The picture at far left is the view forward from row 11 on this evening's 6:50 United flight from Chicago to GSO (I missed my original connection). The picture next to it is the view to the rear of row 11. (Click images to enlarge)
What's going on? An industry that has forgotten about customer service.
Almost nobody opted to pay $30 bucks extra to sit in "economy plus," which promises a few inches of extra legroom. When it became clear that the flight would be packed six across from row 11 back while row after row sat empty in the front, people asked if they could move up. The flight attendants said no, you have to pay for those seats. Not very customer-friendly or situationally aware, but comprehensible.
So a guy asks if he could pay on the spot. Nope. People were laughing at the United's cluelessness, but it wasn't very friendly laughter.
When the drink cart came by I bought myself $5 worth of stress relief and asked the flight attendant (politely) why she could sell me a drink but not a seat. She looked at me like I had two heads and said they are in no way set up to take reservations, you have to do that with a service representative.
I started to say I didn't want a reservation, I wanted to hand her $30 and move up one freaking row, but it felt like I was on the phone with Bangalore and couldn't get a supervisor, so I just shut up and drank.
To recap: They don't know how to allocate their seating categories, they aren't going to let people spread out across a half-empty plane as a courtesy, and they turn down the chance to upsell on the spot, even though they do commerce in the aisles all the time.
What a stupid industry.
Anyway, I'm home. The dog seems glad to see me.