How to retain seats paid for?

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Mar 4, 2019
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#1
Retiree with no FF status. but 750k miles on UA before retiring. Travel once a year domestically cross country to visit relatives on East Coast. Always fly economy booking far in advance and pay extra for economy plus with aisle seat due to lavatory needs and mild claustrophobia. Last two trips my seats were switched to non-aisle (still in economy plus) on the long leg of return flights when I checked in online the day before return departure. On both occasions the airport check in staff at the first smaller airport claimed not to be able to do anything as seats were under control of the staff at the airport for the final long sector of the flight to the West Coast. Of course, flights were fully booked and gate staff at the long sector departure airport said " you can ask someone on board to switch". In other words my problem and not theirs. Complaints in the first case to UA online customer support afterwards got a $50 credit towards future flights and in the second case at my lengthy persistence a senior manager at the initial airport made the change back to the original seat manually. At the final airport the change back to the original seat stuck even though the "seat thief" had a duplicate boarding pass for the seat. I want to be able to avoid this problem on my flight later this year (or at least minimize the chances of re-occurrence). Any suggestions?
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
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Dec 27, 2014
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#2
Monitor your reservation. Check it every week or so and make sure that the seats weren’t changed.

It was most likely due to changing from your original plane to a smaller one if the flight didn’t sell out. The only way to control this is by keeping an eye on the flight and checking for changes as soon as they happen.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#3
I agree withe Neil. Seat selections are really "preferences", and so the airlines will move you around, especially when as Neil points out there is an aircraft change. Were it me, I would privately mention the bathroom challenge (I can relate).
 
Mar 4, 2019
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#4
I do monitor the reservation regularly especially after the initial occurrence. The change was made only at online check in for the last case. Yes, the airport check in staff used the "change of aircraft" as an excuse both times. However, having worked for Boeing for 30 years I know all the ac types well and the only change was well before departure--which was advised by UA email with the correct seat assignment. Nevertheless, I should not have lost an aisle seat that a premium was paid for. In the second case having paper print out of the reservation with the seat assignment on it was the thing that got the station manager on my side. Other ideas?
 
Jan 25, 2016
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#5
It's not clear to me if there actually was a change of aircraft type, from say a 777 to a 757 where a lot of premium seats would disappear (and what would UA do other then give preference to its elites), or not. I did have one case a couple of years back, with 1K status no less, where UA had started reconfiguring the 777's from 9- to 10-across, and in the process eliminated the row in the front of economy where my pre-selected bulkhead seat was located. I was also starting in a smaller station, but was "luckier" in that they did not reassign my seat so I was forced to look at the map when I checked in at the airport, and since there were actually more seats in the back, was able to snag a premium bulkhead even though it was way back in the last section.
 
Jan 6, 2015
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#6
David has indicated that UA indicated it was an aircraft change. And the seat change may have been due to seat re-alignment not disappearing seats.

But the chess game with seats can never be completely avoided, as they can re-assign them at will . . .
 
Jan 25, 2016
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#7
Yes, and an aircraft change is not the same as an aircraft type change. If the former and the same flavor of say a 737-900, then there should be no issue with the seats and UA has no excuse for scrambling seat assignments.

That said, of course it goes on and on because their IT systems are weak and the disregard for loyal customers continues. The latter point is a main reason this former multi-year 1K now flies WN as much as possible, and never has to worry about them changing my seat. ;)
 
Mar 4, 2019
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#8
When booked the aircraft type was an A32 but a few weeks before the initial departure I was notified by email that the return flight would be an B739 which indeed it was. The aisle economy plus seats I had purchased (paid over $100 each way more than the economy fare) were still correct in the reservation after the change. Only when I went to check in online the day before the return flight had I been moved to a center economy plus seat--which is less expensive and of course, didn't address the reasons I paid the premium in the first place. To me it was clear that either I had been moved manually for a "higher status" flyer or the IT system did it. Since I paid extra for the seat, I don't understand how they believe it is acceptable to make a change. It isn't simply a preference that they can't accommodate, it is something the customer paid extra for-- the change of seats appears to be something deliberate that is happening on full or nearly full flights. How to minimize? Simply fly someone other than UA? Flown internationally for years for Boeing and 6-7 times per year domestically (on UA only domestically) before retiring and never had this problem before.
 
Likes: bignevermo
Sep 19, 2015
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#11
When booked the aircraft type was an A32 but a few weeks before the initial departure I was notified by email that the return flight would be an B739 which indeed it was. The aisle economy plus seats I had purchased (paid over $100 each way more than the economy fare) were still correct in the reservation after the change. Only when I went to check in online the day before the return flight had I been moved to a center economy plus seat--which is less expensive and of course, didn't address the reasons I paid the premium in the first place. To me it was clear that either I had been moved manually for a "higher status" flyer or the IT system did it. Since I paid extra for the seat, I don't understand how they believe it is acceptable to make a change. It isn't simply a preference that they can't accommodate, it is something the customer paid extra for-- the change of seats appears to be something deliberate that is happening on full or nearly full flights. How to minimize? Simply fly someone other than UA? Flown internationally for years for Boeing and 6-7 times per year domestically (on UA only domestically) before retiring and never had this problem before.
You could have also been moved from the aisle for someone with a disability, such as a knee problem or leg problem and they needed the aisle seat. Is the person had a disability they get preference over a non disabled.

I would call someone a "seat thief". That person had no ability to make the change. The computers on their own do dreadful things -- when I get automatically rebooked when there is a delay or cancellation it is always something not desirable.

If you look at various postings this is an issue with all the airlines -- Delta, American, United --

And now Federal Air Marshals do have to sit further back in the aircraft -- they used to get first class.

The 737 -900 has a very different configuration from the Airbus 320 -- at least two more rows of first class, so it is not an even swap/

Unfortunately one has to be proactive and constantly stalk their own reservation.
 
Likes: ADM and VoR61
Sep 20, 2018
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#12
Damn... I have never run into this issue, You can pay for a premium seat in either aisle or window seat and get moved to a center seat??/ How the hell is a center seat EVER a premium seat?
I am paying for first class seats now... I fly to Hawaii every year... i went coach home and I could not take that hard seat... it was a rough ride home... I am doing Delta Plus this time... anyway, changing your seat after you pay for it should not be allowed... I am 6'5"... I cant take any old seat!
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
16,762
15,369
113
New York
www.promalvacations.com
#13
Damn... I have never run into this issue, You can pay for a premium seat in either aisle or window seat and get moved to a center seat??/ How the hell is a center seat EVER a premium seat?
I am paying for first class seats now... I fly to Hawaii every year... i went coach home and I could not take that hard seat... it was a rough ride home... I am doing Delta Plus this time... anyway, changing your seat after you pay for it should not be allowed... I am 6'5"... I cant take any old seat!
If the aircraft is changed to a smaller craft, there aren’t as many first class , business or premium
seats and someone has to get moved. It happens. Best chances are to book a popular itinerary that goes out full - then they don’t usually change plans types so easily.

I wish we had DOT rules about things like this.