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Has anyone else had this awful experience?

Tokyo, Japan
Level Contributor
36 posts
60 reviews
Has anyone else had this awful experience?

I boarded a flight from LA to Houston on United Airlines Business Class. I spent $7,000 dollars on my ticket to and from Tokyo. As I boarded, I noticed that a teenager was sitting in my aisle seat. Take note that I have a physical disablility and aisle seats are very important for me so I can use the toilet with ease.

I told the flight attendant that a teenager was in my seat. She looked at my ticket and loudly said and pointed to a window seat, "we put you here so these two sisters can sit next to each other." I told her that I needed an aisle seat and then she shamed me.

In a loud voice, she said sorry to the parents because I wouldn't move and that their daughter would have to move.

I was completely embarassed, I turned completely red.

5 minutes later. a male stewardess asked me to move to the front where there wasn't much leg room but it was an aisle so I agreed.

This isn't the first time that I have been treated in an EXTREMELY bad way by United. I gave them a second chance but they will not give them a third chance, expecially when I am spending $7,000 dollars.

Edited: 3:55 pm, January 06, 2013
Level Contributor
3,085 posts
6 reviews
1. Re: Has anyone else had this awful experience?

5 minutes later. a male stewardess asked me to move to the front where there wasn't much leg room but it was an aisle so I agreed.

Even United who have some of the tiredest old grannies are unable to rustle up a male stewardess.

I sympathise,this treatment is awful.I would have told the flight attendands that is my seat and I need it,end of story.If they try to shame me,I would have made it quite plain that I was going to write a letter of complaint about their uncalledfore behaviour.You may consider that a worthwhile course of action.

Level Contributor
700 posts
8 reviews
2. Re: Has anyone else had this awful experience?

I would write a letter stating what happened and see what they have to say. You shouldn't feel embarrassed for asking to sit in your original seat. I probably would have said something to the flight attendant for their remarks, not anything rude, but certainly something that would make my feelings known.

Tokyo, Japan
Level Contributor
36 posts
60 reviews
3. Re: Has anyone else had this awful experience?

Thank you rapidex. I have my boarding pass still and I have made a complaint before but I got their standard reply and offering of $200.00 compensation, which I did not accept. The best way I can hold them accountable is to not use their airline ever again....and I won't.

London, United...
Level Contributor
2,230 posts
289 reviews
4. Re: Has anyone else had this awful experience?

There does seem to be an increase in passengers asking to be moved next to/nearer family or friends, including on airlines where (quite a few) people pay to reserve their seat in advance.

My view is if they couldn't be bothered to reserve seats next to each other, then they must take pot luck and that those with reserved seats should stick with them.

Shocking behaviour by the crew member.

Seattle, Washington
Level Contributor
10,857 posts
95 reviews
5. Re: Has anyone else had this awful experience?

Next time, speak with the purser. You should not have been asked to change seats because two passengers want to sit next to each other. That's very strange.

You should not have moved or felt obligated to do so.

Edited: 4:48 pm, January 06, 2013
Portland, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Air Travel
Level Contributor
24,655 posts
6 reviews
6. Re: Has anyone else had this awful experience?

This does sound like poor form from the flight attendant(s) concerned.

Mistake #1 - as Gracie says - was allowing someone else to sit in your seat without asking you first. They should have asked the others to take their assigned seats, and when you boarded ask you if you would be willing to switch. When you decline, they can/should then ask other pax if they would volunteer. By supposedly "fixing" another passenger's "problem" without consulting you, they created another one and eventually reopned the original issue which led to the scene.

I've seen plenty of cases (including last week on a TATL) where the (United) FA's handled this situation properly and politely. In some cases people switched, in others they didn't and so hard luck, which was communicated to the "separated pax" politely.

You have complained - correctly - and the airline has taken note and offered you a $200 goodwill gesture. Hopefully they'll also bring the matter up with the FA(s) concerned. I don't see the point in not accepting the $200; even if it were an e-cert you could just let it expire and not use it if you choose.

Houston, Texas
Destination Expert
for Air Travel, Business Travel
Level Contributor
7,942 posts
85 reviews
7. Re: Has anyone else had this awful experience?

"I got their standard reply and offering of $200.00 compensation, "

You should go back and accept that offer. But, a $7k fare from NRT to IAH means you were in business class. legroom is good in any seat. Talking loud enough for people to hear and communicating the truth... you didn't want to change... is not shaming you. It is communicating what you said.

FA's can move you where they want. That is part of the deal you sign up for by accepting the contract of carriage. That said, they should ask. Obviously, they would have been able to ask two different people to accommodate the siblings. At the same time, if they hadn't tried to move you, there would be somebody here complaining that they were incredibly rude by not figuring out a way for them to sit together... after all, they paid all their life savings to fly that day (it matters naught what you paid for your ticket).

We all have to get where we are going. This is a minor issue that ended up working out well for everybody. Just take the $200 and relax.

Edited: 7:08 pm, January 06, 2013
Level Contributor
15,871 posts
64 reviews
8. Re: Has anyone else had this awful experience?

I have to disagree with GeoMedic on this occasion.

The FA made a judgement and took action before considering the impact of that decision on ALL stakeholders. That's unprofessional and shows poor decision making skills.

I agree with the OP in this case - the way the situation was handled put the onus onto the OP to 'be cooperative' and this should never have been the case.

By 'Talking loud enough for people to hear' the message being communicated to other passengers is 'see I (the FA) am doing my best to make you(the family that wanted to sit together) happy but this old grouch won't cooperate.'

In any public place, communication between two people should never be so loud that others around can hear - that's just bad manners.

Certainly take the money, though. An apology would have been preferable but these days in so many businesses, money seems to speak in place of manners.

9. Re: Has anyone else had this awful experience?

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Removed on: 8:58 pm, January 06, 2013
Nannup, Australia
Level Contributor
3,647 posts
26 reviews
10. Re: Has anyone else had this awful experience?

<<The FA can not seat you wherever they want to.>>

Rule 4.E of the UA Contract of Carriage:

<<Seat assignments, regardless of class of service, are not guaranteed and are subject to change without notice. UA reserves the right to reseat a Passenger for any reason, including from an Economy Plus seat for which the applicable fee has been paid. If a Passenger is removed from Economy Plus seat for which a fee has been paid, and the Passenger is not re-accommodated in an Economy Plus seat, or if a Passenger is downgraded from a class of service and is not re-accommodated in a seat in the class of service for which a fee has been paid, the Passenger will be eligible for a refund>>