HOT SEAT-MATE CALCULATOR
I’ve spent a lot of time on planes. To pass the time I watch movies, listen to music, read the airline magazine and memorize stats on their aircraft fleet, and look out the window. Occasionally I’ll have a conversation with my seat-mate. With no cell service, and generally no internet, there’s a lot of time for the mind to wander. It frequently wanders strange places, and for the past few years it occasionally circles around to an observation that in my thousands of flights taken, my seat-mate is very very rarely a beautiful woman.
‘Do beautiful women not fly?’ I ask. Perhaps I just haven’t been very lucky when it comes to my seat assignments. Maybe it’s because I usually choose the window seat and hot girls like sitting next to the window?
Through travel experience I’ve come up with a lot of anecdotal evidence, although the causes are unknown. I believe they generally do choose a window seat given a choice. I think they generally do not have ‘elite’ status with airlines – I’ve almost never seen them in the lounges. They almost never fly first class, unless with a partner. I don’t think young women travel solo quite as often as men do. There seems to be a lot of men that fly for business – more than women. Sales guys usually.
I decided to ask our data scientist at work for help to understand the universe a little better, and to answer the age-old question ‘Do hot girls fly on planes?’.
After a little research on population, passenger numbers, and gender balance of travelers he came back to me with a nifty little spreadsheet that crunched the numbers and gave a general estimate of the likelihood of your next seat-mate being a hot girl. Assuming a rather popular aircraft, a Boeing 737-900, the numbers came back and affirmed what I had already discovered through anecdotal evidence – that your chances are slim. Defining what a ‘hot girl’ is is a bit of a hard task, so I simply said the top 10% of the female population aged between 20-29. You can adjust these numbers and the results will update, but if you are like me and usually sit in an isle or window you’re looking at about 170 flights before you might be so lucky. If however, you choose the middle seat, your odds jump to 1 in 85!
So next time you are booking a flight and selecting your seat, consider perhaps the virtue of the middle seat. Often overlooked, disregarded, or talked of disparagingly, there is at least one good thing about being wedged between two strangers. One may be that unicorn we all hope we get – a hot girl on a plane.
HOT SEAT-MATE CALCULATOR
* There are a few known problems with the calculations. It does not factor in the aircraft seat configuration, passenger load, or accurate passenger data. Also differences between airlines and origin and destination cities. Maybe someone can go all the way with this?
This past summer I took a somewhat epic trip that involved driving a small car from England to Mongolia. It required a good deal of planning, visas, cash, quitting my job, and a strong sense of adventure. Here is a seven point summary of things I learned from that trip:
1) The power of the destination.
This one seems obvious now, but I don’t think I was as consciously aware of it until this trip. The lesson is if you have somewhere you are going, whether it be physical or metaphorical, one’s greatest potential is unlocked in this time.
2) People are the same.
There are a shit-tonne of people in the world of various types. We tend to get ourselves into similar tribes and find ourselves against some other tribe. Truth is that we are pretty much the same and our needs are all shared. That is: water, food, shelter, sex, family, gas (energy), love. That’s it!
3) Let go.
You can’t control everything. Letting go and embracing the chaoticness or flow of life is sometimes the best thing to do. Fighting it only leads to stress.
4) Some people will dislike you.
This one I did not expect to come across on this journey. It really has nothing to do with driving a small car a long way, but weirdly it was a ‘sleeper’ lesson to be had. For whatever reason, there will be a time when someone doesn’t like you or what you do. Most people I knew love that I gave up my job and took a journey, but there were a couple that disapproved. You could go into the psychology of it all but it doesn’t matter. Some people will dislike you and you just have to know that.
5) People are everywhere.
I know the world’s population is around 7 billion. What I didn’t know is that means the entire planet, even in the world’s most desolate places, is full of people. There are basically people and their stuff everywhere. Even if you drive for 10 hours and only see a few people you’re just not that far away. The short answer is there are too many people using too much stuff and the world is most likely fucked. Sorry for the downer point.
6) You are capable of more than you know.
Put yourself into a difficult situation and I guarantee that most of you will do some next-level shit to get out of it. Most of us live in our comfort zone and it turns out there is a very large amount of unused potential sitting in that buffer. Find those edges.
7) Uncertainty is scary.
This dials into our core emotion of fear. When you don’t know how something is going to turn out you feel fear. Instinct tells us to pull back, but as a man who drove a small car a long way, our greatest strength and achievements come in that phase. Be tolerant of risk. It feeds back into your potential.
Ultra long-haul flight SA204
This year thus far I’ve taken a number of ultra long-haul flights; one trip to Sydney from Denver, and another to Capetown from New York. On one hand they are miserable affairs, on the other it’s pretty amazing how you can be on the other size of the world in less than a day. Here are my tips for surviving them the best way possible:
- Seat choice.
This is critical in my opinion, although on some flights (in particular Sydney to LA) there’s not much you can do to avoid a full plane. People employ the same mindset flying long-haul as they do a short commuter flight, i.e. they all want to sit near the front. This makes absolutely no sense though when you’re talking about being on the plane for 16 hours and 10 minutes vs 16 hours and 18 minutes. Knowing how the general public behaves I booked seat 70D (a few rows from the very back) on a recent flight from Johannesburg to New York. The front and middle of the plane were jam packed on the 16 hour flight, the back had empty seats all over. I clinched the holy grail of economy class flying and got the entire middle row to myself. A lie-flat bed for $600!
- Hydration before you get on the plane.
For some reason, perhaps deliberate, it’s impossible to get more than about 200ml of water in one go while on a plane. You get tiny cups or tiny bottles, none of which are adequate to quench any real thirst. Being hydrated helps your organs function, get better sleep, and arrive in a better state. Make sure you start your flight with your body being fully hydrated so you are not playing impossible catch-up whilst in the air.
- Think about timezone change.
When you fly to the other side of the world your body is going to arrive in a bit of a daze. You’re dealing with changing timezone, seasons, language, culture, and a loss of balance from the motion of being on a ship for so long. You can minimize jet-lag by following a few simple things. Firstly think about the time you arrive at the destination and plan when you will rest on the flight accordingly. On my 15 hour flight to Sydney from LA we left at 11pm LA time and arrived at 7am Sydney time. I knew I wanted to arrive with enough sleep to last a full day in Sydney so I stayed up the first 6 hours of the flight so that I would a) be super tired and be able to sleep on the plane, and b) get about 6 hours of sleep before being awaken by the sunlight and breakfast service. When you arrive make it through as much of the day as you can and perhaps take an afternoon nap of no more than 2 hours. You’ll be tired but make it until at least 8pm, but try 11 or midnight. Get a full night’s sleep and then wake up the next day and enjoy!
- Red wine and drugs.
After you’ve factored in your arrival time and amount of sleep you’d like to get take two small bottles of red wine and a Tylenol PM or other mild sleep aid. The red wine and Ibuprofen do wonders for relaxing your muscles and helping you sleep in an otherwise uncomfortable position.
- Ear plus and eye mask.
Pack these! They help dull your senses and in combination with the wine and Tylenol will help you sleep.
- Befriend your seat mate.
This one might seem silly but a little bit of small talk with your seat mate at the start of the flight can really help. Whether it be helpfulness moving so you can get out, preventing an arm-rest border dispute, or as I did on my flight from JNB to JFK, asking him to relocate to another row so that we could both have spare seats, gaining a bit of good grace from your neighbor can really improve things. You might even have some good conversation that eats up a few hours.
Despite it’s lack of frills Southwest is one of the better domestic carriers. The only annoying thing is the stupid cattle-call boarding process getting the general public to behave like the sheep that they are.
Getting to the point; my advice when flying Southwest is to set a calendar reminder in your phone when you book your flight to remind you to check-in online exactly 24 hours before your flight departure. Southwest does not automatically send out an email reminder like other airlines but if you’re smart and check in right at the maximum allowable time (24 hours) you’ll get an ‘A’ boarding zone essentially giving you free rein on where you’d like to sit.
An addendum to this is if you’re in no rush to exit the plane on your arrival, and you miss getting an exit row seat, choose a seat near the rear of the aircraft. These are the last to fill up and you’ll have more of a chance of having the middle seat empty.
One of the things I enjoy most about traveling is getting that ‘local experience’. It’s the time when you see a place through a local’s eyes; a glimpse of what it might be like to live there albeit without the drudgery of having to work. Staying with a friend is a great way to do this, and also lets you free up money that would be spent on a hotel to have some fun with.
Here are my tips to help you get invited back:
- Always leave a bottle of wine, a gift, or at least a handwritten thank you note.
- Avoid lengthy stays. As my aunt Patricia used to tell me “guests are like fish Kyle. Anything longer than three or four days and they start to smell bad”.
- Clean the kitchen or stack/unstack the dishwasher.
Leave a thank you bottle of wine
I consistently get really good deals on rental cars and here are my secrets:
- Book early – You don’t need a deposit for rental car reservations so book early as it doesn’t matter if you cancel it.
- Use both a discount and a promotion code when reserving.
- Rent from local or non-airport locations.
- Don’t get the insurance – use the coverage provided by your credit card instead.
- Book for longer – A one week rental will be cheaper than a 5 day rental due to pricing rules.
The number one thing that will lower the cost is applying the discount codes. It’s simple to get one. Nearly all airlines offer a discount code “CDP” for use with car rental agencies. To find it just google “CDP”, your airline, and rental agency. United’s is ‘62455’ for Hertz. Next go to the rental agency’s website and look for their promotion and coupon page for a promotion that fits your rental. Add the Promotional Coupon “PC” to your rental and let the magic unfold! Here is a great resource to find rental discount codes that I use: www.carrentalsavers.com
Car rental agencies are like restaurants in that they don’t make their profit from their core product (restaurants make their profit on drinks not food). Their biggest markup is from insurance, and you’ll find it will typically double the total cost of your rental. If you can, use a credit card which comes with rental car insurance coverage and decline the insurance from the rental agency – and try not to crash.
Another counter-intuitive artifact of car rentals is that it is often cheaper to rent for a longer period. Agencies have a stepped pricing model, with the typical being 1-day, 3-day, weekly, and monthly pricing. If you need a car for 5 days it will almost always be cheaper to make the rental 1 week so that your pricing drops to the weekly rate. You can still return the car after 5 days, you’ll just pay less for it.
Lastly think about renting from a non-airport location, particularly when doing one-way rentals. A great example I have is from this summer when I did a one way month-long rental from LAX to Reno, NV. If I had rented the car directly from the airport location the cost was $950. Instead I hopped in a taxi and took it 5 miles to a nearby neighborhood location. The taxi was $25, but the car rental was now $525.
Rental car desk