United Makes You Pay To Move To Upgrade Area They Would Have Moved You To Anyway

Joe may have uncovered a deceptive policy at United Airlines that’s screwing over customers. Here’s how it works. If you’ve got an economy ticket and the only seats available are in Economy Plus, but you didn’t spring for the extra Economy Plus fee, you’re asked if you would like to pay the upgrade fee for economy plus seating. If you decline to upgrade, they seat you there anyway. Sounds pretty sketchy to me. Here’s Joe’s story:

When my family were ticketed for an overseas flight at Boston’s Logan International, the clerk processed our tickets but then asked an unexpected question: “Would you like to upgrade to seats with more legroom?” When I asked how much that would cost, he responded “$231.” I declined, since my flight was being paid for by my employer and the upgrade would have come out of my pocket. After a moment of discussion with another clerk, he processed our tickets. We received our tickets and proceeded to the gate for the first leg of our flight.

While waiting for the weather to clear at Dulles to continue our trip, I was attracted to a display from United Airlines that was playing on an LCD TV at the gate. United was showing off their “Economy Plus” seating option, which featured additional leg room in a specific section of the plane, in this case rows (Boeing 777) 17 through 26. (See http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/United_Airlines/United_Airlines_Boeing_777-200_2.php) I pulled out my boarding pass to check my seat assignments, and my entire family was seated in Row 18, within the “Economy Plus” area, even though I had declined to pay the additional fee.

At this point, I recalled the short conversation between the two clerks at Logan, which I had not paid much attention to at the time, but now made sense. My clerk asked the other clerk what “they are supposed to do when the traveler declines.” The other clerk replied that “the company makes them ask, but if they say no he just books them anyway.”

It is now clear to me that Economy was already full, and that additional Economy passengers were being seated in Economy Plus, whether or not they paid to upgrade, which means that the poor schmucks that were booked and ticketed weeks earlier (I made reservations only twelve days prior) for Economy Plus likely paid an upgrade price for the privilege, where I did not. Or, other passengers like myself who were being seated in Economy Plus anyway were subjected to an attempt by the airline to gouge us out of a few more bucks. That sure doesn’t seem right to me.

Best Regards,

Joe S.

Economy Plus Page [United]

Comments

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  1. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    Sounds just like car rental companies when they are out of the size you reserved. They always ask you if you want to pay to upgrade, try to make it sound like a great deal, and then give it to you anyway after you decline.

  2. wonderlic says:

    He’s absolutely right. In addition, United holds these economy plus seats open to the last minute to try to hawk more of them. So if you get bumped from a flight and have to fly standby they won’t confirm you have a seat until the bitter end even if there’s 20 economy plus seats open because they want to try to sell the upgrades. If you end up on standby and they offer you an economy plus upgrade you may want to bite because it may mean you’ll get a confirmed seat right there. It sucks, but so does everything about United.

  3. Pylon83 says:

    I came across this a few weeks ago. I found that if you wait until the last minute to check in online, if economy is totally full, it will print a boarding pass with instructions to check in at the gate. When you do, they will just stick you in economy plus no questions asked. The online check-in will try and sell you the upgrade before it shows no seats available in Economy, but I’ve never had a gate agent say anything about it. They simply ticketed me and I was on my way.

  4. DashTheHand says:

    @Franklin Comes Alive!: They’ve attempted the reverse on me several times. Going to the company where you’ve reserved a standard size and all they have is ultra deathtrap compact and a ‘sorry.’ This was the point in which I gave them the finger and went to the next rental kiosk which honored the same price and vehicle size the original rental company had offered.

  5. Skiffer says:

    Yes, this is true – my coworkers and I have to deal with this all the time.

  6. hills says:

    United did it to me too – I always like to check in online, but they wouldn’t let me without paying to upgrade – same at the airport kiosk – just printed me out a pass saying my seat assignment was at the gate.

    Ask me once to upgrade, ok, but making payment to upgrade a condition of getting a seat assignment before heading to the airport and even the gate is supremely annoying. Makes me nervous not to have a confirmed seat – I imagine lots of travelers fall into their trap.

    Knock it off, United!

  7. stevevt says:

    Nobody books Economy plus weeks in advance except for Premier members (Associate, Premier, Executive, 1K) who do not have to pay for the privilege. Everyone else who gets into Economy plus does so by accepting the buy-in offer during check-in or by checking in when there are no longer any Economy Plus seats.

    It might help to think of the buy-in offer as a way to guarantee Economy Plus access. It might also help to think of getting upgraded to Economy plus without paying for it — or flying enough to be Premier — as an unexpected benefit.

    I’m sure I sound like a United apologist. Rest assured that I fly them a lot and have my share of problems with their service. I understand that offering a free benefit to some people might make you naturally think United is doing something underhanded here. I really don’t think they can win either way, but I hope I at least added some insight.

  8. humphrmi says:

    On the other hand, I was on a *full* UA flight the other day with a long waiting list of standby’s. They kept asking economy passengers to upgrade for the $29, nobody bit, and the plane left with an entire exit row empty and standby passengers sitting at the gate.

    So they seem to use this sparingly.

    Also, I was always under the impression that exit rows *must* have at least one passenger in them, so that someone is there to open the door quickly in case of emergency. But again, this flight I was on (Portland to Chicago evening flight) left with an entire exit row empty because nobody wanted to pay the $29.

  9. petermv says:

    @stevevt: The only time that it would be acceptable to offer it, at a cost, is if there are in fact economy seats available. If there are none, then the only option is to assign the premium seat, not get the passenger to pay for something that will be provided for free.

  10. TVarmy says:

    Eh, I kinda wish it were done like an auction system on the electronic web check-in. They ask all the customers if they want the upgrade if economy is overbooked. Should not enough people go for it, they bump the last guy to say no up. This is fair, as it ensures the plane is well filled, and anyone who really wants the upgrade can pay for getting it for sure. It sounds like this happened at the regular check-in, though, so it’s a bit scummier.

  11. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    @humphrmi: Wow. What money do they lose giving the seats to people? Makes it easier later, cut down on the standbys and get them to where they need to go. It’s not like they’d really lose any money. I suppose I can understand the business decision, but that seems like poor customer service.

  12. Marshfield says:

    @humphrmi:
    this flight I was on (Portland to Chicago evening flight) left with an entire exit row empty because nobody wanted to pay the $29

    Sounds pretty short sighted of United, but if they keep giving away the upgrade seats people will get conditioned to just decline the upgrade, figuring they’ll get on for free. I guess they have to draw the line somewhere.

    I read that airline seat pricing is very complex because there is no one price they could sell ALL the seats at and make money, so they have to tinker with price/quantity all the time. They might figure that selling most of the upgrade seats makes up for a few empties now and then.

    It’s all about the numbers these days.

  13. ianmac47 says:

    Yeah, but they’ll get you on the water.

  14. Poster99 says:

    @hillsrovey:

    Same thing here. Tried to print the e-ticket, but it wouldn’t assign one. It just came back with “Gate Assigned” Once at the gate, was given an Economy Plus seat, but they didn’t even ask about paying an extra fee.

    It’s interesting that you might be sitting next to someone who actually paid for and Economy Plus seat.

  15. hmk says:

    I hate hate hate United. On a recent flight from O’Hare to Buffalo (that I had booked that morning), I was the last passenger on a flight that was not full. I was in the last row near the smelly restroom. Half the plane was empty. Would it be possible to move to another row where the stench wasn’t as strong? Hell no, because that would cost an upgrade fee. Even though the plane was half empty.

    I wished I had made the inconvenient hour-long trip to Midway to take Southwest instead.

  16. ThinkerTDM says:

    This line seems familiar:
    ” The other clerk replied that “the company makes them ask, but if they say no he just books them anyway.”

    Here’s a hint:
    “It rubs the lotion on it’s skin then it places it in the basket… or else it gets the hose again! “

  17. basket548 says:

    @hmk:
    How is it United’s problem that you wouldn’t pay to upgrade to a different class? From its perspective, that’s literally no different than saying that you should be able to sit in first class because seats are available there. As someone who has paid more to sit in Economy Plus, I like that there is more room not only by design, but also by the fact that those seats are not just given out to anyone who asks, thereby pretty often freeing up the middle seat.

  18. oilerspoiler says:

    hmk@11:57 is right. I was on a half empty plane to Dallas and the back of the plane was full, while economy plus remained mostly empty. Soon after take off the flight crew had to keep telling everyone on the pa system that nobody was allowed to “spread out” and occupy those seats. Its a lousy feeling to be elbow to elbow all the while looking at rows of empty seats in front of you. Thanks United!!

  19. macinjosh says:

    @ThinkerTDM:not my Precious!!!!

  20. malefactor says:

    @hmk: Same happened to us; flight to Shanghai, obnoxious peasants that had never left their village (or, apparently, bathed) before kept moving around us the whole flight. Economy + was mostly empty, as was business. We asked to be moved because of the awful passengers, and the flight attendant told us we’d have to pay the full fare price to do so.

    How much? About $1500 per person extra. No thanks, I’ll just not fly you again.

  21. Jevia says:

    @humphrmi: considering that I doubt there was much change to the fuel usage, I’m surprised they let the row go empty and not fill it with a standby passenger willing to pay something for a seat. That said, good for the rest of the passengers for not paying the extra money for a seat that used to be the same price as all the rest of economy.

  22. ARP says:

    @ThinkerTDM:

    “It rubs the lotion on it’s skin then it places it in the basket… or else it gets the hose again!”

    Oh-Oh-Oh, my favorite: “Put the fucking lotion in the basket!”

  23. Economy Plus isn’t a different class of service. It’s what Economy used to be before they squeezed it down to make room for the “extra” legroom offered in Economy Plus. You’ll notice that the total number of seats and rows didn’t change on United’s planes. There’s just a whole lot of people flying with their knees tucked up in their faces.

  24. bobpence says:

    Wht s th P cmplnng bt? Th rln cld hv std th fmly n rglr cnmy nd sprtd, nd sd t bd fr chckng n ltr thn thrs bt, by th wy, y cn b std tgthr fr $231. nstd thy ffrd n pgrd fr th sl prc — t s nt th chck-n gnt’s jb t gv wy th str — nd kpt th fmly std tgthr wtht _rqrng_ n pchrg.

    Whn ths hppns wth rntl crs ‘m lttl mr mffd, snc rsrv th cr sz wnt bsd n hw ‘ll b sng t. “fr” pgrd t cr tht cnsms mr gs dsn’t mk sns fr th lng sl drv frm th rprt t my prnt’s hm, fr nstnc.

  25. mike says:

    It’s like the airlines are writing a book somewhere on how to milk money out of people before they stop paying.

    It’s some sort of psycological experiment.

  26. Leiterfluid says:

    *sigh*
    Alaska Airlines FTW.

    No “Economy Plus” BS

    Upgrade to First Class costs $50 if a seat is available.

    They fly direct from Seattle to Boston, DC, Miami and Orlando.

    No 1st bag fee.

    No charge for hot water filtered through crushed beans.

    I heart Alaska.

  27. ludwigk says:

    @basket548: @bobpence: I’m not reading your posts.

    This is similar to airlines charging a premium for booking a seat within an exit row, which has regulated clearances and more leg room. You know that someone is going to get booked in those exit seats at some point, but the airline will try to make a quick buck by selling the privilege to anyone willing to cough up a bit of extra dough for the space.

  28. jamesdenver says:

    @hmk:

    The problem is its marketed and sold as a different class, but completely overlaps with the economy product in terms of filling seats and cabin (no buffer between them.)

    Many on Flyertalk have expressed annoyance at paying for an E+ seat, and watching someone scoot up from the back an poach the free legroom.

    If the want to keep the integrity of these seats there needs to be another curton, and the FAs need to enforce people not sitting there.

  29. jetdillo says:

    @jamesdenver
    I don’t know about domestic flight so much but UA definitely pounces and bounces on people who poach E+ on Int’l flights. I was on a 777 to FCO from IAD a couple months ago and this guy just kind of skulked into the row in front of me and the FA asked for his boarding pass which was NOT in the E+ section.
    She then marched him back straight away to steerage.

  30. pixiegirl1 says:

    I usually luck out and get the economy plus seating with-out the upgrade fee. I usually book my flights online and pick out my seat cause I like the aisle seat so I can get up when I want to with out disturbing others and I only have one neighbor to contend with, lol. I try to get aisle seat that is as far front as they have “open” they do mark most of the econo plus seats as “taken” so you can’t get them but usually the first row of “available” seats is still in the economy plus section. I always decline the offers to upgrade.

  31. kepler11 says:

    I’m only going to explain what the airline is doing here, not necessarily defending it.

    In asking whether you want to pay for a seat in Economy Plus, the airline is differentiating those people who want to know for sure that they will get a better seat. You do not know, upon checking in, whether you’ll get an Economy Plus seat in the roll of the dice at the gate, and you could very well be stuck in a middle seat in the very back. So, if they find a customer who is willing to pay for the assurance that they will get a better seat, then they want to be able to get that revenue. Each person has a different level of what they want and find tolerable.

    If by luck, the person in the story had declined to buy the seat upgrade, and was stuck in a bad seat afterwards instead, they would have said, I should have bought that upgrade.

    It is a form of insurance.

  32. floraposte says:

    I’m reminded of some fried fish place Calvin Trillin wrote about, where there was a surcharge for specifying which you wanted, body or tail. And of course you had a 50% chance of getting what you wanted without the surcharge. So I guess the question there, as here, is how much do you value the certainty of getting what you want? Though at least there people knew what the real odds were if they didn’t pay.

  33. kepler11 says:

    another point to mention is that the people who are likely to get seated in Economy Plus anyway when their tickets say “seats will be assigned at the gate”, are people who have bought their tickets later, and tend to have paid more for them as the low fares disappear. So the early/cheap purchasers are guaranteed to be sat in the back section, while the later and higher ticket priced passengers will have a higher likelihood of getting a free upgrade to Economy Plus.

  34. JustThatGuy3 says:

    Economy Plus is essentially a separate product for United, which is primarily offers to full-fare fliers and status frequent flier members. If there are seats available, it will then offer to sell them to customers at checkin for an upgrade fee (which varies from route to route and flight to flight based on some formula that I hope I never find myself needing to figure out). In some cases, though, they don’t find enough takers willing to pay for the product, so, if they have to, they give it away for free, much like a hotel that will offer people upgrades but end up giving some people free suites if they don’t decide to upgrade.

    Essentially, you have a choice: take the upgrade when offered, or take your chances – you might get it, or you might not.

  35. Miguel Valdespino says:

    @DashTheHand:

    Then again those of us who reserve the deathtrap subcompacts have no place to go but up. Most rental places would rather upgrade you a level than lose the business.

  36. Chairman-Meow says:

    I can’t wait until United & US Air go the way of TWA into oblivion.

  37. dweebster says:

    @bobpence: VANNA, CAN I HAVE SOME VOWELS?

  38. okvol says:

    Northworst (aka Northwest) has the same policy. I recently booked a flight, and on the outbound legs I had no seats available unless I ponied up about $25. I politely declined. When I checked in on-line, I had seats assigned to me by the computer, w/o paying extra. I just had no choice.

    So now choice is a paid-for luxury on some flights. My only difference is that I could not hear the computer talking to itself.

    I used to work for a branch of American. The games they play with seat pricing is a patented nightmare. They guess how many will book when, and set pricing to maximize income while trying to fill the plane to pay for fuel. Playing Monopoly blindfolded with your hands tied behind you back during a 6.0 earthquake is simpler.

  39. jonworld says:

    To add a bit of humor, on a United Flight last night that I was on, a flight attendant was explaining their policy about Economy passengers staying out of the Economy plus cabin so they couldn’t steal all the empty plus seats. It was one of his first flights and the description went something like this:

    “Umm…this…um…Boeing 767 is divided into two cabins: First and Economy. There are two parts of economy: economy plus and economy. It is our policy that Economy passengers stay out of the economy plus cabin. However, economy passengers are allowed in the economy cabin…and…um…uh…yeah.”

    Economy passengers are allowed in the economy cabin…as opposed to what??? Riding in the cargo hold?

  40. kimdog says:

    Oh wow… so the Consumerists has started devoweling as a moderation tactic. Not sure how I feel about that. I guess it might be good for those just on the verge of being a troll type comments.

  41. dodongo says:

    I’m all about the airline-hatin’, but I have to say, at 6’2″ tall, I’m delighted by this sub-class differentiation. No, it’s not the lucky last-minute business upgrade (which I do spring for on transcontinental flights if I can), but that extra few inches of leg room makes the whole experience so much more comfortable for me…. I love the idea I can throw an extra $30 on the one-way fare and know I’m going to get at least a reasonably comfortable seat.

  42. basket548 says:

    @kimdog:
    I suppose it is in those cases. Unfortunately, I just re-read my comment and the comment code, and it doesn’t seem to violate it in any way. I think that it may be more than just ‘moderation’.

  43. silentluciditi says:

    The last time I booked on United I did so through Orbitz and was allowed to pick my seat and was pleasantly surprised to find out when I boarded that I was in Economy Plus (the sections in Economy weren’t marked, only First and what was taken)- no upgrade fees attached. Wasn’t initially so lucky on the flight back, but they had booked a 10 year old kid into an exit row, so then I got to move up there. I was also bumped up on check-in on a previous flight, after I’d reserved and chosen my seating. I’m a general Mileage Plus member, so status can;t always be the reason.

  44. Franklin Comes Alive! says:

    I learned this trick when flying to Europe. We were flying on Northwest for 2 legs (US1->US2, US2->Amsterdam). Then we were flying KLM (codeshared with NW) from Amsterdam to our final destination.

    When checking in and trying to get a seat on Northwest’s website, all the good seats were their ‘premium’ economy class. However, if we went to the KLM site to check in, there was no concept of the premium seating, and all the seats were treated the same. We selected the seats we wanted on both the NW and KLM legs (which NW’s site called premium) and had no problems at the airport. So for those of you flying internationally, there’s a trick you can try :-)

  45. basket548 says:

    dn’t s nythng wrng wth ths plcy. cnmy Pls s dffrnt clss f srvc thn cnmy, nd shld b trtd s sch. f th P ws hppy sttng n cnmy nd gt bmpd p nywy, wll, gd fr hm. f h ws wllng t py fr t nd thn gt t, h wld hv wn nywy. rlns rn’t rlly n th bsnss f gvng wy thngs fr fr whn thrs mght py fr thm.

  46. dantsea says:

    Another tip for United passengers on overseas flights: Most United 747s have a small patch of regular coach cabin situated between business and economy plus. It’s a cozy, quiet area.

    It seems — though I’m not entirely certain — that this area is usually held open until a day or so before the flight. I’ve seen it blocked off while looking at available seats online and then magically become wide open (and you can change your seats online up until several hours before the flight). I guess this is where they put last-minute fares and mileage standbys; because of this it’s the closest I’ve ever come to seeing a “no screaming child” section on a plane.

  47. cjstephens says:

    From the original story, and based on my (thankfully) limited experience with United’s Economy Plus, it sounds like there are plenty of employees who resent being asked to push the product or keeping, say, tall people in crowded seats when there are empty Economy Plus seats to be had. If that’s how United employees are going to express their rebelliousness, I’m all for it.

  48. Temescal says:

    While we’re at telling “horror stories” about bad seat assignments, I’ll throw in mine…

    My wife and I reserved a flight online with Lufthansa, between SFO and Frankfurt, Germany. We reserved months in advance, and the site even let us pick our seats. We were supposed to bring our reservation confirmation to the airport to get our tickets printed out at the Lufthansa desk.

    Once at the airport, when the employee gave us our tickets, we noticed that our seats were not only not the ones we had picked, but also that we were seated 20 or so rows apart from each other, on a 12-hour flight. I asked the employee if there was any way we could sit at least in the same general vicinity, but I was told that all the seats were assigned already, and that there was nothing they could do about it.

    Needless to say, Lufthansa is now on our (ever growing) list of companies we won’t do business with anymore.

  49. krunk4ever says:

    Deceptive?

    Sketchy, maybe… but where is the deception? They offer
    you an upgrade, you decline. Then they offer you a free upgrade to economy plus and you feel deceived? If you had accepted to pay for the upgrade, there would be no deception there either as you did get what you paid for.

    This feels like the same argument someone had posted awhile back where the “dissatisfied” customer paid for an upgrade to a roomier seat and when someone else asked for it on a plane, he got it for free.

    If you had paid for the upgrade to economy plus seats, those are guaranteed and can’t be taken away from you.

    If you did not, see it as a free upgrade. If another customer decides he wants to upgrade to the economy plus seats, you will also not be able to complain about being bumped back to standard economy.

  50. krunk4ever says:

    I would also want to point out the fact that 9 out of 10 times you decline that upgrade offer, YOU WILL NOT GET A FREE UPGRADE.

    It’s only in particular situations when all the economy seats have been assigned, that they’ll give you free upgrade. However this is NOT a guaranteed upgrade (as I stated earlier), as they can easily bump you back down if another customer decides to pay for the upgrade.

  51. @Franklin Comes Alive!:

    Ever get book and pay for a sub-sub compact and receive a full size Caddy? Yep, happened to a co-worker when he flew into town to visit our office…. he got the last car on the lot… the Caddy.

  52. cana says:

    I worked at a hotel where this same type of thing would happen. We were forced to offer an room upgrade for $69 even when we were sold out of regular rooms and the person would be getting the upgrade whether they paid for it or not.

    That said, I recently flew to S.E. Asia and back on United. I got a free upgrade to United Plus on one leg of the flight there, and had to sit in regular economy for the other leg. Even though its only an extra 5 inches of room it made a world of difference. Regular economy for 13 hours is TORTURE! On the way back I was willing to pay whatever it cost to get in the United Plus section.

    For short flights I probably won’t bother paying the extra but for long flights its absolutely necessary.

  53. kurtisnelson says:

    Exactly like getting upgraded to First Class for free instead of paying. You are not guaranteed it unless you pay.

  54. jrobie says:

    Why is everyone calling this a “free upgrade.” It’s not an upgrade it’s just one more thing that used to be free but they now try to charge you for. It’s like that providing oxygen is an upgrade, like not having the flight attendant periodically jab you with a cattle prod is an “upgrade.”

    It’s still coach. Until there’s SRO flights or Steerage, it doesn’t get any lower. Crowing about getting a “free upgrade” to coach plus is both missing the point and buying into the airines’ gouging tactics.

  55. katoninetales says:

    @ludwigk: Their comments were “disemvoweled” for being inappropriate. From what I could read, they both said they saw nothing wrong with UA’s practice here.

  56. calstudios says:

    Had terrible experience flying United to Rome from LAX. Gate attendants tried to sell upgrade to economy plus, didn’t bite, only gave us a seat assignment as the gate doors were closing. Even worse in Rome coming back. Will NEVER fly United again. Ever.

  57. bobpence says:

    Reconstructing my vowel-deficient post from above:

    What’s the OP complaining about? The airline could have seated the family in regular economy and separated, and said too bad for checking in later than others but, by the way, you can be seated together for $231. Instead they offered an upgrade for the usual price — it is not the check-in agent’s job to give away the store — and kept the family seated together without requiring an upcharge.

    When this happens with rental cars I’m a little more miffed, since I reserve the car size I want based on how I’ll be using it. “Free” upgrade to a car that consumes more gas doesn’t make sense for the long solo drive from the rprt to my parent’s home, for instance.

  58. vrn3b says:

    @krunk4ever: The “deception” part sort of comes in in the situation we had. We tried to check in online before our flight only to find that all the regular economy seats were full. The only seats shown as available were upgraded seats.

    It’s deceptive in the sense that we’ve become accustomed to being allowed to check in and select seats 24 hours in advance. We were forced to either pay for the upgrade, or accept the uncertainty of not having assigned seats (and, I might add, not knowing what this would mean for our flight – was it overbooked? Was there a chance we wouldn’t get a seat?) even though we had of course paid for our tickets and were expecting to fly out the next morning.

    We don’t usually take United, so obviously our first reaction is that the plane is full, except for these upgraded seats which we didn’t particularly want to pay for. (Like another commenter wrote, these flights were billed to a client who wouldn’t appreciate the appearance of “upgrade” no matter how small the cost.)

    I think it is deceptive to show all the seats in your class as booked (even though, as we found out, the plane was not full) and to *imply* that you needed to upgrade in order to get a seat. If people are in fact being left at the gate for refusing to upgrade, then it is hugely deceptive to sell X number of economy seats and allow people to think that buying an economy ticket at the advertised price actually means they’ll get to fly. I agree that offering the security of the upgrade for the fee even when they intend to upgrade you anyway may just be “business tactics.” But, if your choice comes down to “pay more or don’t fly” then that’s bait and switch, especially when you’re within 24 hours of flying and could have booked your ticket weeks/months in advance (as we had).

    Since we always have several connections to get to/from our destinations, we can’t risk being refused to fly because they miscalculated how many booked fliers will later pay for an upgrade. Now that we know this is standard operating practice at United, we will choose to fly with an airline that actually provides seats when you have, in good faith, paid for them well in advance.

  59. Anonymous says:

    I honestly don’t understand why Joe needs to be so cynical.

    United has an Economy Plus class that gives more leg room and costs more – that’s no secret. Since the outset Joe should have taken it for granted that he he’s not supposed to be getting something he didn’t pay for, and should United decide to give him a little something more than what he’d paid for, that to me is totally a favor and the company’s prerogative.

    United did him a favor by putting him on a flight where a seat is available instead of bumping him off to a following flight. Would he rather wait for the next flight on the general principle that people who want to get more leg room should pay more and if not, United is running a scam?

    Let’s say United did choose not to give him that Economy Plus seat, it would seem that Joe would have complained about a delay United had caused him anyway.

    People have debated about the fact that this isn’t a Business Class upgrade and this isn’t a hotel etc. To me these are all irrelevant.

    What to me is the point here is that you get what you paid for and this is the general business principle applied everywhere for everything. And if you do occassionally get what you didn’t pay for, that’s an exception rather than the rule and the company concerned totally has the right not to give that away to you.

    Everybody knows that there’s a limited number of Economy Plus seat, so it’s a twisted logic to argue that United was wrong to be asking people more for E Plus in the first place for it’s explicit from the story that United would do this only when there’s no other regular Economy seats available.

    All airlines occassionally upgrade Economy passengers to business class when no Economy seats are available. Does this mean all airlines are running a scam for charging frequent Business Class flyers more than the Economy Class on a regular basis?

    This whole case, to me, is a non-issue from the start and I honestly don’t know why it’s even worth being published here.