I can understand, in this oversold/overbooked world, that when you check in, you might check in and select seats late enough that there are no longer two adjacent seats left for you and your travel companion (both tickets bought as part of the same transaction), and hence be forced to sit apart. I mean, if you've oversold the flight, you have an excuse (though not a good one) to not bother to at least pencil in adjacent seats for people who bought their tickets months ago.
But I'm really at a loss to understand why, if I check in 22 hours ahead of the flight and there actually *are* two adjacent seats available, not in a premium row, not in the very back row, or in any other condition (that I'm aware of) which could possibly prejudice me against selecting them, the site would *not* auto-select the adjacent seats, and instead, auto-select two middle seats.
Sure, it's true that I can now change them. But really, once you've started by refusing to allow seat selection until 24 hours before the flight, and you've oversold all of your flights, why put that extra little cherry on top, saying, in effect, "We would really prefer to screw you, if we were given the choice."
We learned about Northwest's seat-selection treachery last year, when we checked in at the airport and got split up, not having selected our seats beforehand. This time, it's true, I chose to go to dinner instead of being at my computer at 5:55pm this evening; but I barely managed to avoid the natural consequence of my irresponsible behavior at around 8 o'clock, with just two adjacent seats left to grab.
I am usually willing to pretend that the airlines are interchangeable, and compete only on price, but I think it actually is time to start selecting against Northwest. I've had it.