Bumped from First Class

Discussion in 'Newbies' started by FranklyMe, Oct 27, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. FranklyMe

    FranklyMe Active Member

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    Looking for some advice on how to complain about United giving away my seats.

    My wife and I recently traveled on United Business award tickets to Europe and back to California. Most of the trip was on a partner airline but the last leg from the East Coast home was on United where we had first class seats reserved. We arrived on the east coast a little late with the partner flight and we still had to clear passport control and customs so I was worried about making the flight at about 8:00 pm. While cursing not having Global Entry we raced to passport control to find it completely empty of travelers and we breezed through. Next, our bags were first up on the belt and as we ran past a United help desk we asked if they could notify the gate that we were coming and to not leave without us. The United attendant checked our flight and said we were fine and no need to call. My wife asked if she would still call just in case but the woman, quite rudely, said there was no need if we just went upstairs and it was just about 50 yards away.

    We went upstairs to find that the gate was closed and we were told we were booked on the next flight and had to get new boarding passes at the help desk about 50 feet away. I was annoyed and went to the desk and complained as we were not late in my opinion and the plane hadn't left yet. They took my boarding passes to see what was up and gave me new ones for a later flight that got us to California after midnight - not great.

    Then a United agent came running from our boarding gate and said we could still get on our original flight as we were still in good time, except ... they had given away our seats to someone from economy as an upgrade but there were plenty of seats at the back of the plane! I was shocked and said she could just downgrade those two people and give us back our seats. She said that was impossible now as once someone had the seats they could not be downgraded. I asked if she had failed to notice that we had those seats and she was downgrading us ... but she didn't see the connection.

    Anyway I refused to accept the downgrade and went back to the help desk to see what could be done, only to find that the seats on our later flight were not together. I asked them to change the seats so we could sit together and they said only the gate people could do that. So we went back to the new gate, just a few yards down with the same United woman from our original flight chasing us saying we can still get on our original flight in coach and they were holding the plane for us, but still only in economy. This whole thing took about 15 minutes, which actually made the original flight leave late anyway.

    We waited for another 30 minutes until an agent came to the new gate and I asked her to change our seats so we could sit together, but she said it was impossible as a seat cannot be changed in first class without the booked passenger's permission (economy would be OK to change?) I told her our seats were given away without our permission and she said that should not have happened but would not budge on her "rule". In the end a passenger moved to acomodate us sitting next to each other.

    So, am I wrong in thinking this was worse than being bumped? After all, they left without filling our two seats and I was told the later flight was full so United potentially lost out and we certainly lost out when we got stuck with a lousy car rental at LAX at about 1:30 am and 2 hours late. Was United in their rights to give away our seats and yet offer us economy on the same flight?
     
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  2. mattsteg
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    mattsteg Gold Member

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    When did you arrive at the gate and when was the flight scheduled to depart? What sort of tickets were you on? Award, cash, upgraded, ???

    If they offered to reopen the door for you, they were already going a bit above, unless it was closed early.
     
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  3. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Award/upgrade doesn't matter, but the times do. If you were not at the gate 15 minutes prior to the scheduled departure time then the agents did nothing wrong in giving away the seats. At that point you are correct that it is your choice whether to take the next flight in Y or wait for F seats to show up, but that's your choice, not an obligation the airline has to you to force F seats open.
     
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  4. Jaimito Cartero
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    Jaimito Cartero Silver Member

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    How long of a connection did you have it scheduled for? I always try for 3 hours when coming in on international, and never connecting to the last flight of the day. Some airports have a chronic problem with lateness, or difficult to get luggage in a timely manner (JFK, mostly).
     
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  5. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    As the passenger who perhaps would have been moved against my will I applaud the gate agent for not budging on "her" (really, United's) rule.

    Two wrongs don't make one right. How did your problem (arriving late) suddenly become my problem (moved out of my seat)?
     
  6. Max M

    Max M Gold Member

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    I understand your frustration, but from what I read here, you missed your flight due to not having enough time [to get through customs and immigration], and United re-opened a flight that was closed to attempt to accomodate you, and you refused to board because of your F seats being given away and having to sit in coach?

    UA then reaccomodated you in F on another flight, but couldn't get 2 in F seats together?

    If the seats were not together, and in F, did you attempt to ask the FA when you got on-board to see if they would help you find someone switch seats? Otherwise did you ask any passengers to see if the would swap seats with either you or your wife?

    I've traveled with my wife in F on another carrier where we were upgraded to F and seated next to each other 72 hour prior to departure, then at check-in our seats were split up. The ticket counter employee couldn't/wouldn't help us as he said there were no open F seats. We explained the situation to the gate agent-- same deal. The F FA washed her hands of the situation, and refused to help. We finally asked a few individuals in F if they'd swap seats--- some declined, but one person was gracious enough to help with our request.

    I was VERY frustrated at the carrier for the snafu, having giving them all of our business over the past 10 years, along with mid-tier elite status 8 out of those 10 years.

    However, I didn't even bother to fire off a complaint to the carrier because they got us from point A to point B, still in F.

    Both the passenger's point of view and the airlines' point of view are valid, but the reality is that someone else [another passenger] shouldn't have to forcibly give up their seat, and accept another seat assigment from the airline, to accomodate 2 passengers in F to sit together, just because the airline "messed" things up.
     
  7. FranklyMe

    FranklyMe Active Member

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    I don't know the exact times but I think that it was less than 15 minutes by the time we arrived at the gate. And our connection time was only 90 minutes, scheduled.

    OK, so I got what I asked for, i.e. advice and I appreciate that. I was annoyed but it seems United was not at fault (apart from the first person who told us there was no problem and she didn't have to call ahead) though it sure felt like it to me. I was on an award but that shouldn't have mattered. The people who got our sets may also have been for all I know.

    Thanks to all for replying.
     
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  8. ella
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    ella Silver Member

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    I travel solo most of the time. Many times I am asked by other passengers to switch seats - in first as well as in coach. I usually do switch, but sometimes when they act as if it's their right to take my assigned seat instead of theirs I tend to not be so cooperative.

    When I travel internationally, I always allow at least 3 hours between flights. I have global entry and most of the time don't check a bag, but I would still rather build in extra time between flights.
     
  9. FetePerfection
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    FetePerfection Silver Member

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    ;) Agreed -
     
  10. paladinua

    paladinua Silver Member

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    The Mrs. and I have been traveling together a lot. We've had two different instances in the past 2 weeks where we either got a last minute upgrade, or, as in yesterday, a last minute flight change b/c our inbound flight was early. Of those two, we were 50/50 in changing seats to be next to each other, in both cases, we made very polite, but not "its my right" cases. Really, the time that we were actually successful, we merely had a short "do you have everything you need?" "yes, you?" conversation, and the passenger seated next to my wife offered to change (and to which we were very grateful and removed her bag from the overhead first upon arrival, to show that continued gratitude). The other time, we sat on separate sides of the plane, and were just as happy to be seated up front.

    That said, I understand that you paid the miles for an F award, although I'm not sure I would ever accept a 90 minute connection, maybe, since we have Global Entry, but, in general, that is cutting it way too close. I dare say you may have been asking for trouble. Further, once your seat is released, it is released, I'm not sure you have any way to get it back, and especially on United, F seats are in high demand and short supply.

    As far as the person you asked to call the Gate... Having never been in that situation, I couldn't say one way or the other... But, if its before security, my guess is that you may have been better asking for someone to escort you through an expedited security (if they do that.. I've seen it some places, but never know what situation warrants it). If you have a physical human being with you, you're better off, in my experience, but, its still a crapshoot.

    Sorry things didn't work out for your trip home -- but hope the overall trip was an enjoyable one!
     
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  11. Newscience

    Newscience Gold Member

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    I'm very impressed by the scads of airline travel wisdom provided by Milepointers in the above postings. The "weak spots" in FranklyMe's itinerary include the use of partner airlines and having a too-short a time for a connecting flight from the East Coast to the West Coast after international travel, along with needing to clear TSA/customs. Yes, of course, Global Entry access would likely have prevented this scenario from occurring. But, both he and his wife would need to have Global Entry. Here's a great list of tips on Global Entry: http://thepointsguy.com/2013/08/1-things-you-didnt-know-about-global-entry/
    I feel FranklyMe's pain, as my better half would be an unhappy camper if we were separated on the plane during air travel :mad:
    Anyway, it sure seems like FranklyMe knows a few tips to avoid this scenario from occurring again! :D
     
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  12. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    I don't think there's much room for opinion in the matter. There are precise rules about how long prior to the flight's departure you must be present at the gate. If you got to the gate before that time, you likely have a valid cause for complaint. If you didn't, you unfortunately have no such cause. The fact that the door was closed is a pretty good indication that you passed the limit.

    Honestly, this sounds like two instances in which you asked the gate agent to do something to other passengers at least as bad as what you perceive happened to you. While I appreciate the "it never hurts to ask" philosophy, I'm not sure that asking the gate agent to shaft other customers is necessarily the best way to convince them to make right what may or may not have been a mistake in their treatment of you.
     
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2013
  13. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Airlines don't generally hold planes for a couple of delayed passengers, and having someone call the gate doesn't change that. Instead of spending time trying to get someone to call ahead for you, you are maximizing your chances by running without delay.
     
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  14. FranklyMe

    FranklyMe Active Member

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    OK OK OK. As you can tell, I am not a very frequent flyer and not sure of the rules (maybe 3 trips like this a year). I agree with you all. To clarify, Global Entry wouldn't have helped in this case as we couldn't have been quicker through passport control, luggage pickup, customs and TSA. There was obviously not enough time between connections - I just looked at it was only 50 minutes! I have now learned that even if it can be booked it doesn't mean it is wise. My beef was mainly that AFTER all the TSA and customs was complete and 2 minutes from our gate that we were told we were in good time. A mistake I guess. Also I was tired after a long day of travel.

    I was assigned the A seat and my wife the D seat, which means two other people had C and F so I assumed they wouldn't be together and wouldn't really mind being on the left or right side as they could still have an aisle and a window seat - but NOW I REALIZE that it may matter to some. Anyway, the kind man in C switched to D quite happily and all was well.

    Thanks again to everyone for weighing in. I have learned something. This is what this forum is for, right?
     
  15. vickers

    vickers Gold Member

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    It certainly is. You asked for opinions, and you got them. The people here are very nice and polite, but get right to the point, which I appreciate personally. Just be glad you did not post this "on the other site". lol Hope you had a great trip.
     
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  16. LarryInNYC

    LarryInNYC Gold Member

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    Please say this wasn't JFK -- 50 hours might not be enough time. (Although it was EWR, wasn't it?)
     
  17. FranklyMe

    FranklyMe Active Member

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    IAD
     
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  18. NYBanker
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    NYBanker Gold Member

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    Write a letter. State your facts without drama or hyperbole. You'll get something.

    Any other efforts would be a waste of time.
     
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  19. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Absolutely true. This past August on my way from LGA to EZE thru IAH, a rain delay at LGA caused my flight to arrive at IAH just 20-25 min before my flight to EZE was to depart. I scrambled out of the arriving flight, found a UA agent just outside and requested that they call to alert the EZE flight that I had made it to IAH and that I was doing my best to get to the gate. They just told me that calling ahead would do no good. I just needed to hustle. When I got at the gate, boarding had completed and the door to the plane had just been shut. Seeing that the plane door was still open, I begged the GA to let me make this flight; she refused, saying that she got the word to shut things down and that she had no authority to reopen the door. This was the more important because it was 9 pm and there were no other flights of any kind for EZE until the following evening (24 hr later). They did not relent. They just put me up overnight at a nearby hotel, gave me a food voucher, and rebooked me for the connecting flight the next evening. I was pissed because this had cut a full day out of my vacation but there was little I could do once the order had been issued to close the door.
     
  20. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Maybe, but why waste the CSRs' time when they aren't really entitled to anything anyways. :confused:

    Or is this just a "complain until you get something because that's better than taking responsibility for your own actions" sort of play??
     
  21. Jaimito Cartero
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    Jaimito Cartero Silver Member

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    I'm confused. You say the plane door was shut. And then you say it was still open?
     
  22. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    I understand the confusion because I was referring to two different doors: "plane door" was still open, but "door from gate area to the plane" was closed. Maybe I should have referred to the latter simply as _______________? (fill in the blank for my edification):)
     
  23. Sean Colahan
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    Sean Colahan Gold Member

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    Maybe use Plane door (referring to the door on the aircraft) and jet bridge or gate door (referring to the door in the airport).
     
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  24. NYCUA1K

    NYCUA1K Gold Member

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    Much clearer, thank you.:)
     
  25. Flyer1976
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    Flyer1976 Gold Member

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    It's frustrating to not make your connecting flight due to unforeseeable circumstances however you were not bumped out of First Class. The airline re-accommodated you on the next available flight in your ticketed class of service. You could complain to United if it made you feel better but nonetheless they got you home and in your ticketed class of service.

    United in this situation followed the rules.
     
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