First Time WN Flyer Reactions

Discussion in 'Southwest Airlines | Rapid Rewards (w/ AirTran)' started by JasonH, Feb 8, 2012.  |  Print Topic

  1. JasonH
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    JasonH Silver Member

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    Disclaimer
    First, I usually fly DL or UA, though I have also flown about a dozen other carriers. Second, I booked this ticket at a premium OVER my usual carriers explicitly to experience WN. Third, I chose this route because it was short enough that if things were bad it wouldn't be unbearable (I did the same thing when first flying F9). Finally, because I am on a 5 week sabbatical from work I don't have my usual email accounts or a mobile smartphone (this will become relevant).

    Route - DEN-LAS non-stop and return a few days later
    Equipment - 737-700 both ways

    Check-In at DEN
    Out of DEN I did a check-in via my computer late. I chose not to pay the fee of $10 per person per direction to have WN check me in. I don't pay fees on my usual carriers so I'm not paying a "hidden" fee to WN either. So we got C5 and C6. Since I don't have a printer at home (another perk of work I guess) I opted to pick up my tickets at the airport. At the airport the lines were empty, but the nylon dividers were poorly marked to a new WN flyer like us. It took us a bit to figure out where to go to get what we needed. We also had to check a bag (free on DL and UA for me by the way) since my wife was suffering from a cold and needed cold meds. We had a bit of a hiccup at the airport getting our boarding passes. I always use my passport when flying, regardless of destination, and drop my wallet deep into my carry-on (or in this case my wife's purse) before I enter the airport. The frequent WN flyer will understand what happened next. No fault of WN really, just my normal airport behaviors not meshing with an airline that doesn't do international yet. We sorted ourselves out, dropped our bag, and headed through security.

    Verdict - Signage could have been better, but very passable

    Flight DEN-LAS
    Boarding was orderly. There was little gate licing and the lack of carry-on baggage meant things moved pretty well. Once on board we had to find some seats together. Since our carry-on consisted of 2 books, a bottle of water, and my wife's purse being together meant we could share water and snacks in her purse. Here the open seating ideal ran into human nature. People had no desire to accomodate couples and we were NOT the only ones. We are flexible people in where we sit. I don't mind a middle seat and neither does my wife, but people had no desire to accomodate this. Only after we sat down behind each other and started trying to pass books and such between us did a kind 20-ish gentleman offer us his aisle seat so we could sit together. The flight itself was quick, but very loud. We figured this was a product of the destination of Vegas and hence people's excitement. Our pushback was delayed by 15 minutes due to a malfunctioning service truck lift that wouldn't allow the truck to clear the plane. No fault of WN of course as it could have happened to any airline and to their credit we arrived only 2 minutes late into LAS.

    Verdict - Open seating requires decent humans.

    Check-In LAS
    I'm on vacation. I don't want to think about going home until the last possible minute. Additionally, without my smartphone I don't have reminders or mobile Internet access. Hence I neglected to check-in before the day of the flight. Even that was an issue since I had no phone and no laptop. None the less I managed to do so with the help of the Hilton, again without an ability to print (not paying the Hilton fee to print, thank you), but this time we got C40 and C41. We walked, yes WALKED, to the airport from the strip because... well... because we are stubborn people I guess. It wasn't that bad really. The WN check-in area was again confusing for a new WN flyer and we had to ask the agent at the start which of the 4 lines to go in. I was eyeing the one with no one there, but no, we were sent gruffly to the long line where we would be escorted to a kiosk to check in. Really? And why were only half the kiosks working? Not cool. We dropped our bags and dealt with security.

    Verdict - Signage issues again. Self-help kiosk escorts are.... silly

    Flight LAS-DEN
    We were among the last on board. Human nature reared its head ugly this time. People refused to move, even if they were asked if they wouldn't trade their aisle for a window seat 4 rows up. One woman didn't want to move her sticks (I'm not making that up!) to allow someone to sit in the middle seat. In the end my wife was 6 rows ahead with stick lady and a guy that refused to move to another window seat a row back to allow us to sit together. Seriously, WN's open seating only serves to bring out the worst of human (Americans primarily) nature. My wife is a really laid back Southern lady who usually takes everything as it comes, but she was furious. Both the stick lady and the window man could have moved to similar or better seats, but they both flat out refused. The hungover group of 8 I was with spent the flight acting like teenagers (pulling hair, in and out of their seats, "pranks", etc) rather than the upper-30 to lower-40 age they were. It was a blessing our flight was on time and there were no delays.

    Verdict - Open seating fails in a climate of human nature focused on self over others and general lack of courtesy that typifies America today.

    Overall Verdict - WN is a last ditch airline for us. My wife has set the savings threshold at $100 over all other airlines before they can be considered.

    Question for WN Flyers: What is it exactly that WN offers that makes their open seating roulette worth playing every time you fly? I don't understand!
     
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  2. SP03

    SP03 Active Member

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    Personally I have no problem with open seating. In fact I would say I have a better chance at a good seat (non-middle seat in the front) for free than with other airline since they all started charging for "premium seats."

    I like that they fly more non-stops for the city pairs I frequent. Free baggage is a major plus.

    I can see how it might be hard for a couple or family to sit together with open seating, but honestly, I've noted that now it's hard to get advanced seating with any airline since they started charging for seats and cutting capacity.
     
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  3. kyunbit
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    kyunbit Silver Member

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    Being on MP long, I know that if I have to fly WN, checking in 24 hours in advance is a must
     
  4. JasonH
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    JasonH Silver Member

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    I've never experienced this as an issue on anything but international economy, which is obviously irrelevant as a comparison. As I stated my wife and I really don't have an issue with middle seats due to her extremely petite size. And that attitude of "no middle seats" leads directly to the issue with the failure of open seating. If you refuse a middle seat and so does a person in the window seat, then you force couples to split up to serve your need for that seat.

    The non-stops is a valid point and I have no argument with that. My question isn't so much with that, but with the roulette game of seating. Free bags is also a bit of an invalid argument. There are plenty of ways to avoid bag fees on other airlines from holding a co-branded credit card (UA and DL for example) to buying a marginally higher fare (F9) to being an elite flyer (umm... everyone I think).

    DL and UA do not charge for advanced seating exclusive of the premium economy/E+ product, which by definition would indicate a charge. Neither do KLM, Air France, Air Canada, US, AA, etc. So that is a bit of a red herring don't you think?

    Except that isn't true anymore. With the ability to pay a FEE of $10 per ticket per direction for WN to check you in ahead of the 24 hour deadline in addition to Business Select fares and the A-List elites preempting those that check in at the 24 hour mark it really has become a game of paying their FEE or flying them a lot. Further, as I said, when I'm on vacation I don't want to think about my return and in this case without my smartphone or a laptop it was a bit of trouble just to get checked in when I did. There in the system fails people that aren't uber-connected and living by a strict timeline.
     
  5. kyunbit
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    kyunbit Silver Member

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    I totally agree with you. I deliberately haven't taken the smartphone plunge. I don't even carry a laptop on most of my vacations. WN doesnt seem to bother about such flyers.. Oh wait..nowadays nobody even considers that there can be people who aren't connected 24*7
     
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  6. DTWBOB

    DTWBOB Silver Member

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    I agree -- I haven't flown WN since the NW strike when I had to go to MCI for a meeting and my reaction then was never again --

    I've got a lot of better things to do with my time, then spend all day standing in line, to say nothing of the noise in the terminal, or the jokes on board.

    Of course, in those days they were using plastic boarding passes .... and if you checked luggage, you stood in line for that, then you stood in line at security, then you stood in line to get a boarding pass, then you stood in line to get on the plane, and then if you had a connecting flight you repeated the final two steps, and when you got to your destination you stood around and waited for your luggage to come up and then if you needed a cab or a hotel shuttle....

    ad nauseum

    DTWBOB
     
  7. mrredskin
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    mrredskin Gold Member

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    haven't flown them since college, and i can't say i've missed it. i enjoyed the extra inch of legroom, but i've only been in a standard coach seat on DL, US, AA, or UA two to three times. i got the gf to apply for a SW card for the 50k points, and we'll be using it from EPC-BNA in a few months. can't really say i'm looking forward to it, but for 3500 miles each, it was hard to pass up.
     
  8. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    Can't really blame people for not wanting to give up their seats for worse ones to accommodate you. If you need to sit together on open seating, do what you need to do to board early.

    I hate open seating as well as it makes you do this, but I think the finger-pointing at people that wouldn't trade-down to worse seats as not being "decent humans" is a bit uncalled for.
     
  9. Jimmy28

    Jimmy28 Silver Member

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    Why do I like Southwest?

    1. So far this year I've rebooked 6 RT's for lower fares. Which means I got all that money back in credits towards future flights and didn't have a single change fee. I've also rebooked several tickets at the last minute for later flights and once again no change fees. I work for/own a small business. Every dollar I can get back is just that much better.

    2. Yes before I was A list, I did pay the $10 for EBCI. I have to carry 2 bags on almost all the time and I really like my aisles (I'm a big guy, not that big, but big). Could you consider the 24hr check-in window a game? Sure. But you knew about it in advance and chose not to play. In my book you don't get to complain about it. I still get more "preferred" (IMO) seats on WN than I used to on AA even when I had AA status. Since it's open seating, even if I book a week out I don't have to worry about all the aisle's being taken. In fact I was booking a flight earlier tonight on AA for 5 weeks from now and every single aisle seat is already gone. Also with open seating, if there isn't any overhead room left where I planned on sitting, then I can go back a few rows to another aisle and sit there with my bags. On a legacy if the bins are full at my seat then I get to do the salmon-up-the-stream routine and get delayed when trying to get off the plane.

    3. Quick/Late Boarding (20 min sometimes) and fast turnaround - Honestly AA PriorityAAcess boarding to me is the new cattle call. My last few AA flights were just nuts when the PA group goes. It's about as bad as the old Southwest cattle calls ever were.

    4. I don't remember the last AA flight I was on that was late and made up any time. I also don't remember when a legacy had a delayed flight get in earlier than anticipated and thus moved up the departure time accordingly.

    5. RR 2.0. There I said it :) But in all seriousness, I am liking the part about booking with points when the points equate to dollars. Once or twice I had to spend a lot of points, but I've more than made up for that by not being forced into a fixed amount of points to book a lower fare ticket. I also like having "economy" availability about a month out which is something I don't always get on American. WN points are for my family/holiday and quasi leisure travel and I save my AA miles for going F/J on vacations and long/international trips.

    But alas, even when WN starts Hawaii service, I'll be sticking with J on AA.
     
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  10. JasonH
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    JasonH Silver Member

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    Did you read what I said? The offers were not trading a window for a middle, but rather a window in one row for a window in the row behind or an aisle for a window a few rows up. I'm not so rude as to accuse someone who didn't trade their window/aisle for a middle as harshly. So don't start trying to play that game please.
     
  11. Casey Friday
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    Casey Friday Silver Member

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    I've been on about 6 WN flights in the past month or two, and I've checked in right at 24 hours before my flight. Got right around A40 each time. No problem sitting next to my wife. Even if we didn't sit next to each other, I'm sure it would be fine. The trip is about the destination, not all about getting there (especially domestically).

    I've been a big WN fan for a while now, but JetBlue is starting to grow on me. However, with the two RR Chase cards and the impending CP, my next year of travel will be paid for on WN, so I'll be sticking with them for a good while. All I know is I prefer flying WN over AA, DL, and UN. Never flown UA, so maybe I'm missing out on something there.
     
  12. JasonH
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    JasonH Silver Member

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    I appreciate the well thought out post and I understand the reasons you have. WN works for you and that is great. The open seating game is rigged. Those that follow airlines know that. In addition, it is stacked against people like me that do not travel connected 24/7. I can either pay their fee to preempt their game or I can interrupt my vacation to try to figure out how to play the game.

    Like I said, this was an experiment for us. One thing we don't do is judge something until we've tried it. Hence we chose to try WN despite their premium over UA. I chose to share this experience because I wanted to have background to ask my question of WN frequent flyers.
     
  13. jaw_24
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    jaw_24 Silver Member

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    Couple of comments--

    1) You were flying to Vegas on Southwest. Thats like going to Florida during spring break and thinking the entire state is full of college students. Fly the 6:15 Hou-Dal leg, and you may not hear a word the entire flight.

    2) I typically check in during the first hour possible, but even when I forget for a few hours, I will very rarely go beyong B30, and that usually guarantees you a seat pair. I have never paid to check in early--if you are on the spot at T-24 hrs, you'll get A30ish, and the bird is practically yours because they don't fill all 30 of the preassigned spots.
     
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  14. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Same here... I've only flown SouthWest a few times ISP-LAS and although it wasn't what I would call "the best", it was definitely passable. I checked in at close to 24 hours outbound and got A boarding, and returning I forgot because I was having lunch and ended up on B, but even then it was 4 of us and we still managed to sit window/middle behind each other.

    I think to the novice WN flyer it can be quite the daunting task, but if you know what to expect then it's not that bad. But if you don't want to deal with the hassle of paying for automatic check-in, paying for seat selection or having to remember to check in online, etc. then it can turn into a hassle.

    And a tip of the hat to the OP for walking to McCarran... that's a hike no matter how you look at it. That's 3 miles if you're at the MGM (which is technically the closest).
     
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  15. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    I did read what you wrote. Aisle for window is not equivalent. I missed the aisle for aisle that was buried in there, which is more equal, but it's not clear what other passengers were around or together which can shift that balance.

    I don't think it's reasonable to board late and demand others swap seats with you. It's certainly reasonable to ask, but I don't know that you're entitled to sit together. If someone agrees, accept it as a favor and be grateful.
     
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  16. jaw_24
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    jaw_24 Silver Member

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    I'd like to see one of these threads for Spirit Airlines. Their rates are just nagging me to try them for a day trip.
     
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  17. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    I'm tempted to offer you money to fly Spirit, just to see the trip report. :)
     
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  18. Casey Friday
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    Casey Friday Silver Member

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    I'll pitch in five bucks. Now we're halfway there!
     
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  19. JasonH
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    JasonH Silver Member

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    Brett over at CrankyFlier did that.. and Allegiant. It is an interesting trip report

    Yes. I see that was buried a bit more. I tried to make it easy to read, but maybe not so much :(

    Don't misconstrue what I wrote. I did not verbally demand that we sit together. Once it was obvious that "stick lady" and "window man" chose to be as they were we took what we could. The issue is that behavior is contrary to what was taught to children of our generation and I would hope contrary to what is taught to children of the non-DYKWIA flyers here. It is common courtesy.... or so I thought.
     
  20. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    I agree on it being common courtesy and I'd certainly offer up my seat, but you do come across as a bit harsh on them. For me it wouldn't be worth the aggravation as I'd either be sure to board early or live with whatever we got. I'd also pay most premiums to avoid wn as I dislike the experience as well. Maybe I'll throw in a mini trip report here later.

    Stick lady was probably trying to keep the middle open of course.
     
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  21. Casey Friday
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    Casey Friday Silver Member

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    I don't really see this as a behavioral problem. It's more of an "I paid more/checked in earlier to get this seat" issue. Not saying that I wouldn't move in the same situation, but I certainly wouldn't expect anyone else to move. To be honest, I wouldn't even ask anyone to move for my wife. We're all going to the same place.

    I can understand being upset with your first experience, but it doesn't seem to be WN's or the other pax's fault. Once you get the hang of WN, it's easy to get seats you want, or close to them. And more often than not, you'll have more fun on WN than the other guys.
     
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  22. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    My abbreviated first-time southwest experience. At the time I was a mid-tier elite with DL, not too far removed a year and a half of flying with no status on DL while accruing miles. In other words, I'm not just comparing the elite experience at legacies to the experience at WN. I also knew enough and fortunately had the means to check in early and get a favorable boarding pass.

    Checkin:
    kiosks, bag-check either weren't as nice as DL's or just unfamiliar. They got the job done fine though. I rarely check a bag but in this case was in the middle of I think a 21 day itinerary, so had a bit heavier load than normal. They tagged my 50 pound bag as heavy, but didn't ask for more money.

    Boarding process and ground experience: I dislike open seating. It gives you the choice between boarding early and getting what you deem a good seat, or boarding late and getting a terrible seat. I don't want to make that choice. Even in ~30k miles as a non-elite on Delta I scarcely ever had middle seats - by paying attention I could almost always get an aisle or window. The "elite" bonus is to get on the plane even earlier.

    My preference is to board when the process is most leisurely. As a peon on Delta, it was easy enough to board during the slight lull between zones 3 and 4, and absent boarding dead last there was enough overhead space for my modest carryon. As an elite, I typically delay boarding as well rather than board right away. What's the attraction to sitting in a plane on the ground?

    The "DING" from scanning boarding passes is ridiculous. Delayed close to a second after scanning, at this point it's nothing other than really annoying marketing. A loud and annoying noise for no practical purpose. Boo.

    Lounges: DL has skyclubs, WN has nothing, maybe some club chairs near the gate. I also notice that WN gate areas seem to be louder than Delta ones. All of this makes flying the legacy carrier more relaxing in my case.

    I didn't really care for the seat and found it a bit firm. I feel the same way about DL's 737s.

    In flight: beverage service was impressively prompt. I din't find the attire and overall style of the FA's to be particularly professional, but at least they seemed happy. I can see how this could appeal to occasional flyers, but if I had to deal with this on a regular basis I'd go nuts. There's a difference between annoyingly chipper and happily friendly, and these guys were on the wrong side of it from my perspective. Good Delta crews pull off the friendliness without descending into the campy chippiness that I think would wear on me. Not so good crews mostly just aren't as present.

    Overall, my preference, status or otherwise, is for the legacy product. I can see how some people like southwest, but it doesn't appeal to me at all.
     
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  23. jaw_24
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    jaw_24 Silver Member

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    This is EXACTLY why I fly Southwest. You will be on the ground no longer than 15-20 mins with typical turnarounds, and that's if you preboard. With some carriers it seems like they spend 30-45+ mins getting everyone all snug, comfortable, and in the right seats before backing out.

    IMO, it's all just operational difference - with SWA you can feel that they value time and efficiency, and they do rush everything just a little bit more at the expense of little luxuries. They couldn't survive some of the commuter hops otherwise. In the end, it helps the traveler who cares more about getting somewhere as quickly and efficiently as possible, as opposed to the one who wants to lounge and feel pampered. That's why we have competition and a free market.
     
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  24. mikesteg

    mikesteg Silver Member

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    For most people, and maybe most people on MP, airlines are a commodity.
    Therefore, we fly WN because it's cheap:
    (1) Fares from here (ABQ) tend to be competitive or better. (At our old home (AUS), not so much.)
    (2) Free fare drops - the outbound leg of our last trip cost $78 for the 4 of us because of credits from prior fare drops. (It would have been $320 otherwise, I think.)
    (3) No bag fees. For those of us who don't have status, or another method of avoiding bag fees on the next best candidate airline, this is a big savings.

    Now, in our case we have toddlers so we can board between A and B groups if we don't get a better slot by checking in at 24hours. Even then we sometimes have to head pretty far back to get 2+2 (or 1+3) seating, but since we have to wait for strollers there is no rush to get off the plane. I have to say the WN is the only airline where the captain has gone down to grab the strollers and set them up for us in the tunnel. Little stuff like that makes us like WN also.
     
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  25. mikesteg

    mikesteg Silver Member

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    Oh yeah: free drink coupons (which can be used to reward people for switching seats) :)
     
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