Is this a new practice - exit rows reserved/blocked out for crew

Discussion in 'United Airlines | MileagePlus' started by zenNJ, Jan 15, 2013.  |  Print Topic

  1. zenNJ

    zenNJ Silver Member

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    I am a frequent flyer on UA from EWR->LHR and usually fly out once a month. and just recently I noticed a trend that I find a bit disturbing.

    On a flight I took this past weekend from EWR->LHR, I noticed that during check-in and then before boarding (using mobile.united.com to look at seat plans), there were a whole section of exit rows (the 3 seats on the left side, rows 21D,E,F) did not show up on the seating plan. These were the exit rows that are actually part of two rows of exit rows (i.e. row 20 is also exit row, but they don't recline whereas row 21 does and so are the better selections).

    In any case, when I boarded the plane, it turned out those 3 exit row seats were completely empty for the flight. Since I was a 1K member and was allowed to pick exit aisle seats if they were available, I asked about changing to those seats and was allowed to do so. Later on in my return flight back from LHR->EWR, again there were no exit rows available (i.e. 21D,E,F was all blocked out again) but when I board the plane, it was again empty. I later spoke to a United agent and he said that yeah, they block those 3 seats out in case they have crews that need to fly on the flight. But for whatever reason, they don't release it even before flight is taking off so that for those of us who are always looking for a better seat assignment, it would become available for us to grab. In this situation I was seated close enough to the exit row seats to see that they were available and ask to change seats, but it's disturbing that the most premium seats (that are supposedly available to elite passengers when available) are left empty for the flight.

    So on the one hand, I understand that if they need to fly out crews, they want them to be well-rested. I had on a few occasions when flying biz first from EWR->LHR and vice-versa, had an empty seat next to me only to then be taken by pilot/co-pilot who take turns having their 3-4 hour catnap. Which is fine except when they do their shift and have to straddle over me (I always take aisle seats) so the other person can take the seat. In that situation I realize that since biz first would have been empty, it make sense to have the pilot/co-pilot get a decent rest as they probably do travel quite a bit and need to be well-rested.

    But I hadn't notice that they were doing this now for exit aisles seat. So I begin checking for future flights out from EWR->LHR and sure enough, on all the ones I checked, exit rows 21 D,E,F are never available. I remember even as late as last October, whenever I make a booking, all the exit rows were available (or at least 21D or 21F would be available). And now on the 3 different flights I tried to test-book, none of these 3 exit rows are available.

    So am I being unreasonable here in being peeved that one of the supposedly perks of being a elite traveler (ability to choose exit aisles seats) is now being reduced since they wanted to make it available for crews that may or may not show up?
     
  2. Mackieman
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    Mackieman Gold Member

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    Yes, you're being unreasonable. Most international flights have some seats blocked for crew rest. pmUA used to have some dedicated seats with extra pitch and foot rests on some of the 772s but that went away with the new cabin configs. My sCO 752 flight on Thursday IAD-DUB has 21DEF blocked for crew rest, but it will likely be freed at the gate for seat assignments. It's quite par for the course.
     
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  3. Olton Hall
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    Olton Hall Gold Member

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    That has been normal for a number of years on the transatlanic 752. They don't have flight deck crew rest areas or a large enough BF section such as the 777 and if they have a flight that needs a second flight deck crew do to time they need a spot for the second crew to rest up before taking over. Once the FA's know they won't be used shortly before door closure you can get them by asking.
     
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  4. Hartmann
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    Hartmann Gold Member

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    On the 757-200, 21DEF are blocked for crew rest. Like Mackieman stated, they may be freed up at the gate shortly before the flight.
     
  5. mherdeg
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    mherdeg Silver Member

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    Huh, I didn't realize that you could ask for 21DEF if they're still empty after the door closes!

    The only times I've heard people ask for 21DEF, the flight attendant has said "no, those seats are for the pilots". I guess I happened to be on flights where there was a second crew that needed them.
     
  6. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Can you elaborate? Are 21DEF for the pilots or for the FAs? And what would be the reason for them being released at the gate? Alternative (BF?) seats being available? Or crew not feeling tired? (he said jokingly)
     
  7. Mackieman
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    Mackieman Gold Member

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    My understanding (which is far from universal) is that they're for the FAs should the stage length require it. Most of the shorter 752 missions, ie SNN, DUB, LHR, etc, usually free them up at the gate because the flight time is not longer than a single FA crew can handle.

    I flew EWR-ARN last year on a 752 and there was a BF seat blocked for crew rest that was unused as the relief pilot stayed in the cockpit jump seat. 21DEF were used by pax if I remember correctly. So it's not a hard and fast rule; it's more of a situation where the airline expects to need crew rest and, if they don't, they'll release the seats at the gate. I imagine some of this also impacts revenue management and how many tickets they sell for the flight.
     
  8. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Is correct. :-:

    My experience has been that they have released the seats once they confirm that they are not needed for crew rest but I haven't been on a TATL 752 in Y for a while now so I haven't really kept up on it too much.
     
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  9. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Interesting... so for those flights, does the number of FAs on the flight actually vary depending on the expected flight time (based on winds and route)?

    Thanks!
     
  10. Mackieman
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    Mackieman Gold Member

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    No, crew size is based on number of passengers that the aircraft can carry per FAA rule, with a ratio of one FA for every 50 passengers. Service levels are higher than that for some flights, especially in premium cabins. Additional crew may be on board for longer flights as needed and noted above.
     
  11. zenNJ

    zenNJ Silver Member

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    But that is my complaint here - they don't release the seats at gate for seat assignments. Right before boarding, I checked the seat plan online and it still shows it as unavailable/blocked. I understand if they have crews that need it, but my complaint is that they left them empty for the flights both ways - I had to ask someone to get re-assigned to it once I am on the plane and the door has closed. And I only knew to do that because I was seated close enough to the exit rows to know they were empty.
     
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  12. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Did they have some sort of signage on those seats that they are reserved for crew use? If I recall correctly, PMUA used some special head rest covers or something on the 777 FA seats in the first few rows of E+.
     
  13. Mackieman
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    Mackieman Gold Member

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    I think it's important to remember that when you purchase airfare, you're not purchasing a specific seat; you're purchasing a seat on the flight. Seat assignments are never guaranteed. Now, the airline has an incentive to not change seats once a customer has selected them because it pisses everyone off (hence the Y renumbering that sCO did prior to the merger which carried through to sUA despite the baying and grousing of a bunch of douchey 1Ks who feel that any change is bad), but that doesn't mean they have to make any seat available at any particular point in time.

    Operational concerns trump your personal comfort in this particular case; but it sounds like you advocated for yourself and got what you were looking for. I don't know what there is to complain about in that case. :confused:
     
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  14. Mackieman
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    Mackieman Gold Member

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    Those were only for the dedicated crew rest seats on those 772s that I noted above. I've never seen a head rest cover for crew rest on a regular seat on another aircraft (which isn't to say that it doesn't happen, so YMMV as in all things).
     
  15. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    Right, as I said, too.

    Would make sense to have them, IMO, to keep poachers from stealing the seat and the FAs from having to send'em back to their assigned seats. But I have only had one 757 flight across the pond, and I was in the first row of coach next to the door.
     
  16. lhrsfo
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    lhrsfo Silver Member

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    On both my westbound TATL flights on 752s (one to EWR, one to IAD), 21DEF were unavailable for assignment at check in. In both cases, one of the seats was occupied by what appeared to be a single FA dead-heading (ie uniformed, not working, but chatting happily with the FAs who were working). The seats beside were left empty, notwithstanding otherwise fairly full flights.
     
  17. Captain Oveur
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    Captain Oveur Gold Member

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    You can't always be sure uniformed FAs are deadheading, as many wear their uniforms on personal trips to exempt themselves from carry-on and liquid restrictions.
     
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  18. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    Are you sure that FA wasn't working the flight and just on break at the time?

    Also, when the seats are used as crew rest all three are used, even if only one FA is on break.
     
  19. zenNJ

    zenNJ Silver Member

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    I know that I was able to get the seats I want afterward, but that was only because I was seated in the area close to exit aisle and so was able to see the available empty seats and ask for them.
    Again, I am not complaining here that the crews shouldn't be allowed to use seats, but that when there are no crews using the seats, they are still left empty and so as a premium elite passenger, I was not able to get a better seat when it's available - and yes it's nice to say we are just buying a seat on a plane but not a specific seat; but the airlines marketing for getting premium elite passengers to sign on is that you get access to premium seats (i.e. for silver you can access them 24 hour before check-in, for gold/platinum/1K you can access them at time of booking, and then for exit aisles you can access them as well at time of booking for the higher elite status). So it's fine if they need to set aside seats for crews, but once they know there aren't crews that need those seats on the flight, for goodness sake, release them so we can have access to them!
     
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  20. CGK
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    CGK Gold Member

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    PMCO used to mark the BF crew rest seat(s) with a small sign. Not sure what post-merger UA does, as I haven't really paid attention.
     
  21. lhrsfo
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    lhrsfo Silver Member

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    I can't be sure but I was in 20D on one flight and 20F on the other and, in both cases, the individual was seated there on take-off and for the first couple of hours into the flight and on landing so I don't think they were working - but I wasn't exactly monitoring the activities on a minute-by-minute basis.
     
  22. walkerci

    walkerci Active Member

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    Nope. Many people frequently pick flights based on the seat and possibility of upgrade.
    For example: I will go out of my way to avoid a middle seat. E+ over E. Much prefer aisle seats over window.
    Front vs back of the bus. Etc. I expect to be sitting in the seat that I chose at time of purchase OR a better one.
     
  23. HaveMilesWillTravel
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    HaveMilesWillTravel Gold Member

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    So do I. And it works out okay 99.x percent of the time for me. But that doesn't mean that you acquire a seat license for a particular seat. You buy transportation and request to be sitting in a particular seat.
     
  24. Wandering Aramean
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    Wandering Aramean Gold Member

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    While many may do so they are still in the very, very small minority overall.
     

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