Awkward: American Airlines Downgraded Someone For Me

Filed Under: American, Travel

Well, in all my years of flying American Airlines this is a first for me. My apologies to HUT/G.

I made my tight international to domestic connection

Earlier I wrote about the tight connection I booked on separate tickets, as I was flying Delta’s A330-900neo from Tokyo to Seattle, and then connecting on American Airlines 42 minutes later from Seattle to Dallas.

I lucked out, because:

  • We had especially strong tailwinds from Tokyo to Seattle, so we arrived early (for what it’s worth, the flight has been late five of the past six days, so this really was lucky)
  • My American Airlines flight from Seattle to Dallas was delayed
  • I’m then connecting from Dallas to Miami and have a short connection, but worry not, that flight is delayed as well… it’s nice when you have a connection and they’re at least both delayed

Despite SeaTac being insanely busy, it took 18 minutes from the moment the door opened on the Tokyo flight till I was at my American Airlines departure gate, which is impressive when you consider I went through immigration, took a train, went through security, and then walked to the far end of the terminal.

So I ended up having way more than enough time in Seattle. I guess I should have booked a connection with negative time. 😉

How I kicked someone out of their first class seat

I was confirmed in first class on the Seattle to Dallas flight, and I had a mobile boarding pass.

Everything appeared completely normal. As I went to board the plane, the boarding pass reader beeped and showed a red light, rather than the typical green light you get when you’re cleared to board.

“Hmmm, it looks like you had a seat change. Can you step over here and see my colleague?”

So I stepped over, and showed her my boarding pass.

“You’re in… 6A?”
“Yes.”
“Uh oh. For whatever reason our system shows you as having not checked in.”
“That’s really strange. I checked in as usual, and as you can see I have a mobile boarding pass.”
“I’m really sorry, I have no clue how that happened. Just be patient with me, I’ll fix this.”

The first class cabin was full at this point (with two people having received gate upgrades), and all 16 passengers had even boarded.

She typed a bit, and did some rearranging. This included moving the person in seat 6B back to 10A (in Main Cabin Extra), and then moving the person in 10A to a worse seat (the flight was 100% full).

“Well thanks for your help, I appreciate it. And I’m sorry, this must be awkward for you.”

I waited at the podium, and she disappeared onto the plane for about 10 minutes. I’m sure people have the potential to get very annoyed and embarrassed in situations like that, so I wouldn’t want to be the gate agent who has to go onboard and reassign two people to worse seats.

She returned just a few minutes before boarding wrapped up, thanked me for my patience, and told me I could proceed to seat 6B (not my initial 6A, but I wasn’t about to complain!).

It’s worth noting that number one on the upgrade list was downgraded, and not number three. I’m sure there was a reason for it, but that surprised me at first glance.

Bottom line

I’m not sure what exactly happened here, but suffice to say that it was a first for me.

Both of the gate agents were lovely — I appreciated that the gate agent immediately put on her problem solving hat (I could see many other gate agents simply saying “well that’s not my problem”), and the other gate agent boarding people greeted each passenger with a big smile.

I’m still not sure what exactly happened here. I assume it was some sort of tech glitch, but who knows.

I also feel bad for the guy who got downgraded, but that also seemed like the fair thing to do in this situation.

Has anyone ever faced an onboard downgrade before?

Comments
  1. I have been downgraded, though the reason was different. I had upgraded using miles on a domestic flight, and there was a seat malfunction (seatbelt broke I think) for a person who had purchased a1st class seat. No big deal, I hadn’t really expected to get the upgrade to begin with.

  2. United recently downgraded me at the gate ORD-MIA even after the computer had upgraded me. I had no expectation of an upgrade as I was like third or fourth on the list. The gate agent paged me and apologized for a glitch that “someone else was supposed to be upgraded.” I had not even noticed and boarding hadn’t started so no harm no foul. But it did seem weird. I was grateful to be on that flight at all due to crazy crowding at ORD, I would have sat in the lav if I had to.

  3. I wonder where the system thought you were going to sit??? Unrelated I am not thrilled with AA right now, their new pricing engine for awards is showing some insanely high domestic route redemptions (not even peak season or anything) at 80,000 and up…

  4. I was flying IAH to DFW in paid F, but when I checked in the agent noted a massive storm was incoming and suggested I hop on the earlier flight to avoid a cancel & missed DFW connect. She confirmed me into coach but told me to talk to the GA about being added to the upgrade list as there were seats open in first. When I talked to the GA, she had just finished clearing the upgrades but noted I was in paid first, called someone she upgraded up, then explained she needed to downgrade her for a paid F pax. I felt a bit bad about it all, I didn’t really need to sit in F for 30 minutes and accepted the downgrade of service already, but the pax seemed very nice and understanding.

    I do think in your situation and the guy on the Tokyo flight everyone wrote about earlier, one should not give the seat away for upgrades or standbys until the door is about to close (which is when I typically receive my upgrades or standby F)

  5. “but that also seemed like the fair thing to do in this situation ”

    I bet if your were the seated already and they did this you, you would be here badmouthing AA and throwing a huge online sissy fit

  6. This happen to me at SNA the other night going to DFW on American. Someone like you showed up at the gate that AA assumed was a no show since no checkin. I had already been upgraded and seated in her seat. I realize that an upgrade is a gift as I dont pay for them and that I should move for someone who has paid. However, the gate agent comes on the plane walks past me down the aisle in FC and then shouts my name as if he did not know where I was seated. Rather than quietly letting me know the situation he only says, you need to take your seat in coach, making it appear to the other FC passengers that I had somehow taken a seat I was not assigned. It was embarrassing as I did the walk of shame to economy.

  7. I think if you show up that late for a flight then it is fairer for you to be upgraded than the person who got there early and earned his upgrade.

    Presumably the airline figured you for a no-show. I think you were lucky as I feel sure some agents would have downgraded you.

  8. IF and When it’s for a Paid FC ticket holder over an upgrade it’s fine. I had this happen to me once coming out of Alaska change of plane and here were upgrades in the new FC me with a paid first sat in coach. When the supervisor saw what happened I got a “open” first class ticket anytime anywhere and 5K points, first onward from SEA. Later on a letter of apology from AS ( average 100K) per annum on AS.

    Again if there is paid first and upgrade the upgrade needs to be moved back.

  9. YYZ to ATL on DL, already 20 minutes late due to the longest boarding process in N America. I was already seated in 1B and a red coat came to get me and move me back. That was crappy, but then they wanted to gate check my carry on for the new occupant of 1B. I put my foot down on that. Thanks for the big honkin 1000 “bonus” miles. DL rotates their airport staff frequently, so that set of gate agents that can’t get a flight out on time are probably back at Tim Hortons.

  10. Reminds me of when i was travelling MAD-MUC. Had already checked in (Business Class) with luggage but showed up to the gate ‘rather late’ though i thought that i was on time. They had to remove 2 People who had already boarded and i was then taken to my seat. It was about 30mins before departure, did someone at IB really think that i wouldn’t show up at the gate/board?

  11. I’d imagine an ordinary person would have been downgraded and sent to Y, but your mileage account most definitely is flagged for VIP handling which pops up anytime an agent looks at your PNR and will cause them to panic. Also would be interesting to compare your experiences if you booked tickets without your aadvantage number attached.

  12. This happened to me once on United. I was upgraded as a silver on a shortish route (SAN-SFO) on a light night. After I was seated (and got my PDB) , the GA came on and said they had prematurely upgraded me expecting a no-show but they had made their flight.

    As a silver I didn’t expect an upgrade and the flight was fairly short, so no biggie. I smiled, said ‘no problem’ and got up with my bag and drink. She seemed so surprised that I didn’t throw some sort of fit that she profusely thanked me and said she would get me a voucher for being so nice.

    About 5 minutes later, she came and moved me back up to first in another seat. When I landed, I had a $250 voucher. Sometimes nice guys don’t finish last.

  13. @ Mark — Do you read *any* of my posts about American Airlines? Do my experiences really sound like those of someone getting special treatment? Do you think my Dallas to Hong Kong first class crew was handpicked too?

  14. @ Tom — I didn’t show up late. I was at the departure gate more than an hour before departure. American had no clue I was connecting off a different flight, since I was on a separate itinerary.

  15. @ Namouklasistapapariamalaka — Definitely not. If I’m being perfectly frank, if that had happened I may have written about it because that has never happened to me and there’s some novelty to it, but that’s it. I would have included AA probably has some very wonky tech, which is exactly the same conclusion I have being on the other side of this. 😉

  16. @ Fran — They wouldn’t have known I was connecting, since it was a separate ticket on a separate airline.

  17. @ JL100 — It seems they just offloaded me altogether and marked me as a no show, so I didn’t have a seat on the flight at all.

  18. Lucky – any chance the gate agent had a voucher in hand? Maybe the 1 got downgraded because he accepted it. I saw a passenger get $300 to downgrade on a 22 minute flight PHX-TUS!

  19. I once got upgraded on American from DFW to VPS, took my seat, then had the gate agent come on board and order me to move back to coach. When I asked why, the reply was that they had sold the seat after upgrading me. At least I was able to convince him to put me in a MCE seat. No vouchers or apologies from the American team.

  20. Back when arriving on an international connection gave you a higher priority for upgrade on your connecting domestic flight — was upgraded at the gate as the gate agent leaned across the counter to quietly say, “whatever you do, don’t look behind you – just get on the plane”.

    (The person behind me had been downgraded out of the seat they been upgraded to)

  21. While flying AA, I was upgraded to business on a flight to Beijing from DFW a couple years ago and the guy ended up making the connection and showing up on the flight. I had to move back to my seat in economy (Bulkhead, so not terrible). The passenger was extremely apologetic when I had to move back and we actually ended up next to each other in immigration line where he gave me a card and told me to email him for some swag he could arrange from his company. (Let’s just day it ended up being a win as I got my hands on some new wireless earphones to match my phone )

  22. The guy in 6B holding a boarding pass for 6B should have refused to give up his seat. Airlines don’t drag seat holders off planes any more ever since Dr. Dao.

  23. YES. I had similar problem with American Airline. I am 75 years old with a recent serious back surgery that travel is difficult for me. I had to go to San Francisco and my brother booked me first class tickets and arranged the flight to be in a comfortable time, during the day with less waiting for connecting flight. I am not good with kiosk check in and as always I went to counter but ground agent told me NO Counter checking! Since I never used kiosk, I pushed ” confirmed” botton and it showed ” changed” Immediately I called same agent to help me and correct the mistake but she said that: she knew what she is doing and then she gave me boarding passes. I went to the plane but my sit was occupied and soon the gate agents took me out of airplane and told me my ticket is for next flight. They didn’t answer my questions and they were so rud to me and when I lost my temper and yelled for supervisor, one of them gave me a piece of paper and told: go and complain!! I went to all customer services from one floor to another to one agent passed to another one and at last I sat on the floor and couldn’t walk.
    Nobody solved my problem and one told me the second you pushed wrong botton your ticket sold!! (less of a blink!) I was on my feet from 10 am to next day, almost 2 am (16 hours) both American Airlines had delay time. I traveled all night in first class that even can not compare it with regular cabin seat but I can call it – 00 class seat like hell.
    I complain many times by phone, by letter and also emailed Assistant to vice president of American Airline. He called me and offered me a peanut!! Compensation. He said this is all they can do because you traveled and service is done.
    I never ever flight with American Airline.

  24. Here’s another one: I once boarded Turkish business IST MIA as a non-rev with a last minute handwritten seat assignment, and there was already a guy sitting in my infamous 777 middle seat. The purser arranged me to sit on another middle seat.

    One hour or so into the flight, they found out that the seat I am occupying was for another passenger who had been upgraded but didn’t know about it. They kicked the first guy back to economy and brought the rightful owner to business.

  25. Many years ago, I had this happen on Delta. I was on paid F because I was connecting to international business. I think I’d flown PDX-SLC and was going to ATL to catch a flight to Europe. They thought I was going to misconnect, but my inbound arrived at the gate next door. So, I showed up at the gate and they said “hang on, we have to go move a pax we upgraded.” I understood from my seatmate the gentleman who had been upgraded and then downgraded wasn’t happy. I bet he would have been even less happy to discover that he was moved for a 20-something woman. If you think F cabins are mostly men now… then I was usually the only woman in the cabin.

  26. I’ve had this happen with AA on a connection via ORD, I booked a 35 minute connection, was there right when Group 2 was called and got the red beep. Agent said he unseated me as it was unlikely I could make the connection. He restored things to the way they were, but questioned how I had made the connection. I pointed out I had enough time to stop for McD’s takeout, since I didn’t have enough time for a proper meal.

    In this case, maybe check in was undone by a reservation or airplane change. It’s typically hard to uncheck someone in (front line airport can, but call center cannot without making a call). There are many times you want to be unseated for a specific transaction, but it’s not great resetting your check in time when it comes to the standby list for missed connnections.

  27. If the guy who got kicked off is actually a reader I’d say you’ve made it Lucky lol.

    Also ironic is the fact someone left a comment talking about G-Hut being a reader right after he posted a comment lol

    Life is funny

  28. I had a paid 1st class seat and because of airline scheduling got there just before they shut the door. Since I was there and the door was not shut they told me I could board but they had given away my seat. The man they gave it to refused to move and I had a choice to miss the flight or take a seat in the back. I took the seat in the back.

  29. At least they moved the downgraded passenger to MCE. Stories I hear involve upgraded from MCE, then moved to the last open middle y seat.

  30. There is a decent chance that the downgraded passenger was a nonrev passenger, an employee or employee’s family, flying for free. They’re generally given the best available seat on the plane, including first class. But part of the deal is that you can always be bumped from your seat or from the entire flight at any time, for any reason, no questions, no arguments, no whining. They are shown on the standby and upgrade lists as normal passengers and there is really no way to know.

  31. @ Robert Paulson — Noticed the same last names for #2 and #3, but as you’ll see, one of them didn’t get the upgrade. So if anything downgrading #3 would have meant the couple was together in economy. Not sure that’s the explanation here.

  32. @ Marcus Stearnus — At American Airlines that’s not the case. While employees do get premium cabin seats subject to availability, they’re prioritized behind any revenue passengers requesting an upgrade. In this case there was a substantial list of revenue passengers on the upgrade list, and they clear first.

  33. That is a good point about #2 not having been upgraded. I agree that it would have made much more sense to downgrade #3, unless it was the husband who slipped the the steward a fiver to stay in first with his wife in steerage 😉

  34. Me thinks @Richard Filtz likes to repeat himself.

    Not sure how this is Lucky’s fault, it’s not like he asked or requested the other passengers to be downgraded. He didn’t find out until after the fact.

    But inquiring minds want to know, what would @Lucky have done *if* he was told AA would need to downgrade other passengers so that he could board. Too lazy to look up the link, but there were experiments done (I think it was with monkeys) that tested whether a monkey would (continue to) press a lever/button to get a treat knowing that another monkey was going to get shocked each time. That would be an interesting test of Lucky’s compass.

  35. Ben, that’s how it is by the book but not in practice. I have seen non-rev standbys boarded into a completely empty F cabin LAX-JFK while 0 of the 12 pax on the upgrade list cleared.

  36. @ Santos — The people on the upgrade list were probably requesting upgrades from economy to business, and not business to first? Non-revs absolutely do get the seats in those situations.

  37. @ Luke Vader — Hah, at that point I would have accepted an offer for voluntary denied boarding, probably, and just called it a day.

  38. @Ben I was paid J using a BXP1 and 2/12 on the list. Guy next to me in J was Plat Pro and was miffed he didn’t get the upgrade. Saw several of the standby pax who were called to the podium last second board in F and then talk to crew in the galley for most of the flight. So I can only assume they were AA crew flying non-rev. FWIW it was a Saturday morning flight with a light load so maybe it was a special exception. I didn’t particularly mind, just miffed because that was my one use of an expiring BXP1 and I was hoping to maximize its value.

  39. Yay! So glad you made your connection! I’ve seen someone get downgraded on my domestic United flight a few years ago. The gentleman next to me was upgraded to the domestic F but last minute the gate agent came to him and kindly told him that the original person who had the seat made the connection and is standing outside and if he would kindly go to his original seat. It was awkward for sure but since it was an upgrade, the passenger complied with no issues.
    When the gentleman who made his connection sat next to me in UA F, he was so relieved he made the connection. I told him how he must be important since UA downgraded a passenger for him and he was actually surprised (he didn’t know the gate agent did that for him) and he told me that maybe his status of being a 1K helped.

  40. Im wondering if it was due to you not entering the airport from outside and going through security,
    as you arrived and transited they thought you was a no show.
    I know in the uk the barrier you scan your boarding card at to go airside talks to the gate so as you didn’t enter the terminal from outside the gate thought you hadn’t entered the airport if that makes sense. with mobile boarding passes now and not having to check in luggage etc the only way they know you showed up is scanning your boarding card to go through security which you by passed.

  41. I second JL100’s request to write about AA’s new crazy and punishing award pricing -especially in international business class. And please hold their feet to the fire; TPG’s recent softball interview with the head of AAdvantage was pathetic.

  42. Since I was on the flight with you (SEA-DFW) – you were in 6B – so I guess the downgraded person had 6B not 6A,

  43. @ Mark — US airlines don’t have easy access to when you clear a security checkpoint. Furthermore, I was through security over an hour before departure.

  44. @ Santos — That’s truly bizarre. There are no doubt some shenanigans out there, but I’d note that AA corporate has hugely cracked down on gate agents playing games. Nowadays it’s extremely rare to see them not follow the published order. Of course there are always exceptions.

  45. About 5 years coming back from Honolulu I was in United business class that I booked in advance with miles. I was being asked downgrade for a member of the flight crew but since this ticket was booked months in advance I wasn’t going to without compensation and refund of the miles. After some negotiation we settled on Economy Plus seating with Business Class food service, the miles refund and a $1,000 voucher. Of course this was pre David Dao but I felt my situation of having a confirmed seat that’s paid for (no matter what the currency) shouldn’t have me downgraded.

    Now if I were upgraded last minute due to the upgrade list then downgraded back I would be just fine going back to my original seat.

  46. @Ed @PeteK united policy is to issue a voucher on downgrade, even if you were upgraded before the downgrade. Once you have a premium cabin BP, comp is owed. GG OVS DOWNGRADE

  47. Also – the number 3 in the list was in 1F. When she boarded – her husband then went to the back. So I suspect they split the reservation and he gave her the F upgrade.

    She seemed too know people so maybe that is why #1 got the downgrade and # 3 kept it.

    (as above – I was on the same flight in F)

  48. Ben – I don’t doubt that you’ve had poor experiences on AA. I also don’t doubt that some AA employees would give poor service regardless of who they’re serving….but don’t you at all see it possible that you are indeed flagged as VIP in the system?

    To just completely dismiss that as a possibility because you’ve had poor service in the past almost makes it even worse.

  49. I’ve had this happen with Delta. Somehow I was unchecked, I noticed when I went to pull my boarding pass up to board it wasn’t available. I then noticed all of a sudden, one available seat was showing on the upgrade list. Shrugs.

    I had to wait in line to speak with the gate agent who checked me back in and handed me a printed boarding pass. Luckily, they were too busy to see all of a sudden a seat opened up and nobody was improperly upgraded.

    @Lucky, the headline makes it sound like they did you a favor. They didn’t. They just fixed their mistake. Nothing to see here.

  50. Sounds to me that a reader of this blog who has access at an employee level offloaded you the flight
    I would inquire with AA corporate security to find out more details

  51. @ Colin — Given what I do, there are certainly situations where I check into a hotel, or even fly certain airlines, and I feel like they know what I do. When that’s the case I try to disclose that in my reviews.

    The thing is, I’m really observant with airlines and hotels, so I can easily tell when they know but they are trying to be coy about it.

    I fly American a lot, and I am 110% certain I don’t get any special treatment. What makes me say that?
    — I consistently receive pretty bad treatment
    — My “Eagle” rating isn’t even good (and if I was important to them/they wanted employees to take good care of me, shouldn’t I have a high “Eagle” rating?)
    — Not once have I felt like I received better service than anyone else seated around me on account of being a blogger
    — American’s workforce is so disengaged in the company’s mission that even if they wanted employees to provide me with special service, I think they’d be incapable of executing on this

    In this particular instance, the gate agent was dedicated to helping me immediately. When there’s a note in a record, or something, it always takes them a while to read and get caught up. There was no reading here, or anything.

    Anyway, hopefully that makes sense. I’m not trying to dismiss the possibility of getting special treatment in general, but in the case of American I’m virtually certain that’s not happening.

  52. Here is a first. DOWNGRADED MYSELF! Okay, this was back in the 70’s on a paid F ticket from JFK to San Juan, PR on a PanAm 747. We were all seated, but there was an argument going on at the front door. I got up to ask about the delay and the problem. Seems they overbooked F and let the guy board (in the days before computers) who demanded his seat. Wanting to get to PR to see my Latin honey, I volunteered to move to the main cabin. The FA’s were shocked and surprised by my offer. They seated me in coach for the takeoff, but moved me upstairs to the lounge which at that time had bench seats like sofas and no proper seats for takeoffs and landings. I was the only one upstairs and was served my F dinner, champagne, etc. It was a fun flight, the crew was great and I received a refund for my ticket. My only status at that time was Lifetime Clipper Club Member. Good guys win again.

  53. @Lucky,

    100% agree with this comment. American Airlines doesn’t treat anyone special.

    The only people I see that are getting special treatment (handed water bottles in economy after boarding, extra food, free drinks, etc) are non-revs. It makes sense they take care of their own.

    I’m glad I’m no longer living in LA, I don’t have to deal with them anymore. I used to take the 192/193 all the time and leaving LA, I would basically have to bring them candies and kiss their ass to have them hold a meal for me so I could eat “dinner” 8-9 hours into the flight vs. right after take off. And still they acted like they were doing me a MASSIVE favor. Delta this is like no big deal. They are happy to accomodiate me as a DM.

  54. My companion and I were booked AA first class from Sao Paulo via Dallas to London. The flight to Dallas was fine. When we go to the gate in Dallas for the flight to London we saw my companions name up on the screen so we enquired. She was downgrading my companion to business class with no explanation other than she could do ´´as she liked´´ All eight seats were empty the day we booked so it wasn´t a case of last in, first out. She was obnoxious and a formal complaint to AA did not produce any answers but they did offer a partial refund and extra award miles.

  55. I had checked in for an AA red-eye and then got a text and email of upgrade. Got to the gate over 1 hour early and never got the F seat assigned although they assigned others. Tried to board w gp 2 but was told I was not checked in (had the paper ticket as proof). All I wanted was my booked seat which they wouldn’t give me. Offered me a middle/aisle seat in front or window seat in the back of the plane which I took. Didn’t pull ExPlat status but would have if they tried to kick me off. That flight is usually full with standbys left behind (PHX to DCA Monday AM overnight).

  56. @Ben I read most of your posts and am suggesting that it happens when someone opens your PNR, not every flight you take. It would take more than an army to monitor everyone on a VIP list every time they fly. No one would know that you are on the list on the plane as you and other bloggers have more than verified with your less than stellar experiences.

    Behind the scenes there are things done too where coin flip decisions will land on your side more often than not, but again none of that shows in the onboard service or lack thereof.

  57. Decades ago, I was asked to leave a Southwest flight. I was going to continue on a flight that stopped at AUS (Mueller not the current AUS). I was not given a bloody nose like United Express did to Dr. Dao. I was merely told I had to take the next flight. This was probably because I did a same day standby.

  58. Yes, I’ve been downgraded from a gate upgrade. The gate agent said I was downgraded for a “VIP”. Hell, I thought I was a “VIP” being an Executive Platnum but an EP is no longer what it use to be with AA.

  59. Ben – I don’t doubt that you’re observant, and I also don’t doubt that if there was a shadow of a doubt in that regard, that you’d be clear about it when posting, so thanks for the response. It’s much appreciated.

  60. I’m mostly confused by the downgrade priority choice. I recently was #1 on the standby list for a United flight from SFO to SAN. I cleared and got an an aisle seat in an exit row (economy plus). #2 cleared and got a middle seat in an exit row, then several more passengers cleared into economy plus before others were put in economy. It then turned out that there was a broken seat in first and that customer was given my seat and I was downgraded to a middle seat in economy. So at least a half dozen passengers behind me on the list ended up with better seats.

  61. In the 90s when 1K on United meant something I was the one downgraded when the original passenger showed up. It was a DEN=>SEA flight.

    To compensate they brought a first-class meal (Salmon) to me in coach when everyone else was having pretzels. 😉

  62. Note to self—-Leave yourself more time between flights so you don’t have stress out your entire flight, making yourself and others miserable.

  63. Most likely it was an Employee (or Family) traveling on pass privileges and when you (revenue pax) showed up they had to forfeit their premium seat assignment. Happens more often than you realize.

  64. @Nathan, Thank for focusing on a small part of my comment and acting like that was the whole point of my post.

    Since you clearly have never been a 20 something woman traveling on business in the 1980s and 1990s, go ask an older woman that you know to explain how it was then. Or, for that matter, ask women who travel alone today because, while it’s better, it’s still not great. Now, I’m on the other side of the brief period of time women are seen as people as I’m starting to be seen as old. If you haven’t noticed our society sees women as actual useful adults for a very short period of time. Once again I’m finding flight attendants assuming that I shouldn’t be boarding yet, that I should be heading to economy. Once again, when traveling alone I get the worst table in the restaurant.

    So, Nathan, since you decided that we needed to make this more than an aside, go educate yourself on why I was most certainly right when I said that a male (probably white and middle aged) business traveler would have been extra upset when he lost his upgrade to a 20 something woman. Or you can just pick lines out of people’s posts and throw them back at them. I’m sure that’s more fun. But you won’t learn anything.

  65. In your comments, you can’t say “wonky tech.” Wonky has two completely paradoxical and opposite meanings in this sentence. Mind the use of such poorly defined words.

  66. On a PHL to SJU flight I was upgraded and downgraded within 10 mins (pre-boarding). The GAs were rude about it and then lied saying the aircraft had changed. Worst of all, they gave away my original seat and wanted me to sit in a middle seat for the four hour flight. Mercifully they found me an aisle seat.

  67. @AD

    Sorry you feel so victimized flying first class. Maybe you get the worst table in the restaurant because you’re just annoying.

  68. @AD ~ I like your style! I was right there with you in the 80’s and a MM by the late ’80’s. All the men looked right over me since I’m 5′ tall. lol

  69. The other guy was upgraded which means a free upgrade as a thank you for flying so much with that airline. I suspect your firatclass was given for free in exchange free yet opaque advertising on your part. You either paid a crazy price for that first class ticket or got it from the airline for free by being their pal. I dont know which is worse.

  70. AA’s tech is indeed bad. In October, there were six of us who got to the airport for a mission trip, and we had all been booked with miles on the same transaction, but one of us couldn’t check in at the airport, because his flight had not ticketed. He had a seat in his name, but no ticket. AA eventually figured out that their system had somehow only charged taxes and fees for five people, and they eventually charged the original credit card for the 6th person, and he made the flight, but it was close.

    It just made no sense whatsoever how that happened.

  71. I’m tired of upgraders anyways. If you want to fly First, just but a ticket like a normal person‍♂️

  72. My general seating neighbor was very unhappy on flight from SFO to Greece last year. He is a very frequent flyer, usually in 1st Class, on first-name basis with crew. Wanted 1st class on this flight, but they wouldn’t sell him a seat, though six 1st Class seats were unoccupied! Groused a lot. All I can think is that the airline couldn’t double-sell seats for “no-show” passengers. Don’t know why they couldn’t refund first buyer to make him happy. Even $.

    Seat 6A was my upgrade on Norwegian Air from Amsterdam to OAK. Lots of legroom and two (!) windows, just for me! Buttons adjust tint light dark!

  73. This is one of those situations where if had happened to you (being downgraded), it would suck…but if you’re the one benefiting from it, oh well, its all cool.

  74. i got downgraded on elal once because a woman with an economy seat self upgraded and absolutely would not leave my seat. the flight was 2 hours delayed as is, and it was a friday afternoon flight from europe, and they didn’t want to run up against the sabbath deadline, so rather than get security involved and delay the flight even further, the flight attendant demanded that i sit in this woman’s seat way in the back. in return, halfway through the flight, i was offered a $100 voucher. that was my last ever elal flight, god willing.

  75. fyi…American messes this up all of the time. Especially if you are upgraded. For some reason when someone is upgraded behind the scene they take their coach seat away and then reserve the first class ticket. The gate agents only see that the person has not checked in (but did check in in coach, but is no longer checked in) so they will release that reserved seat at boarding time and upgrade someone else. Not sure why this happens but it happens too often.

  76. I was non-rev standby once, got the last J seat. As I was settling in, agent told me that I need to vacate the seat now (same as here, original ticket-holder had shown up after all). Thought that I would get deboarded and have to wait for another flight, as it was full in all classes, but got the ‘jump seat’ in the back with the FAs. Got my Business Class meal after all, and home on a busy long weekend!

  77. @dsa

    Sounds like you’re not Jewish losing your seat to a Jewish. Sadly, your seat is no different than Palestine, once it’s occupied it’s not yours anymore. If your flight departed Germany then it explains a lot.

    At least you did the right thing. Making a scene on El Al is asking for trouble. The flight attendant or the person next to you can all be Mossad.

  78. Most likely the person downgraded was a non rev passenger, meaning an airport employee that was upgraded before. Since priority is always the paying customer he/she was put back where he normally would have been.

  79. Nowadays; airlines ,as with most business; know that it’s a relatively cheap form of advertising; letting others advertise and write about them. They know who you are… and focus all the attention and perks towards these people, with an Internet presence. The world is sadly becoming a place where you learn never to trust any info (or photo) you see! I have given-up reading an aviation/travel site; run by a certain ‘Sam’; a site where the blatant advertising and endorsing, verge on the comedic.

  80. Quit scheduling your lay overs for less than an hour. It’s literally your pompous ass fault that the lady at the podium had to go rearrange people. Seriously, you deserved to miss your connecting flights because of this. I mean come on man, who is dumb enough to have such a short lay over. Had your flight been late, you likely would have missed all of your connecting flights. Its people like that actually cause more problems and delays for flights.

  81. @ Luke Miller — I was at the gate an hour before departure. How did anyone have to rearrange anything because of my connection time?

  82. So somehow you get your way after booking what would have been an illegal international connection, luck out and get your seat back and still make American Airlines look foolish? That’s quite the Triple Play for you isn’t it? smh

  83. @ Rob — This really isn’t so complicated. If I had been in any way late for my connection, that would have been totally on me/my fault/my responsibility to fix. That wasn’t the case, though. I was at the gate longer before departure than I would have been under ordinary circumstances.

    My “getting my seat back” has literally zero to do with the connection. Zero. There was some unrelated system glitch (or some other reason) that caused me to be unchecked in. It had nothing to do with my Delta flight…

  84. A paid revenue passenger or award ticket in First or Business Class who shows up for boarding before the door closes must always get their seat period. The upgrade has to fall back.

  85. You know I’m an exclusive flier with AA cause they go everywhere I need . As for your situation it was not a glitch in the software. Garbage in garbage out. I’m a golfer and k is Doug Parker the CEO and others from way back when they started America west airlines. They flew by the seat of their pant then and do know. My issues are simple just like yours it depends on the gate agent and or whomever your dealing with to handle to situation. Unfortunately it’s how they woke up on the wrong side of be, hate their job, didn’t get laid the night before etc etc . Pick one as anyone will do. Good luck in future and god bless

  86. I have flew Delta from 2000 / 2015. I avg. approx. 265k air miles yearly. Due to the treatment on or off the plane ( upgrades, lounge access, etc ) Delta has treated my Wife and I very well. After retiring in 2015 we still fly Delta Airlines.

  87. I know this is likely a Boarding Area thing, Lucky, but surely in the year 2020, there is a way to have a comments section with threaded replies instead of this @soandso madness 30 comments down?

  88. @Lucky:

    So, quoting your reply, would a just-as-accurate headline for this post be “Weird System Glitch Overcome by Helpful Gate Agent”?

  89. @ Rob — I don’t actually know what caused it. I’ve reached out to American Airlines, and hope they can clarify. A system glitch seems like the most likely explanation, though that’s only speculation. It’s also possible that someone was screwing around with my record. Keep in mind in the past I’ve had readers maliciously cancel tickets I was booked on, order room service to my room, etc.

  90. Well, I think with US typical upgrading, I don’t think you have taken a seat someone actually paid for (with money or miles).

    The situation is different, in different parts of the world where there is no upgrading of status passengers at the gate, e.g. in Europe. I got downgraded (from paid J) because of staff travel, e.g. on LX … one of the reasons I stopped flying them.

  91. @ Ben — “in the past I’ve had readers maliciously cancel tickets”

    How does a reader cancel your ticket? I assume that you’re NOT sharing your PNR with the public.

  92. People in the Northwest are generally really nice (Seattle, Portland), wherever you go…
    The Pacific Northwest is dope

  93. I was recently on an AA flight from IAH to SNA connecting thru DFW, I had taken an earlier flight and was assigned a seat near the back, but when I boarded in Dallas my seat was changed to main cabin extra automatically, when another guy boarded and commented when he walked by that I was in his original seat but he got bumped to the back when he boarded. I’m EP so I guess they just do this automatically?

  94. To me the surprising thing is not that the airline made an error in assigning seats and had to correct it. The surprising thing is that someone would book a 42 minute connection on a separate ticket with a different airline knowing that he had to pass through customs and immigration between flights. That’s asking for trouble and a great deal of expense.

  95. I had an interesting upgrade/downgrade experience on AI 4 years ago. I was on a paid Biz ticket on the DEL-SFO flight. But got an op-up to F at the time of boarding as the flight was oversold. After I took my F seat the flight supervisor and a ground staff checked my BP and said I have to go back to biz. On asking them why, they just said it was through the “system”. But after take off I found out there was no such downgrade in the “system”, but rather they had me exchange seats with a non-rev passenger who apparently had some connections with the flight crew or may be someone higher up in AI. Anyway I complained to the flight supervisor about it and he instead let me sleep in the crew rest area for a few hours, which was an interesting experience. Only on AI and may be some Chinese airlines something like this could happen :-).

  96. Tom – Long time readers know that a malicious reader has in fact cancelled Ben’s reservation. and yes, the PNR was the issue IIRC.

    Note to anyone who posts copies of boarding passes on social media…might want to make sure your FF and PNR are not visible. Shit happens.

  97. @ Tom — I didn’t publish the PNR. Rather it really isn’t that hard to figure out someone’s PNR if you call and pretend to be them. Just tell them the flight number and date, confirm “your” name, and they’ll usually share the PNR with you. Once you have that you can cancel reservation, make changes, etc. It’s too easy, unfortunately, and most airlines don’t have proper security in place to safeguard from this.

  98. First off, to have someone maliciously cancel or alter your PNR is unequivocally wrong. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

    The point I was trying to make though was that if the topic of this post was really just about a hiccup in the system for some unknown reason that was corrected and you were able to execute an unbelievable connection in SEA, that’s a bit boring isn’t it?

    But if the headline continues a recurring theme of your sh177!$& on AA, well there’s a bit of clickbait, isn’t there?

    I would have suggested a topic extolling the unbelievable connection and asking readers some of their unbelievable ones too.

    Then again I’m new to your blog so perhaps that’s been done before. My original opinion still stands… this post seemed pretty pointless.

  99. We were booked o AA,, BCN-LHR-LAX-ORD-BCN. We had 40 minutes to connect from the LAX-ORD flight to the ORD-BCN flight. Upon arrival back in Barcelona we were heading back to JFK and Sao Paulo the following morning. It was essential we connect in ORD for our flight to BCN otherwise we would have missed our flights onto JFK and Sao Paulo. I called the AA EP desk who said 40 minutes was enough time to connect in ORD but if I wanted to move to an earlier flight it would cost around $1000 per person or I could try on the day for free. On the day of travel every earlier flight was full. I tracked our LA to ORD flight. It began in Portland, Maine to Miami, Dallas and Los Angeles. It was ontime Portland to Dallas and then was delayed, first 30 minutes, then several hours. Knowing this we went early to LAX . Check in were unaware the flight was delayed. We had to ask them to find another way to get to Barcelona, via JFK , Dallas or Miami we did not care, or to get us in time to Chicago for our connecting flight. Everything was full except a flight LAX to Tulsa , connecting on to ORD. Luckily the Tulsa flight was the adjacent gate to the Barcelona flight so with 30 minutes to spare we just made it in time .

  100. @Patrick:

    Unbelievable lucky that all that pulled together. The adjacent gate is a sure sign it was meant to be.

    One of my more legitimate complaints I have with AA (gasp!) is their unrealistic connection times. 40 mins in ORD? 25 mins in PHX? Only on a day with a full moon and all planets in alignment… maybe.

    But for the more well-traveled and experiences fliers, do you believe the airline or yourselves?

  101. @ AD: As an older (over 60) female EP on American, I haven’t experienced anything that seemed ageist or sexist. Maybe I’ve just been lucky. I am still from time to time the only female in 1st.

  102. I think that you’re being naive if you think that AA doesn’t have some special VIP designation attached to your AAdvantage number. Frankly, they’d be exceedingly stupid not to, and while I don’t credit American with an abundance of intelligence, putting in a special designation for the top 10 travel bloggers in the country seems pretty basic. Getting them to admit that is another story.

  103. We used to fly AA a lot mainly BCN to GRU via a variety of routes, LHR, JFK, MIA, DFW or ORD.
    Sometimes the connection was way too short. Whilst getting thru JFK or DFW can be pretty fast , MIA can be hellish especially at weekends . Sometimes we had only an hour and a half to get off the flight from London, take the shuttle, through immigration, security, then on to our connecting flight. It is a rush and very stressful if the incoming flight is delayed even by 15 minutes. The last time this happened our incoming flight was 45 minutes late but we were promised we would be met personally and fast tracked through. We weren´t.. We were handed an orange ticket and told to ´´head thata way .They will hold the plane. They know you are coming´´ We arrived at the gate with ten minutes to spare and were denied boarding with the excuse by the supervisor, that our business and first class seats had been given to other passengers . I begged them to find any vacant seat in any class. She said the flight was completely full. It turned out the supervisor had lied to us. Our seats had not been given away and it was only the involvement of a decent and honest AA check in lady who overheard the conversation that we were finally allowed to board to our rightful seats,. Another time we were even issued a ticket that arrived in MIA from Sao Paulo, connecting with a flight to LHR that had left some 12 hours earlier. It took some while for me to explain this to the EP desk.

  104. @Richard Filtz, no matter how many times you repeat yourself, your comment won’t become any better or more clever, or really relevant in any way. The fact that you think a person is “entitled” because they were able to sit in a seat they paid for is baffling.

  105. A similar thing happened to me on Delta last year. I was flying NAS-JFK as a Gold Medallion and got upgraded from my C+ shortly before boarding. After getting into my FC seat, being settled and receiving my PDB, a rude and uncourteous FA came into first and yelled out my name (wildly incorrect, by the way), as well as the name of my seatmate. We were told that the “computer made a mistake” and forced to do the walk of shame back to C+. Thankfully it wasn’t a full flight and I got my original paid seat. The issue for me was the FA’s attitude and blaming it on the computer, as it seemed that she was friends with the couple who got our seats. I highly doubt it wasnt an issue of the original paid FC pax “missing” a DL connecting flight in the Bahamas. 🙂

    It was a pretty lame experience but I think I got 8-10k miles out of it. Would prefer to not go through that again, though!

  106. @Lucky said: I also feel bad for the guy who got downgraded, but that also seemed like the fair thing to do in this situation.

    Don’t feel badly, Lucky.
    If it was George Hutton, or whomever, the AA rep should have given him a future travel credit.

  107. I had exactly the same thing happened for about a month straight, and all I ever got out of it was a well sucks to be you from American. I have pictures of number one on the list my last name, Dustin with no check mark then number 2345 6 all head check marks. It was magically done every time within minutes of me getting to the gate. Called in to Executive desk all I get was a well I’m not sure what happened but surely on next flight you’ll be taken care of. This wasn’t always the case, when it did happen it seemed to happen over and over until it magically got fixed. If you figure out how let us know.

  108. @Eskimo: It sounds like you’re the one who is the anti-Semite. Such ignorant comments. EL AL is probably the safest airline. Something you should NEVER FORGET. Just sayin’.

  109. This begs the question on how the on line check in system works – particularly for the app.
    Also I assume Ben you checked in either at the lounge in Japan or on the flight to Japan to SEA.

    So – does the app check in:

    1. Generate the App Boarding pass, then send a message to AA that you checked in with the check in details?
    Or
    2. Send the check in message to AA, then wait for a response, and then generate the boarding pass? In other words a handshake.

    If #1, then a delay or glitch in the internet could have checked you in on your phone, but the transmission failed sending the check in information.

    Also – it is possible that AA’s system rejected the check in since it determined your were sending from a Japanese IP addresses, and figured it was bogus since they did not think it would be possible to check in that far away and make the flight?

  110. I think Hut/G shouldn’t be mad at you, but he should instead be mad with the agent who gave a first class seat to someone who was third on the list. The 2nd and 3rd seem to be family since they have same last name, and I understand if 2nd gave up her seat so 3rd could fly first. But what about Hut/G? He was first.

  111. @Old Laughing Lady

    I didn’t mean it to come out that way. I’m just following my history lessons and what history teaches me.
    And by the way, El Al is probably the most secured airline but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s the safest. Just like USA have the mightiest weapons and military doesn’t make USA safest at all. Just like having a wall doesn’t make USA any safer.

  112. @Daitheflu84:

    Lemme get the right: your answer to someone calling you “entitled” is to claim that you should get to sit in the seat that you paid for.

    And then you tell us a sob story about being forced to do “the walk of shame” BACK to the seat you paid for after being granted a possible benefit (I would call it a courtesy, but… bygones) that in the end was within the rules and spirit of the program that was unfortunately administered by a rude FA. Do you REALLY not see?

    And that’s why I will go out on a limb and support DickFlitz in calling y’all entitled. If you paid the actual cost/price of an F ticket then we perhaps we wouldn’t be able to relate, but we wouldn’t be able to argue, neither

    “But you usually DON’T, Blanche. You usually DON’T pay for first class!” You monetize and capitalize upon a program meant to reward loyal customers. Those rewards are NOT guarantees and neither are they “paid for.”

    So what would you have DickFlitz and others like myself call you who think they deserve benefits they don’t pay for?

  113. @Rob, you’re really bad at reading comprehension. I merely added an anecdote to the topic, per the author’s request, and in no place did I complain about what happened. My complaint was the rude behavior of the FA and clearly DL felt it was warranted. I probably pay for first class seats half the time or more when I fly; the rest of the time I get upgraded, as per the published Delta FF benefits. If Delta sets a standard and says “you’re eligible for X benefits if you meet this level”, then it doesn’t really make a damn bit of difference what I or anyone else thinks they “deserve”, because Delta says that their frequent fliers deserve it (again this goes back to your reading comprehension because neither I or the author ever said anything about being entitled to anything).

  114. Dai:

    It’s my understanding that Delta extends you those benefits because you indeed “deserve” them, but under certain conditions.

    If an agent overzealously upgrades you early and then has to correct that error in judgment, it should neither be a “walk of shame” nor a disappointment because in the end that agent is executing the terms of agreement of the mileage program AND contract of carriage. In Lucky’s case, that’s what got him his first class seat back. And if you were on the FC-receiving side of that computer glitch, you’d be happy, too, that an airline representative did their job “correctly” and the seat went to the person that “deserved” it the most.

    And as far as reading comprehension goes, could you please point out to me wherever it was that I originally called you “entitled”? Cuz all I said was I saw where good ol’ Dick Flitz was coming from.

  115. P.S. Dai:

    DickFlitz and I would never have said that you or Lucky claimed to be “entitled.” Because you both seem to represent yourselves as “deserving” of these upgrades and services.

    It’s that sense of “deserve” that people like DIckFlitz and I (and probably a whole lotta millions more) would consider to be “entitled.”

  116. @Rob not going to play semantics with you. You’re very clearly saying that people here are entitled because…honestly I’m not sure. I dont throw a fit when I dont get upgraded for free, because that means that I’ve already determined that said flight wasnt worth paying extra to fly in FC. Today is a great example: I paid to fly in D1 SEA-JFK but was booked in C+ JFK-FLL, though I was subsequently upgraded. I suspect this was due to other travelers presumably making similar value proposition calculations with respect to flying upfont on a sub-3 hour domestic flight. I appreciate the gesture by DL to extend the benefits that they do, and I in turn continue to give them my business – despite the fact that this often means I have a stop somewhere or pay a few dollars more to fly them.

    Side note: It’s also really amazing that after one post, you’re able to decipher exactly how I would feel in a given scenario (had I been in Lucky’s shoes). You should use those superpowers for good; you could make some really great money I’m guessing.

  117. Dai:

    So you graciously accepted an upgrade on a “sub 3-hour domestic” leg, JFK-FLL, what a hero. Especially when it comes to enduring the extra cost, or an extra stop and the horrible possibility of sub-standard shakashuka breakfast or other horrors at a sub-grade airport lounge that doesn’t recognize the importance of your business. It’s also so nice of you to continue to give DL your business… it’s refreshing to see someone not proclaim any loyalty up front for an open amount of time when they can continue the impression that they’re keeping a corporation on the hook as long as they get their way.

    THAT’s how one might decipher how you would feel, should I use my superpowers for evil.

    Instead, I am blessed enough to use my REAL powers and talents to make a good living and support me and my loved ones.

    And one last thing. “Semantics” is not something to be played at. It’s the study of the meaning of the words we use. You defended yourself from being called entitled by saying you deserved the seat that you paid for. And then you shared a story of being denied a seat you really didn’t pay for. That was the entire point of my entré to our little tiff. Mis-characterising it, and using weak sarcasm really probably isn’t your intent, but perhaps that’s all your capable of?

  118. @Namouklasistapapariamalaka

    Perhaps you meant to say “hissy fit”, not “sissy fit”. The latter response would be homophobic. Not sure what Lucky would do, but this gay man would be upset.

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt this time.

  119. Haters gonna hate. You got a boarding pass, and we’re at your gate on time. The only thing that happened is that your check in did not reflect properly in the system they use at the gate. It happened to me before; online check in issues you a boarding pass but the gate system doesn’t get updated.

    I think they did the right thing here. Paid F should always come before upgrades.

  120. Interesting to note that #2 and #3 were likely a couple which is why #3 got the upgrade over 2. Makes it even odder that #1 got the downgrade. Perhaps a special occasion #1 overheard at the gate? Bizarre though. Thanks for sharing.

  121. The other person wasn’t down graded for you! They received the upgrade at the gate because you weren’t there yet and the seat was available. Rightfully so you should receive the seat you paid for once you arrive

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