Rankled by Seat Reservation Difficulties

March 18, 2016

in Seat Stories

My flight isn’t for several months but I’ve already experienced a little hell.

About 3 weeks ago I booked flights to Japan for an Asian cruise with my wife. For a few different reasons, I was willing to pay the fee and booked directly by calling United reservations: SCE-IAD-NRT outbound and NRT-ORD-SCE return. Both long flights are a 777-200 and I booked Economy Plus seats (almost $400 extra each way). The agent on the phone recommended the bulkhead row 20A, 20B, which is the only row with just 2 seats and all the others being 3 seats. She says, “You will like these seats.” I take them for both outbound and return. Ah. Things are set. Time to relax.

About 3 weeks later I receive an email indicating my reservation has changed. Same United flight number, same 777-200 plane, but now reservations are: SCE-ORD-NRT outbound and NRT-ORD-SCE return. Conspicuously absent from this email is any information about seats. So I check my reservation online and now we are in the back of the plane outbound in row 39 G and H (which are not Economy Plus seats). I call United but it is rather late Sunday night and the estimated wait time is over 30 minutes. I get it. Having literally returned from a week in Chicago a couple of hours before receiving the email, I wait until the morning. I’ll mention my flights to Chicago on United were without incident and on time. Credit where credit is due.

In the morning, I call United again. This time there is no wait and I’m transferred directly to an agent. I provide my confirmation number and explain the situation and ask what we can do. She was more than willing to help, but I still found the whole thing absurd:

Agent: “Let me take a look here. You’re correct those are not Economy Plus seats. It looks like our computer did not recognize you were in Economy Plus when it rebooked you. What were your original seats?”

Me: “Same as the return flight, 20A and 20B.”

Agent (after a couple of minutes): “I can reseat you back to 20A and 20B. When you first booked these, did they tell you that if a passenger needing special accommodations is on the flight these bulkhead seats are subject to being switched for that?”

Me: “No. She just said I would really like the seats. OK. We’ll take 21A and 21B on both flights instead.”

Agent: “You know there are 3 seats in that row?”

Me: “Yes, that’s fine.”

Agent: “Ok you are now booked in 21A and 21B for both flights.”

Me: “Thanks. One more question. Would I have been refunded if I didn’t rebook the Economy Plus seats?”

Agent: “You would notice when you checked in/boarded. Once you alerted us, we would make arrangements to refund you.”

OK. Everything got fixed and we’re now in seats that are not at risk of being taken away without notice. My confirmation email and current reservation are now correct. But what the heck am I paying for? The original agent did not warn me about the bulkhead seats being used for passengers needing special accommodations (maybe that’s my fault for not knowing this, but I find it a bit absurd). The computer being unable to put us in our original seats on the same flight on the same plane and not recognizing that our booking is Economy Plus is absurd. Sending an email indicating the reservation change without any seat information is absurd. Having it be my responsibility to rebook my seats and/or request a partial refund when we showed up expecting to be in 20A and ending up in 39G is absurd. Hopefully this is all the hell I’m going to experience on this trip, but stay tuned.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

patsytp March 19, 2016 at 2:39 am

Good luck with that!! I was notifed by Webjet (who I had booked Emirates flights with PURELY because the Emirates website was down the day I needed to book the flights, that my 0900hrs flight out of Boston has now been cancelled, and I have to get one at 2345hrs the night before. I've already booked the hotel ($450+ US ) for the night- so will get to enjoy it for around three hours before I have to leave. And now Ihave a 12 hour layover in Dubai, instead of three. Emirates have "promised" that I will have a free hotel room awaiting me on arrival… but I weait with baited breath that something, somewhere will go wrong. This is a Perth-Dubai-Boston return trip. Enough flying time as it is….


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