Lesson Learned - United Economy Plus

May 4th, 2011, 07:31 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 301
Lesson Learned - United Economy Plus

All -

For seasoned United travelers my story may be old news, but it was a rude awakening to me. I sent the below complaint to United. Their response - perhaps not surprisingly - was "tough luck".


United -

I would like to register a complaint about a recent United
flight. On Saturday April 23 I (along with my family) were on flight 967
from Rome to Dulles. The names and FF numbers for the passengers
Fredrick XXXX
Allison XXXX
Bridget XXXX
Note that John and Bridget are young children.

The night prior to the flight I checked in on-line.
To my surprise there were exactly 4 seats available in the Economy
seating area. These seats were scattered around the cabin not near to
each other at all. I selected those seats with the intention of fixing
the issue when I arrived at the airport.

The next morning I spoke to
the gate agent at the Rome airport. She indicated to me that the only
way to seat us together is if the 4 of us upgraded to economy plus
seating. I paid the fee (I don't recall what the Euro charge was but
it shows up as $455.49 on my credit card statement). We were as signed
three seats together and a separate fourth seat one row behind. I was
annoyed to discover that none of the 4 seats were aisle seats all were

At this point I was annoyed, but I was just going to chalk
it up as a lesson learned. I didn*t get really upset until I talked to
the people in the seats around us. It turns out the one person to my
left and the couple to my right were all sitting in Economy plus without
paying for it. They got bumped up to economy plus. This was EXTREAMLY
aggravating. It was especially annoying with respect to the person on my
left because he had the superior aisle seat.

This experience left
me with a very negative impression of United. I essentially feel like I
was scammed.
rholt is offline  
May 4th, 2011, 10:55 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 3,404
People do get bumped up when economy is full or they are high status ff, it's just what happens. I am sure if you asked around the plane there would be much variety in the payments for seats -that's just what happens. I can be on plane for NY to Australia and be paying much more g for my ticket that the person next to me because they bought it in US whereas i pay in Australia.
northie is offline  
May 4th, 2011, 11:01 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Well, those were the only seats together, and you agreed to pay for them without asking whether they're aisle or window. I have to agree with UA - tough luck. Maybe the agent should remind you that first, but you did get what you asked for - seats together.

Whether others pay for E+ or how they get there is irrelevant, as northie says.
rkkwan is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 01:47 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 3,291
I hope you signed up for United's Frequent Flyer program. Once you get 25,000 miles (within the calendar year) you won't have to pay extra for the Economy Plus.

Travelers have been wanting more legroom for years and United has finally done something about it. If the economy section is full, I would take my chances at getting bumped up to economy plus at no extra charge.
wally34949 is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 03:59 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 301
I am note sure you guys are getting the point of my post.

While I am annoyed at United (why wouldn't it be obvious to the gate agent we wanted one of the seats on the aisle)- my main message (perhaps I should have been more explicit) is that people should really think twice about actually paying for Economy Plus. My impression was that a substantial share of the people in Economy Plus on my flight got bumped there for free. Why pay for something when there is a high probability you will get it for free if you wait.

Yes - the family is all signed up with the ff program.
rholt is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 04:10 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 22,174
The gate agent should not be expected to know you want an aisle seat - they are not mind readers.

Many people in Business or First Classes are also there by benefit of FF status or miles. I do not think thee is a "high probability" you will get bumped up to anything these days for free without higher status in a program and certainly not for group of 4.
gail is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 04:39 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,269
"To my surprise there were exactly 4 seats available in the Economyseating area. These seats were scattered around the cabin not near toeach other at all. I selected those seats with the intention of fixingthe issue when I arrived at the airport."

Always best for me to reseerve seats together

if you have to be together.

As a single personally particularly a FF

upgraded free to PE or BC even if coach is booked.

With 4 you must book seats together or pay more later.

Not sure it is fair to blame the carrier

for your own booking error by not getting a flight

with seats together at the time you booked.
qwovadis is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 05:01 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Most of those who are sitting in E+ are elites with UA and CO's program. A few may have paid for annual access. And others are bumped up because they pay for higher fare class than you do. That's what UA's E+ are about. Most of those sitting there do not pay money for that specific flight.

Most weren't there on cheap economy tickets with no status and "just expected to be bumped up there" for free. If you hadn't paid for your access, the 4 of you would have been in regular E.

BTW, did you check or try to get seats prior to check-in? Were all seats blocked at all times since you purchased the tickets?
rkkwan is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 05:40 AM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,047
Why pay for something when there is a high probability you will get it for free if you wait.

That may have been true on your flight, but I don't think that "high probability" is a good general assumption--particularly for a party of four that wants to be seated together. I am eligible for E+ seating without fee, and lately it seems like the E+ part of the cabin is filling up further out from departure, and I've had situations where it has been difficult to reserve a good, non-middle E+ seat when I have to purchase a ticket just a couple weeks before travel (just happened to me yesterday).

Yes, people who are not eligible to pre-reserve E+ do get "bumped" from regular economy to E+ for free, but if UA agents are following procedure, those people have to go all the way to the gate without seat assignments and then wait until after check-in closes to see what they get (remember, United is still trying to sell E+ at check-in, if available). In most cases, the gate agents are also processing upgrades to business and first around boarding time, so it's possible that the person next to you on the aisle was someone who had no seat assignment until the last minute and then ended up getting the seat of someone who just got upgraded (thus that aisle seat had not been available when you bought your E+ seats). I've watched this play out at the gate many times and all I'll say is, I wouldn't want to be a UA gate agent!
ms_go is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 06:41 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 301
ms_go - thanks for your thoughtful feedback.

As for the rest of you - patronizing condescension does not make for a very welcoming forum.

Let me just underline a few points that were either not in my original post some of the commenters clearely didn't digest from my original post.
a) I attempted to select seats when I purchased the tickets and at several later points in time - United didn't allow it.
b) When I did on-line check-in approximately 16 hours prior to flight departure there were only the 4 scattered seats.
c) I don't think it take a mind reader to figure out that anyone would select an aisle seat or a window seat of completely internal seats.

I think some of you are trying to make the point that my sense of indignation is unrealistic given the cold calculus of the airline business and and that I could have avoided this situation with better preperation. Believe me - I am perfectly aware of this (see post subject line - lesson learned). I share my story only becasue I think there are folks out there who could learn from my negative experience.
rholt is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 06:45 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
I am still trying to figure what you want the folks out there to learn. The only legitimate one I can think of is don't forget to ask what kind of seats (aisle, middle, window) you will get in E+ before paying for them. If you don't like them, don't pay for the access.
rkkwan is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 06:54 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 301
Really - you can't figure it out? Are we reading the same thread?

My main point (in my post where I say "my main message") is that people should think twice about paying for E+ because if they are thoughtful about when they check in - there is a decent chance they will get it for free. ms_go suggested my flight may have been unusual in the degree to which many economy people got bumped up - still something to consider.
rholt is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 07:17 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Oh, so you're telling people to take a chance. I am telling you that the chance of a free bump to E+ is very small. So, I disagree with you that it's a good strategy. And your complaint to UA is not valid that there were others who got bumped up. Which seem to be your main point in your original post.

And let me ask you this... Do you know when that person in the aisle seat get his/her seat assigned? Do you know that they got bumped AFTER you paid and got assigned the middle seats? Are you saying that they had open aisle seats when you paid, but the agent screwed you over and deliberately put you in the middles?
rkkwan is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 07:27 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
BTW, while not getting an assignment may give you a chance of getting free E+ access, in the case that the plane is actually overbooked, it also makes you susceptible to voluntary or involuntary denied boarding. Some people love it for the vouchers and compensation, others may have big problem with their travel plans because of it.
rkkwan is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 07:29 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,568
You may get the E+ seat "for free" but the cost is not having any seat assignment until the last minute. Perhaps the lesson is, when you see only several scattered seats available for assignment at on-line check in, just log out and take your chances at the gate--better to get there with no seat than with one you really do not want. But then it is possible that someone else from the back of the plane decides to pay for an E+ seat and left 42B for you. It is a roll of the dice for sure.
kayd is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 10:55 AM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 2,420
And here we have why I don't respond to quizzing from my fellow passengers regarding "how you got that seat" or "how much did you pay"
CarolA is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 12:34 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,465
Two things to help avoid something like this again:
1) Check in in 24 hours before departure. This is the point when they start assigning seats and moving Elite status passengers forward. You want to be in the queue when it starts, not 8 or 10 hours later. Even if you don't have much status, adjacent seats from which you can choose will start opening up in the regular economy section.

2) Ask questions. When an agents asks you if you want to pay $455 for four adjacent seats, ask which ones you are getting before you pull out the credit card. You asked for 4 seats together, and you got them. Next time ask for four on an aisle, or two pairs of seats with one of each pair on an aisle.

A lot of passengers have elite status these days. All those around you may have been even a low tier elite status with any of the star alliance airlines, so it wasn't just a random bump up. gold airline
lcuy is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 12:57 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 513
Did you book the tickets at the last minute? I'm wondering why United wouldn't assign you seats when you booked.
Jimingso is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 04:04 PM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 9,908
Sorry this happened to u -- very annoying to feel ripped off by the airlines. What I've noticed on flights is that when a family is separated as u described the FAs will ask people to move seats so that they can be seated together or at least 1 adult with each child. I've been in line at the ticket counter and heard the agent telling families to take the assigned seats and then attempt to get them together. I guess that's a risk also. Although I've always seen the people end up together esp since sometimes the family will take a middle seat and trade it for their aisle seat.
yestravel is offline  
May 5th, 2011, 05:27 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,121
I'm also curious why you couldn't get seat assignments at the time of booking. I always request my seat assignments when I book on United...I often ask for a specific seat, having checked Seat Guru and UA's online seating chart prior to booking. If I change my mind, I go online and change my seats. Easy. Only had a problem once, when there was a plane change at the last minute.
Melnq8 is online now  

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