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The Seat 1A Podcast

Geoff Dahl and Vinod Viswalingam

With more than five million miles flown on 6 continents - Seat 1A is a journey into how to use this experience to your flying advantage. Join Geoff Dahl and Vinod Viswalingam as they share travel experiences, tales, tips and interviews.


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In this experience we continue our look at the aviation hierarchy – who's who at the zoo? Now we move onboard the plane itself. We will look at two different types of staffing – one for traditional international flag carrier flights and one for low-cost/ultra low-cost carrier flights.

Different airlines have different names for the same staff roles. And depending on where you are in the world, you could have a cabin crew or a flight attendant.

But there is always one person who is running the entire cabin experience on the flight. They go by many different names - senior purser, cabin service director, cabin manager, cabin flight director, onboard director, flight manager – but the role is generally the same. We use the term "senior purser" in this podcast experience. Once the door of the plane is closed, it's their flight.

The list of responsibilities of the senior purser is long – including crew performance, delay handling, passenger relations, onboard problems, timings, crew briefing and debriefing, crew rest periods and being the liaison to the flight deck for service and safety. They handle all of this while being an active cabin member. Your life is in their hands since they will lead plane evacuations.

For someone with all of this responsibility, how can you tell them apart? Some have a different uniform, while some have different pins or medallions.

On flights with multiple cabin classes a purser or cabin manager may be responsible for one cabin. On less complicated flights this sub-level may not exist. And then you have the cabin crew member / flight attendant.

How do you know that all the doors are accounted for in case of emergency – everyone knows where to sit during landing and takeoff.

The senior purser work doesn't end when the flight lands - layovers have to be coordinated, staff coordination has to happen if cabin crew gets sick.

On low-cost airlines often staff will rotate through who is the lead flight attendant.

When you board a flight, the flight staff are doing more than just giving you a smile and hello.

If you need to escalate – the senior purser will be the one who can get things done for you.

Vinod had an upgrade interaction with the senior purser when flying from London (LHR) to Nairobi (NBO).

We go beyond the cockpit door – to check on the Captain and First Officer. Who is the pilot in command? How many stripes do each have? On long-haul flights you will have multiple pilots – you may even see some in the cabin or sleeping.

We remember old movies and comment about the flight engineer – a role that is not very common these days.

Depending on the airline, you might see a hierarchy even when they walk through the airport. And some airlines have a very distinct uniform difference.

Vinod always made sure to pay it forward when flying staff standby. Sometimes the thank yous were almost non-stop.

Pro tip – keep an eye on who's wearing what.

News Items:

  • CNN Travel article "Taiwan airport offers 'pretend to go abroad' airport tours amid Covid-19 pandemic.".
  • article "British Airways changes food on board"

If you have a story about staff hierarchy onboard a flight, a question, or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at


06/15/20 • 43 min

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In this experience we look at the different roles of people that normally work at an airport – who's who at the zoo?

In most cases the airline is either at a home base or it is at an outstation. When at the outstation the airline is either with its own staff or outsourced.

We move our way from the curbside outside the airport into the terminal – what staff do we encounter until we reach the check-in counter?

At the counter we have the check-in agent, the bag drop agent and the ticketing agent. The ticketing agent is someone who can make magic happen in times of crisis.

To whom should you bark if you need to bark? Quite often a supervisor if you want to get things done. Running parallel to the supervisor is the ops coordinator or dispatcher. Are supervisors dressed differently? (answer – generally yes).

And remember if you're in an outstation, the people working for the airline might not be on the airline's payroll. And they may not have a specific airline uniform.

Remember things can – and do – happen at the counter. There's a right way and a wrong way to go about things.

What happens if it gets above a supervisor? May we introduce the station or duty manager.

Vinod made sure when he was in New Delhi (DEL) that he searched for the right supervisor to help him with his baggage issue. On the other side of the globe, he found the supervisor at Heathrow (LHR) to help with Olympic quantities of baggage.

Remember everyone, the representative generally wants to get to an amicable solution as much as you do.

When you're at security, the provider depends on what airport you are at – sometimes it's even the army. Many of those shops are also governed by one company.

We take a quick look at the ramp operations and some cases where the airport's duty manager may need to get involved.

What happens at the gate? And is this the best spot to look for an upgrade? Vinod shares a crazy story getting from New York (JFK) to Edmonton (YEG) – with a strategic ballpoint pen.

We'll save the crew hierarchy for a later experience.

News Items:

  • We share our condolences for the victims of the PK8303 crash.
  • Skift article "TUI to Restart European Flights at the End of June".
  • airwaysmag article "Delta To Launch New Atlanta-Cape Town Route"

If you have a story about airport staff hierarchy, a question, or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at


06/02/20 • 73 min

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In this experience we look at seating configuration on aircraft in economy or coach class. These days, with the COVID-19 pandemic, people are wondering about seating and what it might look like in the future. We will still need to pick our seats.

Vinod has great stress when he picks a seat – particularly on long-haul flights – checking all angles of what his seat experience will be.

Seat comfort has come a long way – increasing seat comfort used to mean adding more padding. Geoff shares his experience sitting in an aircraft seat from a Lockheed how far we've come.

Even though airplane manufacturers have a row plan dictating how seats are set out, the actual number of seats, seat pitch and cabin layout is up to the airline. Can low cost carriers add additional rows – Vinod shares a memory of going through this.

What is seat pitch? What do you need to research when selecting a seat? Remember that even if the plane type is the same at an airline, it may not be configured the same way. What happens if the airline reduces the amount of premium cabin? Remember that if an airline is charging a premium for a seat selection, it might not be the best seat.

We're not telling you what the best seat is, since we all have our own reasons. What's the most stable seat? Where's the galley...the lavatory? How narrow is your seat? Is your airline using festival-style seating? What are some strategies for festival-style seating airlines? What should you watch out for?

Vinod shares a story how old-school thick foam padding protected him on a flight to London Heathrow. Vinod shares a story of getting moved a seat that would only recline on the way to AMS. Vinod shares a standby experience when he got a special seat. There is a tip on what to ask about if your flight is oversold or cancelled. Vinod shares another crazy story – this time with festival seating on a 777 from GRU to JFK.

But sometimes flights are wide open – Geoff shares an experience from LHR to YYC where he had four seats to himself.

News Items:

  • Simple Flying article "IATA Head Says Social Distancing Will End Cheap Travel".
  • Skift article "EasyJet May Ditch Middle Seats When Flights Return".
  • Financial Times article "Ryanair will not return to flying if middle seats must be empty, says chief".
  • Aviointeriors "Glassafe" and "Janus" seat designs.

If you have a story about seating configuration on flights, a question, or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at


05/11/20 • 64 min

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In this experience we look at alcohol and drinking on flights. What was the experience in days gone by, versus today on intercontinental flights?

Why is it when we drink on flights, we may end up feeling the effects of alcohol more strongly than when we are on the ground? Vinod shares an experience of a first-class hangover on a British Airways (BA) flight from Calgary to London-Heathrow.

Some start with their alcohol even before they board, at airport lounges, bars, or restaurants. Meanwhile other ultra low-cost carriers will charge for all alcohol – which leads to passengers trying to consume their own alcohol on board. Vinod shares a crew story of "cups of ice and cans of Sprite", with some very large gridiron football players.

There are times when a flight runs out of a certain type of alcohol – then what? Vinod shares an experience of needing to improvise "champagne service" on a hotspot flight.

When you board the flight, it's more than just smiles and salutations from the crew. The in-flight crew is often the first real interaction between a passenger and the airline to determine state of sobriety. Vinny shares the unfortunate story of a passenger who took three days to be in a sober state to fly.

A pilot has the final word and will not tolerate disrespect to the crew. Some go to great lengths to ensure that passengers respect that – as Vinod shares.

A plane of thirsty workers who have just left a mining camp made for interesting Friday afternoon flights for Vinod.

Some passengers unfortunately engage in more than just alcohol – Vinod shares a crazy story about a redeye flight to Varadero, Cuba.

Geoff jogs Vinod's memories of a wild flight to Paris, with drunken passengers just hanging around.

We're not saying that you can't enjoy your alcohol, but you have a responsibility as a passenger in case of an emergency. A crew will not be able to move your drunken body – are you posing a risk to your fellow passengers? Cheers, but make sure that you're still functional...the last thing you want to be is hungover in a customs or baggage queue.

And we share a tip about what if you suspect someone is in a drunken state. Remember, at the end of it all, it's all about safety.

News Item:

  • Sam Chui article "Farewell KLM B747 – A Special Flight on the KLM B747-400 Combi"

If you have a story about alcohol on flights, a question, or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at


04/18/20 • 54 min

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We wanted to extend our best wishes to all those in the industry during these incredibly challenging times for the aviation industry. The entire COVID-19 situation has brought about some strange occurrences.

During this time of global self-isolation, we invite out listeners to go back to our previous experiences – since eventually, planes will start flying again.

We had planned to talk about airline cleanliness in an episode – this has provided us the perfect opportunity.

Remember everyone that an airline is a public space, but that we do expect it to be comfortably clean when we board. How do different airlines groom their planes – outsourced to third parties, or does the crew groom the plane?

When a crew groom the plane what happens? What gets cleaned? What was Vinod's bone of contention that he got so often on flights? Deep cleaning is supposed to happen on a certain cycle. First flights out of the day from Canada to the US lead to interesting discoveries. What about premium cabins? How about carpeting on the plane?

Geoff and Vinod review a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) news investigation about the dirtiest surfaces in an airplane. The filthiest location may surprise you and we review the five most filthy locations.

It's not all dirty though. There are airlines that consistently get recognition for their cleanliness.

Airlines do need to deal with different cultural practices where individuals may not be aware of airplane etiquette. And as always - passengers do silly, gross things on flights no matter where in the world. Remember that a plane may be a bit dirtier due to their turnaround time business model.

We share some tips on how to try to stay as clean and sanitary as possible on a flight. There is no need to be paranoid – once again remember it's a public space.

If you have a story about how you are dealing with COVID-19 as a passenger or flight staff, a question, or other experience about airplane cleanliness that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at


03/29/20 • 52 min

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In this experience we are very grateful to be joined by a serial airline entrepreneur – David Neeleman. If you don't know who David is, you likely know at least some of the airlines that he has founded, co-founded or co-owns. JetBlue (founded); Azul (founded); Morris Air (co-founded and sold to Southwest); WestJet (co-founded); TAP Air Portugal (co-owns). David has recently founded Breeze Airways (officially named in February 2020).

The Seat 1A team pose four questions to David and he shares his candid feedback.

Geoff enquires when David realized he was passionate about aviation?

Vinny notes David's global and multicultural leadership, and searches for that key factor that David believes has linked his successes together.

Geoff asks about the unique offering from David's airlines that provide a front of cabin experience.

Finally, Vinny uncovers what David's personal tip or hack is for every flight.

If you have a story about flying one of David's airlines, a question, or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at


03/09/20 • 10 min

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In this experience we take a look behind the scenes and share the things that are happening in the background to your plane from before it arrives and departs.

We start four to six hours before the flight even arrives and what is required for the gate. What' the backup plan? Who is coming off of the plane? Are there unaccompanied minors, special assistance passengers, or groups? Are there any maintenance issues? As we get closer to the arrival, what is the minimum required turnaround time set by the airline? Has the airport been set for the flight arrival?

While that is happening, passengers are checking in. Are there enough crew? Are there issues with the plane weight and balance? Are there any special passengers or groups to account for? If the flight is late, do passengers checking in have the appropriate visa documentation?

How much fuel is the outbound flight going to need? Is it going to need de-icing? Is there special cargo? What are the catering requirements? Is there any notification from Customs and Immigration about a flight check?

Is the equipment needed on the ramp in working order and ready? Are the groomers and caterers ready?

Is the outbound crew ready with their checks and preparation of the plane? Has the pilot signed off on all documentation?

How is the passenger baggage being unloaded? How is the liquid and solid waste being disposed of? Are all the meals loaded as required? What's happening with tight passenger connections?

Who's at fault if the plane pushes back late?

As we can see there are many moving parts and processes between your plane landing and departing – many more are discussed in this experience.

News Items:

  • breakingtravelnews article "Alaska Airlines to join oneworld alliance"
  • BBC article "Storm Ciara helps plane beat transatlantic flight record"

If you have a story about a plane turnaround, a question or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at


02/18/20 • 102 min

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In this experience we celebrate the 2019 holiday season with a look at some of our crazy and (somewhat) horrific holiday travel stories.

But first, Vinny and Geoff celebrate a milestone in this experience. This is the 25th show that they have done in tandem. Here's to the next 25 being just as fun of a ride.

Vinny shares his incredible journey from CPH-LHR-AMS-JFK-YHM-YYC-YVR during a massive New Year's storm in YYZ. How many things can go wrong for Vinny on this flight? So many that we interject a couple of stories from Geoff along the way. Although Vinny's story is related to a standby experience, remember that you too could be affected by weather and become a standby passenger.

Vinny starts his journey in CPH – it was just after New Year's – and world weather seemed normal, for now. He connects rather uneventfully to LHR and then AMS (little does he know what's coming). Flying standby on KLM he notices his flight options across Canada are quickly disappearing as there are no seats available. All US options were disappearing as well, except for JFK. So off to New York for Vinny.

Geoff shares his experience when he caught the flu just before having to fly from VIE-DUS (don't worry we're just sharing the travel experience). He makes it to VIE and manages to catch his flight – but when he arrives in a delirious state to DUS, just how many times can he catch the wrong train? The next day he catches the correct train to FRA for a connection to YYC with Air Canada...all the while missing the massive 2013 Ice Storm that hit Toronto. He arrives in YYC - only to be subject to a medical check first implemented after the SARS epidemic.

We return to Vinny who is now at JFK – but his bag isn't. The storm is brewing, and Vinny knows to get priority he needs to get to LGA. He learns about the "passenger rest area" at LGA – even with official blankets. He wakes up to find that LGA-YYZ flights are getting cancelled all over. But wait, there is a WestJet crew – maybe there's a chance? Disappointment awaits – how did the sand get in the engine? What hope is there left? Not much by air, the open road was the only thing left and there was some good fortune with rental costs. Just in time to drive through Manhattan at rush hour!

Geoff shares another winter holiday travel delay experience yet again caused by a blizzard at YYZ. Conditions meant that the YUL-YOW-YEG ticket became a standby ticket, but only the YUL-YOW segment could be confirmed. Some t-shirts were traded for hotel and meal vouchers since he wasn't flying further that day. Eventually he got back to YEG with an upgrade to business class. The key lesson in the adventure is to be nice to front line staff...honey will get your further than vinegar – but make sure you know your cancellation or delay rights.

We return to Vinny, in a rental car, in Manhattan at rush hour. No storm visible yet the sun is still shining. But as night falls the storm unleashes its fury. The storm is so terrible that it closes the Interstate. Vinny pushes on, blasting through the blizzard in Upstate New York on country roads – all the while having no proper winter clothing. Finally, he reaches the Canadian border in the wee hours of the morning – with snow caked on the back of his car – and the severity of the storm becomes fully known. Vinny has to get to another southern Ontario airport – YHM it is. But how to return the car – since it's not at YYZ and there is no return desk? Vinny leaves multiple notes and voicemails and parks the car hoping for the best as he boards the flight to connect at YYC. How does it turn out? Four hours after landing, where was Vinny? Back on a flight as crew!

Lessons from the experience: 1) Keep moving forward; 2) figure out what your biggest block of problem could be; 3) Be prepared that it might cost a bit of money to get out of a jam; 4) Look for telltale signs of things that are happening; 5) Make sure you have all of your alerts set up...and check the weather. Oh, and by the way...what happened to Vinny's WS travel buddy?

News Items:

  • Flyertalk article "The Best and Worst Airports for Holiday Travel"
  • breakingtravelnews article "Christmas getaway begins in earnest at easyJet"

Vinny and Geoff give big kudos to crews and staff working over Christmas. Here's to another great 25 experiences together.

If you have a holiday travel horror story, a question or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at


12/27/19 • 87 min

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In this experience we go back to the mailbag and thank Joe R for his questions about overhead bins and baggage and the struggles that go with it in modern day air travel.

It's a perfect time to look at this question, with lots of extra travel for the year end holiday season.

Overhead bins are a relatively new phenomenon in air travel – you just have to look at old movie footage when it used to just be a shelf. Have Vinny or Geoff ever experienced a non-bin flight before (hint – yes).

A more recent change in the drive for more revenue, most airlines charge for checking in baggage – which means it ends up in the cabin. Vinny was in the heat of the action when WestJet (WS) changed their policy.

You need to pay attention to what kind of airplane type you're flying with – narrow body or wide body – to know what the differences in bins you may have. Also, just because it fits on one aircraft model, doesn't mean it will fit on another. For a good idea what will fit, check what the crew is bringing on board. Are your outside bag pockets stuffed full? Do you panic when your bag doesn't fit...and then turn it 90 degrees? Are the crew helping with the overhead bin Tetris game? Are airline staff at the boarding area checking to see how many bags might be brought on board? Who has the "space bin" and what difference does it make? Do you know your bag and if it's going to fit in the bin? Has anyone ever seen a flight attendant with a bin closing stick? Vinny did flying from DFW-LHR.

Passenger behaviour...we've all seen it before. Please don't plug up the centre aisle. Remember that the bin is not your personal closet space – and that bin above you is only the preferred space for you. Economy passengers dumping their bags in business class bins. Vinny sharing a crazy childhood story flying from BOM-BLR – overhead bins can make flashing lights and uniformed police show up.

Are your bags fitting in the sizer? What if you know it does...will a gate check tag mysteriously disappear?

Designer bags – some passengers treat them like they need a separate seat and a bin of their own. But what if you have to put your bags under the seat in front of you? Override your instinct and don't take your bag in the case of emergency! And what about kennels?

News Items:

  • Dailyhive article "Flyer stripped of air miles for using elaborate scheme to smuggle fat cat onto plane"
  • Reuters article "Indonesia fines Garuda after CEO fired over smuggled Harley Davidson"
  • Businesstraveller article "Qantas B747 makes final flight to mainland USA"

If you have an overhead bin story, a question or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at


12/11/19 • 55 min

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In this experience we look at the different queues and lineups that one experiences when at an airport and how to make the best of them.

In this era of COVID-19, people have settled into a new normal of queuing up. It goes hand-in-hand with the airline and airport experience. Please note that we will be putting this in the context of how things were, and it will be years before the airport returns to how it was.

When you arrive at the airport, are you able to go directly into the terminal, or is there curbside security for passengers? Who are the masses of people? Are they actually the passenger, or are they just well wishers?

Once you're inside the airport, we approach the check-in counter. This experience has changed a lot over the last ten to fifteen years. Have you checked in online? Are you just dropping a bag? Are you going to a self-serve kiosk (and waiting to see if it will actually work?) Or are you going to the regular check-in line? Who is going to serve you? What if you need to queue up to change your ticket? And are you within the cut-off times for baggage drop-off? If you're with a group, are you all co-ordinated? If you have a cart, take it with you after checking in!

Security and immigration – are there fast-track options available to you as a passenger? Don't forget that the fast-tracking starts when you check-in online. Is there a faster moving security checkpoint? Who's ahead of you in the queue? Why do security lines move so slowly in the US? Do you need to line up for an immigration exit queue?

Now on to boarding – what's the system your airline is using and what's the best way to board with that system? On the plane – we'll have a future experience for onboard etiquette.

You land, immigration, customs, and baggage claim at a new airport awaits you. How long should you expect to wait for immigration at some airports? Is there an arrival fast-track? Sometimes business arrival lines could be much busier than economy. How much time is the airline giving you to get processed? Are you collecting a bag, is there a tight connection? What about if you have to take an airport bus?

News Items:

  • flyertalk article "WestJet Utilizes Very Canadian Solution for Weather Issues".
  • article "Southwest Airlines CEO Expects ‘Brutal Low-Fare’ Competition".

If you have a story about queuing at the airport, stories of your lining up and waiting for your flight, a question, or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at


07/18/20 • 68 min

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How many episodes does The Seat 1A Podcast have?

The Seat 1A Podcast currently has 78 episodes available.

What topics does The Seat 1A Podcast cover?

The podcast is about News, Places & Travel, Society & Culture, Business News, Aviation, Podcasts and Travel.

What is the most popular episode on The Seat 1A Podcast?

The episode title 'Experience 034. Who's who at the zoo – part 2. Staff hierarchy onboard the plane. The Seat 1A Podcast.' is the most popular.

What is the average episode length on The Seat 1A Podcast?

The average episode length on The Seat 1A Podcast is 56 minutes.

How often are episodes of The Seat 1A Podcast released?

Episodes of The Seat 1A Podcast are typically released every 22 days, 4 hours.

When was the first episode of The Seat 1A Podcast?

The first episode of The Seat 1A Podcast was released on Aug 27, 2018.

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