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United Airlines Trolls Passenger Upset About Not Getting to Move Seats

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The days of moving up to a better, empty seat on the plane after takeoff are, for the most part, long gone.

Sure, you might find a flight attendant willing to let you move up to a seat you didn't buy, with a wink and a nod. But airlines have found ways to squeeze every ounce of money out of the plane, from checked bag fees to seat selection fees to “preferred seating,” economy seats at the front of the plane that cost more.

One United flyer realized this the hard way after taking to Twitter to complain about his recent flight, when he was told he couldn't move from his full row to a completely empty row closer to the front of the plane.



United initially responded that those empty seats were Economy Plus – closer to the front of the plane with more legroom. American Airlines also offers a similar seat called “Main Cabin Extra,” while Delta has an entirely different fare class called Comfort Plus.

And because those typically cost more than a standard economy seat, the United social media team said it “is not fair to the customers who did pay for the upgrade.” When Patel didn't buy it, United threw down the gauntlet.



As you might expect, that analogy didn't go over to well with an already aggravated United passenger.



Our Analysis

While comparing a few extra inches of legroom to a Lexus is about as far off base as it gets, the airline has a point. And so does Patel.

On the one hand, it seems to make sense to allow travelers to move to open seats after the plane doors close. Those seats can no longer be sold, and giving passengers on board a little something extra at no cost to the airline is a nice touch in the increasingly uncomfortable and hostile world of air travel. It breeds loyalty.

Unfortunately, that's not the kind of loyalty airlines want – or the kind of loyalty that makes them money.

By doling out these supposed upgrades for free, it removes any incentive for passengers to pay for them. If you know you there's a chance you can squeeze into one of these seats for free after takeoff, why pay for it?

It's one thing to move to another empty, standard economy seat. But this is clearly different. And United – and all airlines – would much rather reward frequent travelers with status with these seats – or give them to anyone willing to pay more upfront.


Bottom Line

Don't expect to move up to these bigger seats for free, even when they're empty. And be prepared to get trolled on Twitter if you do.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

2 Responses

  • In my experience, asking the flight attendant is where he went wrong. Most of the time they don’t care, but if you ask them point blank they have to answer with company policy.
    I flew United on Thursday– when I boarded, I got to my row, saw it was full, and walked right back up and sat down in an empty Plus row with the little blue tabs.
    Aside from the steward making a speaker announcement about them being “for economy plus passengers only”, no one spoke to me, asked for my boarding pass, nothing, and I enjoyed a row to myself and a little more leg room for a couple of hours.

    If they ask you to move, you’re back where you were anyway, but I’ve always found that in travel drawing attention to yourself (or forcing an employee to make a decision on company policy for you) is never the more productive route.

    • Taken straight from the “Exercises in Privilege” handbook. Watch a woman of color try to pull off the same, guaranteed a flight attendant will be by to check her ticket.

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