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United seat assignment?

Edinburgh, United...
posts: 177
reviews: 17
United seat assignment?

I've just booked a flight with United from New Orleans to New York. As part of the purchasing procedure, it asked me to select seats. I did this. I then received my confirmation email which just had -- against our seats.

I logged into the United website and tried to re-assign our seats only to be told that "! Advance seat assignments are restricted for this flight. Please select a seat during check-in."

Is this a normal United policy? Why was I allowed to select seats in the first place? If seats can't be assigned then why are there some seats greyed out (unavailable) on the seat selection page?

12 replies to this topic
Liverpool, UK
posts: 11,707
reviews: 23
1. Re: United seat assignment?

With most airlines including UA in my experience only a certain percentage of seats can be pre selected so the check in staff have room for manoeuvre on the day of the flight - this could explain why some seats are not available but no further seat selections can be made.

It could of course be some other reason.

San Diego
Destination Expert
for San Diego
posts: 46,604
reviews: 61
2. Re: United seat assignment?

Why don't you try calling United. While it is possible that there are no more seats allocated to be chosen before 24hr. check in it is also possible that this is a web site glitch.

I'd call to see which is the true situation.

Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
posts: 18,981
reviews: 5
3. Re: United seat assignment?

Sorry, I'm not quite sure of your situation. You pre selected your seats, and then looked to change. Have you lost your original assignments, or just can't change from what you currently have?

If you still have your original seats it could be that they've closed assignments as the plane is filling up and United wants to keep several seats unassigned to deal with special cases at check in (parents and children split up and wanting to be together is one example).

If you've lost your seats it could be a glitch. Or it could be an equipment change to an aircraft with a different seat plan (even if it's still say a A320). In those cases the seat assignments are done by computer. In those cases it may assign seats to their frequent fliers first based on their preference. It could be on a full flight that FFs who booked after you then trumped you in the re-seating. Annoying, but understandable as to why the program is set that way.

If you did lose your seats and have to wait until check in, there's always a possibility that you may be able to get spare Economy Plus seats for free. Don't bank on it, (there'd need to be a spare pair together unless you're okay being split up) but it could happen and that'd be a nice bonus.

I've had seat changes on United and other airlines, including going to unassigned. Be very polite with the agent and you should be okay - I've always ended up with seats just as good and sometimes better.

Phoenix, AZ
posts: 12,682
reviews: 187
4. Re: United seat assignment?

Along with the above questions, are your flights ON United Airlines, or with an alliance airline? There can be a big difference.

When US was part of the Star Alliance (along with UA), we often booked through the UA Web site, but the flights were on US. We then had to call US, to get seat assignments, but that does not sound like what you are experiencing.

When we book UA, we do select our seats, at the time of ticketing, and with but two exceptions, those are the seats that have been assigned. In one case, there was an equipment change, and in the other, a Global Services member wanted one of our seats, and was given that seat. We were then split and assigned other seats in domestic FC, though we are both 1K fliers with UA. Those were the only such glitches.

Please let us know the full details of your flights, so that others can better direct you.

Good luck,


Chiang Khong...
posts: 3,851
reviews: 1
5. Re: United seat assignment?


did you buy direct with UA or thru a third party.

many third party have seat selection as part of thier site page but they only request.

Edinburgh, United...
posts: 177
reviews: 17
6. Re: United seat assignment?

Thanks for your replies. Just to clarify, we selected seats and have lost the assignment - we now do not have an allocated seat. We are now being told by the website that seats can't be reserved until 24 hours before the flight.

I bought directly through United's website. And as far as I know, it's a United flight. There was no indication that it was a third party operating the flight.

We hadn't planned on going to the check in desk as we'll only have hand luggage so were just going to check in online. My girlfriend isn't the best flier so needs to be beside a window and I'd like to be sitting beside her. It's not too much to ask after paying £460 for flights.

Thanks again.

Edinburgh, United...
posts: 177
reviews: 17
7. Re: United seat assignment?

I called United and they said it was too far in advance to reserve seats.

Any idea how far in advance I can select seats?

Phoenix, AZ
posts: 12,682
reviews: 187
8. Re: United seat assignment?


I wish that I had something to offer, but just have never run up against this. We always book via the UA Web site, and always have the opportunity to book seats. I have even changed seats, often months out, with no issues. However, we are both 1K UA FF's, so maybe that has something to do with it?

As mentioned above, only time we could not directly book seats was with codeshare flights (US in those days), but a call to US always got us seats, but we were both Chairman level with the US FF program. Again, maybe that bypassed some of the hoops.

I am surprised that you were able to book seats when purchasing tickets, but those seat choices were rescinded later. I suppose that there could just be a glitch in the Web site, but have not encountered such before.

Good luck, and hopefully others will have something useful to offer.


Usa, Japan
posts: 18
reviews: 1
9. Re: United seat assignment?

can someone please explain this?


We booked many months in advance, booked directly on the UA site, flying with a UA metal. The only way we can sit together is by paying extra

Phoenix, AZ
posts: 12,682
reviews: 187
10. Re: United seat assignment?

It appears that on that flight, all other E seats have been sold, or at least blocked out.

E+ has quite a few seats available though.

Are you a MP FF with UA? If not, it might be worth the effort to get one of their credit cards. With the right choices, you should get an incentive for E+ seating.

Otherwise, one could wait to see if an offer is tendered for E+ seating, and then weigh the costs vs advantages.

To me, seating with my wife is important enough that even on short-haul flights, I usually do what I need to do. We also pass on FC, or BC upgrades, if only one of us makes the upgrade list.

As you have two window seats, you might get a middle pax, to swap with one of you - provided that one in one of your rows wants a window.

Good luck, and hope that you find an alternative.

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