – in planes because that seat in front of you is way too close for comfort (and your knees are practically in your chest).

Which classic annoyance will move on to the championship match?
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Final Four voting ends at 11:59PM EDT on Wednesday, March 28.

More Airline Madness:
Second round match-ups:
#1 Annoying Passengers vs. #9 People who get mad at people who recline their seats
#12 Inattentive parents of crying babies vs. #13 Obese people who take up two seats
#6 Change fees/no free standby vs. #3 Lack of free food/prices for food
#7 Rude airline staff vs. #2 Legroom
First round match-ups
#1 Annoying passengers vs. #16 Disgusting bathrooms
#2 Legroom vs. #15 Inefficient boarding procedures
#3 Lack of free food/prices for food vs. #14 Cold cabin/no blankets
#4 Baggage Fees vs. #13 Obese people who take up two seats
#5 Lack of overhead space vs. Inattentive parents of crying babies
#6 Change fees/no free standby vs. #11 Lack of personal entertainment/charging for entertainment
#7 Rude airline staff vs. #10 Having to turn off electronic devices during takeoff & landing
#8 People who recline their seats vs. #9 People who get mad at people who recline their seats
Hotel Madness: Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances

Catch up on all the Airline Madness here.

Airline Madness: Change fees vs. Lack of personal entertainment

Airline Madness is Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances. You can catch up on all of the previous tournament action here.

gadling airline madness change fees standby in-flight entertainment

Our next Airline Madness first round match-up features #6 Change fees/no free standby vs. #11 Lack of personal entertainment/charging for entertainment. There was a time when you could arrive at the airport early (perhaps your meetings wrapped up quickly or there was no traffic on the way to the airport) and you could simply switch to an earlier flight. Or, you could at least get on the standby list. Now? That will cost you $100. Meanwhile, in 2012, there are still airplanes that lack televisions in every seat-back, forcing us all to watch some horrible Owen Wilson romantic comedy on shared screens. Or, perhaps worse, we’re asked to shell out $7.99 just to watch anything other than the map channel (side note: the map channel is awesome). We’d sooner player charades with with the people in our row.

Get to know these two annoyances better and then vote for the worst below.#6 Change fees/no free standby
The airline has an earlier flight with available seats. You have a ticket for a later flight and are already there at the gate ready to go. Seems like a match made in heaven. A couple of key strokes, some small talk with the gate agent and you should be switched over to the earlier flight with time to spare at the bar. This all makes sense up until they ask you for your credit card. If you’re at the airport, ready to travel and they have the empty seats, why shouldn’t you just be able to switch to another flight for free? It was no problem 10 years ago!

#11 Lack of personal entertainment/charging for entertainment
With all the money that airlines have collected from us over the years, you’d think that they would update their planes once in a while. How are we still sharing screens that are tiny, antiquated and blocked by people in the aisles? And, when we do have our own screens, why do we have to pay to watch anything? We’re already getting ripped off by our cable companies at home. No one wants to overpay for television a second time!

Which airline peeve gets your blood boiling? Vote for the one that you think should advance to the second round and add your two cents in the comments!
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First round voting ends at 11:59PM EDT on Friday, March 16.

More Airline Madness:
#1 Annoying passengers vs. #16 Disgusting bathrooms
#2 Legroom vs. #15 Inefficient boarding procedures
#3 Lack of free food/prices for food vs. #14 Cold cabin/no blankets
#4 Baggage Fees vs. #13 Obese people who take up two seats
#5 Lack of overhead space vs. Inattentive parents of crying babies
#7 Rude airline staff vs. #10 Having to turn off electronic devices during takeoff & landing
#8 People who recline their seats vs. #9 People who get mad at people who recline their seats
Hotel Madness: Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances

Catch up on all the Airline Madness here.

Airline Madness: Gadling’s tournament of airline annoyances

gadling airline madness

It’s that time of year again! All around the country, people are filling out their brackets and arguing over match-ups. That’s right; it’s March Madness Airline Madness! Just like last year’s Hotel Madness, we’ve compiled a list of travel pet peeves. Only this time around the competition is for the title of Worst Airline Annoyance. Our selection committee vetted the pool of candidates and chose the 16 worst offenders. Now it’s time for you to vote. Over the next two days, all of the first round match-ups will be posted here on Gadling for you to weigh in. The winners will advance to the second round, then the Final Four and so on until we crown an Airline Madness champion.It’s going to be an exciting few weeks of debates, arguments and rants about cry babies, overhead space and baggage fees. We know you’ll have some opinions to share and we hope that you’ll speak up in the comments.

Below is a list of our first round match-ups that will be up for voting later today for the first four match-ups of the first round. The second half of the first round will be open for voting tomorrow, so keep checking back for all of the action! [Update: The first round has ended and voting is closed.]


#2 Legroom vs. #15 Inefficient boarding procedures



#3 Lack of free food/prices for food vs. #14 Cold cabin/no blankets


#4 Baggage fees vs. #13 Obese people who take up two seats


#5 Lack of overhead space vs. #12 Inattentive parents of crying babies


#6 Change fees/no free standby vs. #11 Lack of personal entertainment/charging for entertainment


#7 Rude airline staff vs. #10 Having to turn off electronic devices during takeoff & landing


#8 People who recline their seats vs. #9 People who get mad at people who recline their seats

Welcome to Airline Madness! It’s up to you to pick the champion (because everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy)!

Catch up on all the Airline Madness here.

Ask Gadling: How do I standby for an earlier flight?

It wasn’t too long ago that it was easy enough to walk up to the counter of an earlier departing flight to a destination of your choice and hitch a ride. The notion, at least back then, was that the empty space you saved on your next flight was insurance for the airline in case something went wrong – you were one less passenger that they had to deal with.

These days of a la carte pricing brought and end to that perk. Simply put, any benefit that a passenger might be able to reap was identified and squashed by the airlines, in this case, by means of a fee. That said, it’s still possible to stand by for an earlier flight, you just need to know the lay of the current land.

Lets start with the basics: in order to have a chance at standing by on an earlier flight, check to make sure that the routing and airline are identical. If you’re flying on American from Los Angeles to Seattle, for example, you can neither fly a two leg flight from LA-Portland-Seattle nor can you fly on the American Airlines codeshare operated by Alaska Airlines.

There also has to be space on the flight. Mind you, can still join the standby list on a full flight, but chances are low that you’re actually going to be awarded a ticket.

View more Ask Gadling: Travel Advice from an Expert or send your question to ask [at] gadling [dot] com.

Not sure how full the flight is? Check out seatcounter.com before you even leave home or work to see your chances of getting a seat. Or, give the airline a quick call and ask for “availability” on the flights prior to yours.

Second, you usually have to be willing to pay. This fee ranges from $50 on upwards and is only waived for some elites on some airlines. American Airlines and Delta, for example, will let elite passengers standby for free, while almost ALL elites on United have to pay (get with the program guys!). Southwest doesn’t charge anyone.

Of course you can always try to sweet talk your way out of this fee. The best way to do this is to analyze your later departing flight and try to reason with the gate agent about your itinerary. If the later flight is overbooked, for example, they may waive your standby fee in lieu of paying to bump a later passenger. If the later flight is delayed or canceled, the same may hold true. There’s also an outside chance that they can forget or take pity on you, so it doesn’t hurt to try to standby (and then balk when they try to charge you).

The key to the whole standby game, however, lies in empowered passengers knowing available routes and loads. To get a head start on this, do your savvy web research (seatcounter) or even call the airline on the way to the airport. Once educated, you have a bit of leverage for negotiating your way onto a flight.

[flickr image via Chloester]

New United Airlines rule change means no more free same-day travel changes

A new change at United Airlines can be summed up with “this sucks”. The change involves same-day flight changes. In the past, if a flight had open seats, you could change your ticket to a confirmed seat, without any fees. Additionally, you could often walk up to a ticketing desk, and have yourself added to the unconfirmed standby list for free – and if a seat opened up, you’d be on that earlier flight without any fees.

As of April 10, United Airlines wants $75 for a confirmed flight change, or $50 for an unconfirmed standby request. Thankfully, the $50 fee only applies if you actually get a seat. Some other exemptions are made for United Global Services and 1K elite members, and members traveling on standard award tickets and full fare tickets. The change is just another in a long list of services that used to be free. This one is especially confusing, because in many cases, moving passengers around can actually benefit the airline, by moving people off otherwise overbooked flights onto flights with empty seats. Since there are no apparent savings, the measure is just another way for the airline to make money off you.

George Hobica over at Airfarewatchdog has put together an updated chart with the new changes, which helps prepare yourself for the shock of having to hand over hard earned cash to your airline. You can learn more about the changes over at United.com.