Prohibited from Sitting in Paid, Upgraded Seats

January 7, 2018

in Seat Stories

Dear Flights From Hell. I read an article on your site regarding a passenger’s poor experience with Etihad Airways and felt it was important to fellow passengers that I share my own.

I am a UK resident but travel to Dubai a minimum of six times per year – usually via Emirates. Due to it being New Year’s there was no flight availability, so I travelled via Oman Air for the first time. Flying out from Manchester I paid £1200 ( DHS 6200) as it was my partner’s birthday and we were also getting engaged in Dubai. To upgrade my seat was an easy process and we had a great experience.

Due to celebrating New Year’s, a birthday, and an engagement in the week we spent on Palm Jumeirah, we decided we would upgrade on the way back (flight number WY0604) to Muscat, and then from Muscat onto Manchester.

We paid for the upgrade at the check-in desk after staff made some calls and confirmed there was availability on the flight for this. Our seat numbers were taken so they could be available for other passengers, and we were told by the ground staff that we would be met at the boarding gate and our tickets would be reissued for business class as we had paid for. We received emails confirming this.

When we got to the boarding gate, the staff member who agreed to meet us wasn’t there. We spoke to another member of ground staff who said he could see we had paid to upgrade and there were multiple seats in business class available, but he couldn’t allow us to sit in there. After much discussion we went to take our seats in economy class, but they were no longer available as our seats had been given up when we upgraded to business class. We stood on a flight ready to take off with no seats, out-of-pocket – with a business class section pretty much empty.

We again spoke to ground staff who said when the upgrade was processed our seats then became available to other passengers. I am beyond baffled at how you can pay to upgrade on a pretty much empty business class flight, lose your original seats, and still not be allowed to sit in the cabin class that you have paid for and in which funds have been deducted from your bank account. Several cabin crew apologised to us admitting it was absurd. The supervisor’s solution was to move us to another economy seat which was empty as opposed to giving us the seats which we had rightly paid for.

My connecting flight from Muscat to Manchester also had my seat cancelled and given away. Even though Oman Airways acknowledged I had paid for the upgrade, they refused to allow me to sit in business class because there was no one available to print the ticket due to the sales office being closed.

Passengers need to be aware of this, and furthermore something needs to be done about the poor procedures in place with Oman Air. As a Managing Director of a firm myself, commercially I can’t begin to understand the decision that was made. They would rather have empty business class seats, have to refund upgraded fares, and leave passengers without seats after giving them away. As a regular traveller, it’s appalling that a company like this would leave such bad taste in customer’s mouths and tarnish the opportunity to gain further repeat customer loyalty from regular fliers.

After what has been an incredibly special trip getting engaged in Dubai, and after 15 years of visiting the country, I’m confident to say I have never had such a poor experience at the airport nor with an airline.

– Ms. Rebecca Patterson

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

James January 8, 2018 at 10:47 am

First — I hope this poor service did not otherwise ruin your engagement. Congratulations.

Never flown Oman Air… But I've had similar issues on United in the US. Once had a paid business class ticket involuntarily downgraded. Very annoying.

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Rjj January 10, 2018 at 6:50 am

I'm a little bit puzzled. Once you purchased the business class seat why would they need for a sales office to be open to print out a ticket? Why wouldn't they send an email containing an electronic ticket and boarding pass moments after the purchase? Someone mentioned a downgrade which I agree is a terrible practice and should not happen but that would be due to an overbooking of first and business class, in your case the seats remained empty. You basically floated the airline a loan . I would be very furious about that. Thanks for posting your experience. My take away from this and advice to others is I would not authorize payment unless I was provided a ticket at the time of purchase . Not sure how this works in the middle East but In instances when I've upgraded on American carriers, I keep my original seat and boarding pass until they hand me the new one with the new seat assignment.

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James January 10, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Just FYI, on my downgrade first class wasn't overbooked. Instead, they changed the aircraft, which had a smaller first cabin — and several of us were bumped.

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Rjj January 10, 2018 at 6:24 pm

Which then meant that first class was overbooked for that aircraft. When there's more behinds than seats, that's overbooked, oversold, overextended.

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James January 11, 2018 at 10:43 am

Technically, as I understand it, what happened to me is a flight being oversold — with the change in capacity more tickets were sold than capacity provided. But based on capacity "on the book" it is not overbooked. It is a pedantic difference, but represent different causes of the same result.

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