Peeved Over Passenger’s Preferential Treatment

June 11, 2010

in Seat Stories

This is not near as bad as some of the other stories but it really irritated me.

I received the call on December 11 that my mother had passed away from complications of polycystic kidney disease. I had made it through two full capacity flights and my third flight from Chicago to Atlanta was on United Airlines and was way below capacity.

In my row there was myself and another woman and after take off I asked the fight attendant if I could move to one of the economy plus seats since they were empty. He told me no and that I could sit in another seat in the back part of the plane because the seat in the section I was requesting was “economy plus seats and people pay extra money to sit in those.” I accepted the response and left it at that.

The attendant walked to the back of the plane and when he was returning to the front of the plane he stopped at the row I was in, asked the woman if she was alone and she answered yes. He said “follow me” and escorted her to one of the eight first class seats for the trip.

It is not that I am irritated that I was denied access to an economy plus seat, but I am irritated that I was denied while another passenger was offered a first class seat, all of which happened in the course of about two minutes.

I figure the guy was just rude and had an ax to grind with a patron or something.

I contacted United Airlines about the incident but the replies I received from both J.F. and L.B. indicate that they either misunderstood or simply didn’t read my e-mail at all.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Teenage Tourist June 12, 2010 at 2:56 am

I'm guessing that she is a Frequent Flyer member with Elite Status. I'm not sure how it works on United but my dad is a Platinum Frequent Flyer member on Air China and the airline finds any excuse to upgrade him whenever applicable. Therefore around 75% of his Economy class flights upgrade him to Business or First Class. Whenever he flies Air China, the chief purser personally greets him and introduces herself before asking him the following things:

1) His choice of meal for the food service (she will deliver it before the normal meal service begins)

2) If he would like to read anything (e.g. The Chinese Health Newspaper, China Daily (English), Economic Magazines etc.) and he can also gain access to Business/First class reading materials

3) If there are any other questions he would like to have answered

4) If there is anything she could do before take-off to make him feel more comfortable (e.g. a drink or a pack of nuts/peanuts etc.)


Traytable June 13, 2010 at 5:36 pm

I agree. You don't know the circumstances. It could be she was on standby at the gate for First and there were no seats, they had a no-show during boarding and a seat opened up. He could have been acting on instructions from the purser, I think you are wrong to call him rude as his reponse to your request was a factual answer, he wasn't insulting you.

The purser on a flight has the prerogative to upgrade as they see fit, especially for passengers with Elite status and I'm sorry to say it just wasn't your day. Of course we all sympathise with people taking compassionate flights but as he said, other people paid for their seats. If we upgraded everyone on a compassionate ticket we'd have dead grandmas coming out of the woodwork at check-in!


20Lorraine June 13, 2010 at 7:12 pm

The upgraded passenger may also have been an airline employee, although this is not the correct protocol for airline employees who have stood by. If they were not cleared at the gate (boarding) for First class, they should not have been put into First class by a flight attendant. This process is done strictly by Gate Agents based on availability and seniority of the employee.


AKM June 15, 2010 at 2:54 am

Why would you start the story out with "polycystic kidney disease" if it had nothing to do with the story?


Teenage Tourist June 16, 2010 at 2:29 am

He is only explaining why he is flying out of town.


Leigh June 25, 2010 at 2:54 pm

He started with the kidney disease part of the story to explain why he was on the flight in the first place – also, because of his loss, a upgrade would have helped – it is hard to lose a parent!!!


Leigh June 25, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Sorry to hear about the passing of your mother.


gerard June 26, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Im an engineer with Lufthansa , our parent company .

I have been refused an upgrade , because I had jeans and no tie on .

Fair enough , I can except that . But preferiantial treatment is wrong in any class of society .

Leave the guy alone about the kidney thing . Hasnt he enough worries without having to listen to a crass answer like that !!!

Wonder what you will be like when that day arrives Mr.Perfect ?


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