Extortion of $ for aisle/window seats

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Jan 8, 2019
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#1
Hello,
I flew a few days ago from the west coast to Amsterdam (nearly 9 hours) and, while I realize now that it's become quite common for airlines to block aisle and window seats, I'm still trying to comprehend how it can possibly be a legal business practice. I went online to check in 20 hours before departure to see that aisle and window seats in the entire main cabin are unavailable. But of course Delta offered what they called a "preferred" seat - also in basic economy main cabin but slightly closer to front, where aisle/window was $75. I called them to ask about this, the rep said they can't do anything for me and advised to change the seat at the airport. I couldn't risk this as I have a back problem and need to get up very often and do little exercises (I'm not on disability formally) so I decided to cough up the money. Sure enough, when I was at the airport the next day and have already gone through the procedures, I decided to check the seating arrangements on Delta's website, and lo and behold, they now have made available the aisle seats that were previously blocked, thus proving that they were never occupied by actual customers.

I have read now that US airlines do this all the time lately, ostensibly so that they can offer these seats to their elites. I live in Europe so I don't rack up a lot of Delta miles, but when I purchase a ticket which is in a certain class category, can the airline effectively block 30% of that category from me? The option to choose my seat at time of purchase was not there (I didn't get it through Delta's website). Has anybody tried to challenge this untransparent practice? It seems completely unfair.

I also wanted to ask for advice on another Delta flight (same itinerary) last summer which Delta cancelled (engine malfunction that came to light 5 hours after sitting in parked aircraft with no food). They denied me compensation and I now want to escalate the matter, but not sure how to go about it. I lost over 24 hours and $800 because of them.
Thanks a lot!
 
Jan 30, 2018
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#2
The paying up front for "preferred" seats has become a regular practice for most US airlines. Unfortunately we must pay or take our chances. Sure it is legal - their planes, they can do pretty much anything they want. Your choice to accept it or not. (I am NOT excusing them. I think it stinks.)

As for your other issue, you may have hurt your case by waiting so long.
 
Jan 8, 2019
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#3
Sure it is legal - their planes, they can do pretty much anything they want. Your choice to accept it or not.
Surely if that were true, they would also charge for breathing cabin air and using toilet facilities? And charge for watching movies and all food? I would have paid "up front" for an aisle seat, but I was buying a certain class of seat, which by law includes all seats in certain rows, and it seems like the airline should make it transparent at time of purchase that what I'm paying for is actually a middle seat.

For my second issue, I've read that you have three years to escalate this type of thing through EU rules (as the flight was to the EU this would be applicable). Reason I waited is Delta offered me a $400 voucher and I thought I would use it, but I didn't make plans to travel to the US before it expired in October.
 
Feb 23, 2018
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EU 261 only covers flights from the US to the EU if it is an EU carrier. If you were flying on Delta the flight to the EU would not be covered by EU261.
 
Mar 17, 2015
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If you already accepted the voucher, not sure there is more they will do. You may ask for them to extend the voucher.
 
Jan 30, 2018
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#7
You say:
"I would have paid "up front" for an aisle seat, but I was buying a certain class of seat, which by law includes all seats in certain rows..."

What law would that be?
 
Jan 8, 2019
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#8
There are no laws that guarantee you a seat type . A seat request is just a request, not even a guarantee you will get that seat.

Read your rights according to the DOT, you have very few.

https://www.transportation.gov/airconsumer/fly-rights
Thanks. I'm fine having to compete with other passengers for more desired seats in the same class during online check-in, but the airline makes that impossible by blocking 30 percent of the seats. I guess next time I simply won't check in ahead of time, since that seems to put you at a disadvantage.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#9
If you live in Europe you will have experience with this— BA, KLM, Easyjet, Ryanair ... in fact Ryanair was one of the pioneers of this. I flew Ryanair once and never again.

EU rules do not cover seat assignment issues — they cover delays and class downgrades.

one pays for a seat in a certain class of service from A to B. Some people get lucky and get assignments in aisles or windows for free.

As for paying for water or food, Norwegian, WOW and Iceland air do that.

If charging for seats was against EU rules Ryanair, Easyjet, KLM, and BA would not exist.
 
Likes: krisseye
Jan 8, 2019
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#10
If you already accepted the voucher, not sure there is more they will do. You may ask for them to extend the voucher.
I didn't ask them for a voucher and they didn't ask if I want to accept it. I asked for compensation of money I lost rebooking my other ticket. Delta just emailed me some code which could be used when booking with Delta and gives you the discount. I maybe would have used it if I had the opportunity, but I didn't (I don't live in the US). They also stopped the possibility of transferring such vouchers to a family member a few years ago, which I would have done.
 
Jan 8, 2019
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#11
If you live in Europe you will have experience with this— BA, KLM, Easyjet, Ryanair ... in fact Ryanair was one of the pioneers of this. I flew Ryanair once and never again.

EU rules do not cover seat assignment issues — they cover delays and class downgrades.

one pays for a seat in a certain class of service from A to B. Some people get lucky and get assignments in aisles or windows for free.

As for paying for water or food, Norwegian, WOW and Iceland air do that.

If charging for seats was against EU rules Ryanair, Easyjet, KLM, and BA would not exist.
It's not charging for seats that I take issue with, it's artificially blocking certain seats throughout the plane to boost incentive for desperate people to pay for 'preferred' seats. I would have happily taken an aisle seat in the very back of the plane, but Delta blocked all of them when I was checking in, and only unblocked them later, when the middle seats filled up. That's what seems unfair to me.
 
Jan 8, 2019
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#12
EU 261 only covers flights from the US to the EU if it is an EU carrier. If you were flying on Delta the flight to the EU would not be covered by EU261.
Thanks. Is there anything else I can do? What sort of compensation am I entitled to from a US-based airline in this case and is there anybody that can help with this?

Just to give more details about the incident - the plane was initially held up at the gate after the jet bridge hit the fuselage leaving a microscopic dent. We were told that a team of engineers needs to come to fully inspect and document this dent and clear us for take off. This took 2 to 3 hours of incremental delays (i.e. we were constantly assured it would be another 30 minutes, so most people stayed on the plane and didn't rebook). People were told they can get off the plane and hang out in the terminal but they would not be allowed back on since it's an international flight. Later on, the plane left the gate and got to the runway, fired up the engines and then went back to the gate. Something funky with the engine, it'll be another 30 minutes to check it out, we're told. An hour later they say the engine is not fit for flying, they need to replace some part of it, but since this is Seattle, maybe there is a Boeing part somewhere near so please stay put. Another hour passes (this is now 5 hours on a parked, stuffy plane, no food was offered, water was) - nope, there are no such engine parts, please rebook your flight. As we exit plane, one of the attendants inside the terminal hands me a sandwich. (No, thank you, I'd like to go home as soon as possible at this point).
Next day on a rebooked flight (which also departed two hours late) I was seated with a passenger from the cancelled flight who said he was not even offered a hotel room and spend the night on the floor. Something went seriously wrong with Delta that day.
 

Patina

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Dec 22, 2015
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#14
"I was buying a certain class of seat, which by law includes all seats in certain rows, and it seems like the airline should make it transparent at time of purchase that what I'm paying for is actually a middle seat"

Actually, my understanding is that at the time of purchase on all US airlines you are given an option to 'upgrade' to a preferred seat. When you declined to take that offer then you are essentially paying for a middle seat. In your case, the airline had less people pay to upgrade to a window/aisle seat so they released those seats for the ticket agents to assign. It could have easily gone the other way where you took the gamble and waited until you got to the airport to be assigned a seat but all the window/aisle seats were already taken.

May I suggest you look at it this way: you purchased a certain class but within that class are tiers, such as premium economy which on some airlines has more leg room but on others may just be closer to the front of the plane. These seats are more desirable so the airlines have a situation where they have more demand than they have product. The same goes for aisle and window seats. If they truly were all the same then no one would care if they sit in a middle seat (and some don't! Not me). Since people are basing their purchase by price, you can better control where you sit. For example, if you don't care where in the airplane you sit, you buy the lest expensive ticket and most likely end up in a middle seat. But for those that place some value on where they sit then they have the option to 'upgrade' their seat to a more desirable one. One of the issues that makes this complicated is 1) people remember when they could basically choose their seat and be guaranteed its theirs, and 2) people want the 'champagne' but at the 'beer' price. Airline prices are quite low today compared to years ago when a passenger received all those benefits without having to pay for them. The industry has turned to the ala cart model where you can pick and choose what you want to pay for.
 
Feb 23, 2018
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#15
"Thanks. Is there anything else I can do? What sort of compensation am I entitled to from a US-based airline in this case and is there anybody that can help with this? "

Unfortunately, the US does not have a passenger law like EU261. The $400 voucher was strictly a goodwill gesture from the airline, they are not required to offer any compensation.
 
Jan 8, 2019
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#16
"Thanks. Is there anything else I can do? What sort of compensation am I entitled to from a US-based airline in this case and is there anybody that can help with this? "

Unfortunately, the US does not have a passenger law like EU261. The $400 voucher was strictly a goodwill gesture from the airline, they are not required to offer any compensation.
Wow, that's crazy.
 
Jan 8, 2019
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#17
[QUOTE=" Airline prices are quite low today compared to years ago when a passenger received all those benefits without having to pay for them. "[/QUOTE]

I hear this a lot, but is this really true? I paid 1200 for the ticket, the most ever in many years for this itinerary which I fly fairly regularly.
More on point: I appreciate there's now an opportunity to pay more for a certain seat to be guaranteed it, I just find it unfair that the airline blocks all aisle seats. It comes down not to a fair gamble (check in early before other passengers claim certain seats or lose out) but to extortion (let's block all aisle seats even in back rows so that people that really want them will be forced to pay extra, and then we'll unblock them for other less desperate people checking in at last minute who would not have paid anyway). I don't want benefits, I just want to choose from seats that are genuinely available in the class that is on my paid fare.
 

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
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Wow, that's crazy.
What they are required to do is get you to your destination on the next available flight (which could be days later) OR refund you the price of the cancelled flight's portion of your ticket. In airline math, that could mean virtually nothing. If that ever happens to you on your outbound flight, know that cancelling the outbound flight will automatically cancel your return flight.
 
Nov 20, 2015
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#19
There is no "Basic Economy cabin" on Delta. "Main Cabin" is what Delta calls their economy cabin. Basic economy is a fare type within the Main Cabin. If you purchase a Main Cabin economy fare, you usually are able to select an aisle or window seat prior to check in. If you had a Basic Economy fare, your only option was to pay extra in advance for a seat assignment.
 

Patina

Verified Member
Dec 22, 2015
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#20
[QUOTE=" Airline prices are quite low today compared to years ago when a passenger received all those benefits without having to pay for them. "
I hear this a lot, but is this really true? I paid 1200 for the ticket, the most ever in many years for this itinerary which I fly fairly regularly.
More on point: I appreciate there's now an opportunity to pay more for a certain seat to be guaranteed it, I just find it unfair that the airline blocks all aisle seats. It comes down not to a fair gamble (check in early before other passengers claim certain seats or lose out) but to extortion (let's block all aisle seats even in back rows so that people that really want them will be forced to pay extra, and then we'll unblock them for other less desperate people checking in at last minute who would not have paid anyway). I don't want benefits, I just want to choose from seats that are genuinely available in the class that is on my paid fare.[/QUOTE]

Actually, it is true. Yes, prices may fluctuate from year to year, same with routes but the overall price of airline tickets is much lower than years prior when you account for inflation. Here is an excerpt from a Travel & Leisure article about it:

The Compass Lexecon study showed that, between 1990 and 2016, the domestic price per mile to fly decreased by 40 percent (and by 36 percent when you factor in fees). At the same time, fuel costs have risen for airlines by 110 percent since 1998, and airlines faced sharp drops in demand during the Great Recession of 2008-2009. With no regulatory protections for the industry, these set-backs and high costs led to bankruptcies and mergers, as they have in the past. But low-cost competitors ensure consumers can still pick between two or more airlines in most U.S. markets, which keeps the pressure on other airlines to keep those airfares affordable.
 
Likes: ADM
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