It’s The 21st Century, But I Can’t Pick My Seat When Booking A Flight Over The Phone

Adam had to reserve his flight to Spain over the phone with American Airlines because he was using credit on his account. That wouldn’t be a problem, except for how the airline told im that he wouldn’t be allowed to choose his seat, because the flight was actually on Iberia Airlines, and he was making the booking via codeshare. And yet, in 2012, the two airlines’ computers won’t talk to each other, and he can’t pick his seat even though he’s paying a pile of money to make this reservation. Update: A reader wrote in to point out that Iberia actually doesn’t let passengers in coach pick their seats until 24 hours before their flights. If Adam’s flight is actually business class or fancier, he can call up Iberia to choose his seat.

I just purchased an exorbitantly expensive flight from Miami to Malaga, Spain from American Airlines using a combination of pre-existing flight credit and new money. I bring up the way I bought it as my explanation for purchasing by phone instead of online. At the very end of the process, after my card had been charged, the agent told me she was unable to assign me seats due to a glitch between the American and Iberia’s (their codeshare partner) systems. She suggested I get a seat assignment at the airport. I reminded her that this was a transatlantic flight, and that I didn’t want to be stuck in a middle seat, especially when I’m booking months in advance. She said there was nothing she could do, and I asked to speak to a supervisor. I asked the supervisor if Iberia would be able reserve seats for me, and she said no, because I had booked with American. I asked when the glitch might be resolved, and she said I should just call back every day to see if it’s resolved. This was after 26 minutes on hold, something I don’t care to repeat just to get the base level of service you would expect from any airline.

How is a major airline able to say “there’s a glitch, and we can’t or won’t do anything to help you.”?

Any help you can offer in publicizing this “glitch,” and encouraging them to fix it would be appreciated like crazy by a guy staring down an 8-hour flight in a middle seat.

I wish we had advice to offer, but we don’t. If the systems won’t work together, they won’t work. All we can do is, as you said, publicize the problem to keep passengers from trying to make their Iberia bookings though American Airlines if they want to choose their seats.

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.