Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Travel Topics > Air Travel
Reload this Page >

Why do US airlines no longer have assigned seats?

Why do US airlines no longer have assigned seats?

Mar 6th, 2010, 07:04 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 449
Why do US airlines no longer have assigned seats?

Over December and January, we flew on three different airlines - United, JetBlue, and American.

During all the flights, we were not assigned seats until we got to the gate. Two of the tickets were booked six months in advance; the other two a few weeks in advance.

It was irritating that we could not sit together on the AA flight.

We also flew an Asian airline (ANA) - we had assigned seats for those flights.

What is going on?
usernameistaken is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 07:30 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 9,870
I don't understand. Did you contact the airline to get an assigned seat, or just wait until you got to the gate?

On every flight I've taken in the US (6x in the last 2mo), I've had assigned seats from the moment I purchased tickets. (American, Delta, Virgin America)
J62 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 07:45 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,976
I just flew United Express/Sky West this week, booked 9 days in advance. The seat assignments were locked for airport check in. It turned out that almost the whole front of the cabin was unassigned except for a handful of seats, the rear was packed full. They are trying to get people to take the upgraded seats for an additional $39.00 up to the last minute. I checked in at the airport (customer service desk) about 1.5 hours ahead and was still not assigned a seat in the mostly vacant area. Instead I was assigned a window seat in the next to last row that had become open. When the actual gate opened, I asked to change to an aisle seat and was given an aisle seat in row 9 in the premium area. IMO....It is ALL about trying to squeeze all the extra $$$$$ out of the flying public they can.
hpeabody is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 10:27 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 596
B.A. doesn't assign seats either until 24 hours before the flight. At least, that is what just happened to a ticket I just booked for a relative in October.
Louise is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 10:31 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 5,506
I'm with J62 on this - I flown (mostly on American) something like 24 times in the last year and countless times in the last 20 years on both domestic and international flights originating in the US and have always been given a seat assignment when I purchased my ticket.
RoamsAround is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 11:21 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 8,201
Only occasionally have I not been able to get a seat assignment in advance.
abram is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 12:11 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,088
I've never had a problem with United seating. I would make the reservation on line and select our seats. When I decided to move up to economy plus, I was also able to make my choice of seats. Last week I checked United and found that our upcoming IAD-SFO flights were canceled and we were put on earlier flights. Our selected seats were also changed, but I went to the United website and was able to change the seats to what I wanted.
ronkala is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 12:14 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,008
Did you buy your AA tickets online? If so, you are able to pick your seats at the time of purchase. Otherwise, you just request seat assignments when you purchase the tickets over the phone.
bettyk is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 12:19 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
I agree with others. I'm always given the option to select my seats when I purchase on line. If you do not select them at that time, you run the risk of not being given an assigned seat on your flight date. Best to get those seats selected when you book.
simpsonc510 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 06:07 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 449
I bought online am pretty sure I selected the seats when I bought (because I always do this). That's why I was so surprised when we had no seats when we checked in. I bought the tix online but checked in at the airport (we do not have a printer at home).

We have FF# but don't have tons of miles so we usually don;t care which seats we get as long as we sit together. When I know I have to make a cxn, I try to book as far in front as possible.

The funny thing about the United flight is we actually ended up in premium economy seats instead of regular ones (for a 1- hour flight though).
usernameistaken is offline  
Mar 6th, 2010, 08:33 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,525
When you cannot get a seat ahead of time it is usually because they have sold more seats than they have.
dutyfree is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 02:27 AM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 9,870
You don't need a printer to check-in online, just a computer with internet access. You can reprint your boarding pass at the airport.
J62 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 03:51 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 2,032
Remember that even if you picked seats when you bought your tickets, seats are never guaranteed. Airlines sometimes (often?) shuffle aircraft and passengers around and your seats can be moved or lost. They do not always notify you of that so you should check seats assignments, along with flight times, periodically.
NoFlyZone is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 04:23 AM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 11,334
Nofly... I know that airlines do that shuffle thing you mentioned. I've had to contact UA at least twice because they moved me from my selected seat and did not let me know. The only thing their computers keep in mind is whether or not you prefer a window or aisle seat. Their computers "assume" that if they move you in another window or aisle, that it is OK with you. NOT!! I try to book bulkhead seats or exit row seats with legroom since I'm tall. Just any old window seat will NOT do, thank you!!!
simpsonc510 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 04:35 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 449
Sounds like we picked seats and then were shuffled around after the the fact. On two flights, it ended up to our advantage (economy plus on United and exit row on AA, which was very comfy for my beanpole husband).

We fly to Acapulco on continental next month. I will report back!
usernameistaken is offline  
Mar 7th, 2010, 09:34 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 2,065
Sometimes there is an equipment change - very common on United from an A320 to an A 2319 which is smaller.
mztery is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 05:37 AM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 2,365
I recheck my reservations and seat assignments regularly before each flight - every week and then more frequently closer to the flight. It's a stupid p.i.t.a. but absolutely necessary, because they do switch you around.

They also, definitely, block out most of the front of every flight in hopes of selling to late-purchasers on business expense accounts and/or with elite status. DH is AA Gold status, I am not -- we compare the seating charts we each get when trying to book a flight, and his seating chart shows the number of truly free seats, while mine will often show just a handful of middle-seats. And yes, it's for the same fare class.....
Cyanna is offline  
Mar 8th, 2010, 02:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,885
Even AA Executive Platinum status(the highest) does not see all the seats still available for assignment. Anywhere from 10-20% of the seats are blocked for airport assignment ONLY. What your husband sees that you don't, are few of the preferred seats as in exit row and forward aisle seats, but trust me, he does not see all the seats available.

Airport assignment only seats are done for a good reason. Families with kids that need to sit together, handicapped, and as already stated, some are reserved for high paying last minute purchaser.

Many of the economy seats also get released in the last 100 hours since many of the status holders request and are granted upgrades to business or first.

Executive Plats start clearing at 100 hours (no brainer here as EPs get free upgrades)
Plats start clearing at 72 hours
and if there are still any upgradeable seats Golds may start clearing at 24 hours all the way to last call at the gate.
Plats and Golds have to pay $30 per 500 miles so many just stay in the back, but if they see a better (exit row seat) open up, they may grab it before the casual flier even knew they were available.

Not seeing any seats does not mean it's a sold out flight, it just means that the remaining open seats can only be assigned by airport personnel.

And finally I don't know where the OP got the idea that US based airlines don't assign seats. All the major airlines do and most of the budget airlines do as well with just few exceptions, most notable, Southwest.
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  
Mar 9th, 2010, 08:57 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 449
I said US based airlines because that is my recent experience so I was trying to be accurate when I posted. In the last few months, I flew American, United, JetBlue, and ANA. With ANA, we had our assigned seats, with the other three we didn't. So we were wondering if it had something to do with US based airlines.

We are flying continental next month for two long flights and really want to make sure we sit together. So, I am looking to figure out how to make that happen.
usernameistaken is offline  
Mar 9th, 2010, 10:22 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,885
I still don't get. All 3 you mentioned do assign seats, American, United and JetBlue.

Perhaps you're booking ANA code shares? That means you're booking with ANA for the international portion and the US domestic flights are with the other airlines and have ANA flight number but operated by the other airlines. If that's the case, you need to call the airline directly and ask for seat assignment.
AAFrequentFlyer is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 07:28 AM.