American Airlines Explains How I Was Mysteriously Unchecked In

Filed Under: American

On Sunday I wrote about the downgrade situation that occurred on an American Airlines flight I was taking from Seattle to Dallas.

The basics of my American Airlines “downgrade” situation

I had a mobile boarding pass and attempted to board, but the gate agent informed me that I didn’t show as being checked in, and therefore my seat had been given away. However, I had never unchecked myself in, so clearly there was some sort of a glitch, or something.

The person who had been upgraded last minute ended up being downgraded, and I got my confirmed first class seat back.

As I mentioned in the post, both of the gate agents were friendly, and rare situations like this do happen. Nonetheless I was curious to know what caused this.

How did I get unchecked in?

Was there some system glitch? Did a malicious reader somehow get ahold of my itinerary and try to do something with it (which wouldn’t be a first)? Well, I reached out to American, and they’ve been very helpful and transparent in sharing the details. What actually happened is quite interesting, and I can now see how this all happened.

I was scheduled to fly from Seattle to Dallas at 10:13AM PT on Sunday. I checked in about 24 hours before departure (as soon as I got a notification on my phone to check in).

At 11:57PM PT on Saturday (just over 10 hours before departure), American blocked two first class seats in the cabin, because seats 6A & 6B were expected to be broken. The first class cabin was fully booked, so those in seats 6A & 6B were without seats.

American didn’t immediately downgrade anyone, because often people cancel or change flights last minute. That means me and one other person were essentially confirmed in first class without assigned seats. However, when this happened and I was removed from my seat, I was also unchecked in, for whatever reason.

At 9:08AM PT on Sunday the issue with the broken seats was cleared, meaning no one had to be downgraded. I’m not sure if the seats were actually fixed, or what happened (one would think the issue would have been cleared earlier, since the plane was enroute from Dallas to Seattle at that point). Still, at this point there was no issue.

However, because I had been unchecked in (unbeknownst to me), I was marked as a no show when the check-in cutoff happened. Understandably, at that point my seat was given away, as is the standard procedure. This didn’t happen to the other passenger, because they checked in after the issue had been cleared.

What could American have done differently?

There was a note for the gate agents regarding the first class seats having been blocked due to potentially being out of service.

Presumably the gate agents didn’t realize that this caused me to be unchecked in. Logically one would think that they would have tried to page me in the gate area to make sure I did in fact no show, given that I had been unchecked in.

However, realistically I don’t really fault them for this:

  • Gate agents are incredibly busy and overworked
  • They probably didn’t realize that I had been unchecked in, so they probably figured there was no reason they should be paging me

What could I have done differently?

To be honest, nothing that I can think of. When you have a boarding pass you assuming that you’re staying checked in. Am I going to start going to the podium before every flight to ask if my boarding pass is valid? No way.

I see people do that all the time, and the gate agent just looks at the boarding pass and says “yeah, you have a boarding pass, take a seat until your group is called.”

Bottom line

Ultimately this wasn’t a big deal, though I do find it interesting to learn what caused the situation. Like I said, this is the first time this has ever happened to me on American, so obviously this is incredibly rare.

Two first class seats had to be blocked, due to them being out of service. When passengers were removed from those seats, their check-in was also undone. Then when the seats were cleared of the issue, the cabin was no longer oversold, so there was no problem… except for the fact that I was unchecked in and didn’t realize it.

Again, not a huge deal, but it’s super interesting to me to learn how this happened.

Comments
  1. Still it doesnt make sense! I think American just screwed up as always. If they gave you an explanation about the broken seat then maybe they should have explained why you were unchecked in?

  2. Thank you for the follow-up on this, as the story is interesting. This is something that AA should be working on a remedy for, since it’s no doubt happened to others with less visibility and presumably less of an explanation.

    For a reasonable company, this would be a high-priority software fix, since it affected a paid premium-cabin passenger (and likely could affect future purchases of high-margin seats).

    Knowing AA, this will continue to be an IT issue for the next few years.

  3. My rant….I was in the same situation 6 weeks ago where I had checked in via AA app and downloaded my boarding pass. Got to gate but was told by GA that I was not checked in even tho my boarding pass was on my phone. They gave away my first class seat but “re-checked” me in coach. Unlike Lucky, GA said they could not change me back to first class given that the other upgraded passenger already was seated. After some initial complaint on my side with no sympathy from GA, I gave up and boarded in new seat. Overriding factor for me not doing more was that the flight was only 1 hr. I then called EXP desk to check to make sure my connection was checked in and also had my first class seat intact which it was. To date I still don’t no the cause

  4. @listen +1 Of course, one shouldn’t have to. But if it’s a really important flight or you’re a nervous flyer, that’s the way to go. With that being said, sometimes you can’t get mobile BPs for INTL trips. Just have to hope and pray.

  5. One more time : the greatest experiences don’t happen when everything is fine and smooth but when a glitch happens and the crew fix it smily.

    That is what passenger will remind of and will be the key memory of their trip.

  6. Probably my old fashioned habits would have prevented it. While I do usually checkin online when the checkin opens (i.e. usually T-24) and download an electronic boarding pass, I usually go and print one out when getting to the airport early enough. The traditional format is still my preferred one, as it nicely fits into a jacket together with my passport. Obviously, in this case, I would have detected the error.

  7. It seems like it would make more sense if they put the two passengers at the top of the first class wait list, which would have cleared, then there would at least visibility to all the passengers.

  8. United once upgraded me when I was already onboard. But the gate agent went to the wrong seat and told another passenger that he was upgraded. However, the first class passenger showed up at the last minute, and the other passenger went back to his old seat. The problem is I was somehow deboarded in this process, and I became no show even if I was on the plane. I didn’t find the issue till I tried to check in a few days later. A 30 minute call to United solved the issue.

  9. @Shawn: LOL!!!!! They are busy printing tons of useless pages on a dot matrix printer like I saw couple weeks ago at the gate in PHI. I could not understand how on the ages of cloud, iPads, new technology, etc… the gate agent printed for almost 10 minutes hundreds of pages of whatever information before the flight. She was using a Stone Age dot matrix printer that was extremely noisy. The only thing that came to my mind was: WHY???????? I would understand if she worked for Aerolineas Argentinas which still offers a fax machine for business class passengers to use in board. 🙂

  10. There was no glitch. An AA employee or employees want to get on that flight. The gate agent can bump you out of seats when they want for plane issues. They wanted that first class seat but you can’t do that to a paying customer that is already booked. I’m glad you got that seat back. Give em hell and never back down from letting them uncheck you in. If you complain you’ll wind up with a free flight.

  11. Ben, you made a comment as follows: “Gate agents are incredibly busy and overworked.”

    Though I agree with this comment, that should not be your or my problem. Airlines are now making records profits with all the fees, smaller seats, etc. American should allocate more staff rather than not only squeezing out profits from the customers, but asking their staff to perform more and more work. In the end, both the staff and the customers are losing out.

  12. @minmax – of course, this wasn’t an issue to Lucky since he still got his F seat. I’d guess that’s pretty rare since you and others have had the downgrade experience…

    @JL100 – Fantastic idea but that would imply that technology should work correctly…

  13. Clearly it is an IT issue. Once I was travelling from Pasco to Dallas via Seattle. Since AA doesn’t fly to Pasco, they had booked me in Alaska flight. When I check in Pasco, my name is bumped off from upgrade list. When I asked AA customer service they say that Alaska doesn’t recognize my status on AA. But the ticket is issued by AA and my upgrade stand by priority should be preserved. Looks like they do not want to admit their mistake and fix the IT issue.

  14. As @JL points out, the correct scenerio would have been to put you and the other passenger at the top of the first class wait list, which would have cleared as soon as the seats were fixed.

    Additionally, what if the seats would not have been fixed – you would have been downraded. I think a call from AA would have been warranted the prior evening, when your seat assignment was removed. Bad service on AA for not alerting you to this issue.

    Lastly, maybe I am crazy, but even though I check in 24 hours prior to my departure (and screen shot a pic of my boarding pass), I am constsntly refreshing my app. I think this would have alerted you to the issue if you had refreshed the AA app (or maybe not).

  15. AA did not have to uncheck you – people are checked in all the time without seat assignments, the seat to be given later at the gate. I don’t think any airline should uncheck a passenger without proactively notifying the passenger that this has occurred and them having a chance to rectify the situation.

  16. A work colleague and I were flying CVG – IAH – TPA on UA a last year. We are both 1k and both were upgraded a few days in advance. Before boarding the first flight, my colleague asked the GA to change from a bulkhead. In doing so, she somehow unchecked me in. I scanned my boarding pass, red lights, scan again, GA told me to just board. We were 5 minutes delayed because the passenger manifest didn’t line up with the head count (count was 1 higher than the manifest). After departure I was confronted about self-upgrading because the cabin should have had an empty seat where I was sitting… I showed my boarding pass and after a call to HQ, it displayed I no-showed for the flight! UA gave me free WiFi to message my wife as I checked my carry-on to make sure it went to TPA and I was still on the connection.

    Bottom line, weird stuff happens. Sometimes you get a story and a few k miles out of it!

  17. This happened to me recently as well, but on Delta. Was checked into DCA-DCA-PVR the day before. Morning of the flight, I went to the gate agent to have my passport verified and was told due to an equipment change, I no longer had my Comfort + seat, even though on the App, I apparently had a confirmed seat. My boarding pass still worked at security. The agent said due to the equipment change, I was unchecked in. As a result, I now had a “seat request”. The flight was oversold and it put me in a bad situation. Honestly, pretty unacceptable for them to uncheck you in.

  18. I am a 2 million miler. Had extra legroom seats from Rome to Chicago. During the night before my flight, I and my wife were moved to the cheapest seats in the back of the plane. It is nice that this fellow got an explanation. When I complained all I received was a message saying American had the right to change seats whenever they want to. Seemed an odd thing to do to a good customer. And with no apology or real explanation.

  19. I booked and paid for first class seats 1A and 1B in April for a Christmas trip. I purposely chose that row due to a medical condition. The week prior to traveling as I double checked flight info I realized that I was moved for those seats to 2B and 3D. So, less leg room which was needed and separated from my traveling companion. I contacted AA and rep basically said, “ this happens all the time. Our reservation system is terrible.” I asked why they would arbitrarily change my seats. Her reply “sometimes it’s like the system throws them in the air and this happens”! Obviously I was not happy. I paid full price ( not an upgrade), booked months earlier, and I am an Advantage member. Ridiculous! In asking for rectifying this problem I was told, you can just ask to change seats with the people sitting in those seats when you board. Really????? Guess who I will no longer be flying.

  20. Is it possible that there was an earlier accident or spill in 6A & 6B that had to be cleaned and there was a possibility that the seats may not be “ready” for use? I have no clue. Is it possible that there was a simple screw-up? Sure. Is it possible that sometimes weird things happen but don’t indicate the end of the world? Yep. Would some folks blame AA if their car doesn’t start tomorrow morning? A certainty.

  21. Slightly related to this post, and yet another example that IT glitches happen.

    I was transiting from a delayed LH flight via Calgary 12 years ago that caused me to miss my connection to Vancouver, so Air Canada put us on the next available flight. When I got to the service podium to get new seat assignments, the agent tells me “I have a message here from CBSA that you haven’t been admitted into the country.” I laughed and essentially asked him, “How do you think I got here then?”

  22. “Did a malicious reader somehow get ahold of my itinerary and try to do something with it (which wouldn’t be a first)”… I’m here for that story ; )

  23. More recently, Alaska ended up cancelling my entire return flight from Vancouver to Honolulu via Seattle because I allegedly non-showed for my connecting Seattle-Vancouver flight during my outbound trip. Upon arrival from HNL, we discovered that an earlier flight to YVR had been delayed, so we asked whether we could be shifted to that one, instead of the last flight that would be leaving three hours later. When it was time to go home, the app wouldn’t let me check in. A quick call to the friendly folks in Res revealed that I had been marked as a no-show for my original SEA-VYR flight, which caused my return trip to be completely cancelled. Fortunately, they were able to fix the issue.

  24. “..Rare..” I call BULL**** I have this happen several times. And after I had flown 2 or 3 legs of my flight. Only Difference was after paying extra for a better seat I got sent to the worst seats way in the back , in the middle.

    I was told they can’t move someone from a seat, and despite telling them THEY Did that to me, I was threatened with be arrested. Told to file a request for refund. So they knew and did not care.

    Don’t get me started on checked bags and the refusal of AA employees to check my bag and then they LIE LIE LIE about why. Not one lie, several lies all different, One perk of business class it check bags for us come out first, Mine come out last. I contacted AA and talked to a manager about all my complaints and was told they get back to me, 60 plus days. Wish full thinking on my part

    The only reason I fly American is it is my only choice without a long drive.

  25. Your nickname is apt; odd stuff like this happens to me frequently, but it rarely has a happy ending.

  26. Contrary to what MinMax wrote (above), already being seated does not matter. I flew on AA some years ago in economy from PHL to LAX via DFW (same plane and flight number all the way). I was sitting across the aisle from a colleague, talking about a meeting we would attend in LA. Another passenger boarded at DFW and had been assigned the same seat that I was already in. The flight attendant insisted that I move, but I asked her to seat the new passenger in the seat they wanted me to move to. The gate agent, a nasty little man named Gobi Ramachandran, came on the plane and insisted that I move or “I will have you forceably removed from the plane.” He said the other passenger was “traveling on business,” and I said so was I, but that didn’t seem to matter to him (and the reason for traveling is really none of their business). So in the end I moved, lest I be “forceably removed from the plane.” I never flew on AA again until after the merger with USAir.

  27. If I work for AA and I know what flight you are on, I will probably get in trouble if I just cancel your booking. But if I know your seat assignment, I can enjoy throwing a monkey wrench into the works by listing that seat as broken (along with the one next to it, just to deflect suspicion). They gave you half the story – let’s hope someone is tracking down the rest of it. As Ben wrote, “I was removed from my seat, I was also unchecked in, for whatever reason.” We still don’t know that reason.

  28. Lucky – I don’t think you ever said did you download your original boarding pass or was it still showing up in the app? I’m assuming if you were unchecked in it would disappear from the app?

  29. The problem is that more than likely nobody reports these issues or someone does report it and the person doesn’t know who to escalate it to and ultimately nothing gets done.

    The other problem is that I am willing to bet AA outsources their software development and those guys even if they see an error won’t do anything about it because nobody ever told them to. There is no reason why the mobile app cannot auto refresh and block you from your boarding pass if this happened letting you know something is wrong. Nothing worse than trying to get issues resolved while you are boarding.

  30. Similar thing happened to me on Delta in FLL recently this past Jan 5. Purchased two tickets one way FLL to LGA back on 4/8/19 (well in advance). Picked seats the day I bought them. On Jan 4, I check in and the app looked broken as it wouldn’t give me boarding passes. On Jan 5 at FLL, drop off checked bag at kiosk and get vouchers to get past security but no seats assigned (they were not actual tickets). Get to gate, and they say just because I have a ticket doesn’t mean I am guaranteed a seat…? What? I watch the monitors for upgrades and standby, we are nowhere listed. After groups start boarding (still without our actual tickets) I pull up the app and we are both listed as first and second standby! Makes no sense. Why would we be downgraded? Had to be one of the first to buy tickets on that flight and checked in exactly 24 hours before departure. I went to the gate attendant and although most had already boarded, they gave us our two tickets so we safely made it home. The kicker? The seats were nowhere near the original seats we chose when we purchased the tickets. No idea what happened but they gotta get their act together. So weird.

  31. I had a similar problem on AA flying from Boston to San Jose, via Chicago. I was upgraded on both segments. The agent in Boston was looking at possible shorter connections for me in Chicago, but there wasn’t one. When I got to Chicago and tried to board, my boarding pass was rejected. The agent in Boston had removed me from the flight, but didn’t add me back anywhere. My first class seat was given away, and I was assigned a middle seat for the segment. I was not happy, as they continued to upgrade people into first class while they were sorting out the problem.

  32. Have you ever seen two seats in first class broken next to each other? Or two open seats in first empty? They have someone board and do a quick fix. I bet they were being held by some aa employees or executives that didn’t show or need anymore.

  33. The simple trick to solve this issue – keep refreshing your AA boarding pass on your app. If you are infact unchecked in you will no longer see the QR code.

  34. So the seats are marked INOP; they’re on MEL, or deferred, so they’re unusable. The customers in those seats are off-loaded, instead of being unseated. Two separate things. If a “B” seat is INOP, it can also take out the “A” seat.
    The gate agents will never page for anyone “un-checked in”. The logic is – you’re not there as you’re not checked in, so they’re not going to call you. FYI – there isn’t an “un-checked” list. There’s a “Not Checked In” list, but nothing to show someone was checked-in and then un-checked.
    There should be some communication about the previous occupant of the seat, so if it becomes available, you can get “your” seat back.
    At the carrier I work at, we handle this differently – if seats are on MEL, we wait until the aircraft is at the gate *and* maintenance confirms they’re still on MEL, *before* we unseat anyone.

  35. I don’t know if this is equal, but a few years ago, I was downgraded from first, as a Diamond on Delta, from ATL to SNA due to an equipment change. First class was checked in full, no surprise there. It just so happened that the row of seats I was in originally, did not exist on the swapped aircraft. I was in row 6 coincidentally as you were..and the new aircraft only had 5 rows of first class. This all did not happen until about 30 minutes before we were to board when they discovered they needed to switch aircraft and had one handy (it was ATL after all). I immediately got on the phone with the Diamond desk to see what happened as the GA’s were in a tizzy. While on the phone, my name was called out and I got to the desk and was handed a first class seat in row 5. As I knew what happened and also knew my row was eliminated, I was quite surprised they found me a seat on row 5 and assumed someone else was downgraded. All I could think, was, it pays to be diamond.

  36. “Ultimately this wasn’t a big deal” – It wasn’t a big deal to you. You got your first class seat. I’m sure it was a much bigger deal to the person who was told they had been upgraded to first class and then had it yanked away at the last second. There is no excuse for this. No way was this the first time this has ever happened with AA and the fact they refuse to fix this issue deserves to be called out.

  37. @ Bill — Sure, totally agree, though in fairness this was someone who got the upgrade at the gate and then had it taken away a few minutes later. So while it sucks, it’s not like they had a confirmed upgrade in advance and were downgraded, at least.

  38. @ Seba — Because that’s when the push notification comes through, so that’s when I remembered to do so? Why *wouldn’t* I check in online in advance? Like I said, in my years and years flying American, this had never been an issue…

    Keep in mind Delta even automatically checks people in 24 hours out.

  39. It’s their mistake ,they should have sent you an email or a message informing you that you are unchecked in now and that you need to re check in either online or at the counter.

  40. Since it was a mobile boarding pass .. AA could have texted or pages the person that there was change in seat assignment or checkin status and approach the gate agent .

    I wonder if the person has signed up notifications , he would have record such a text.

  41. No excuses from American. It’s their poor design systems fault. Whenever there is a change in my status from other airlines, I would receive a notification to my mobile. In this case, the passenger should receive a notification that he had been “uncheckin” because of that unavailable seat assigned to him.

  42. Interesting. The inbound flight left about an hour late – wonder if it because of the seat?

    I don’t think I have ever seen two adjacent seats broke. Usually it is just one. The two seat are independent. So strange. Unless AA did an aircraft swap.

    It is still not clear why the first person on the upgrade list was bumped rather than person number 3. The person 3 likely got it because they were on same reservation (couple) and the husband #2 told them to upgrade the wife, when the reservation was split.

    You were late arriving and was one of the last to board (I was on the flight and in 4B). Particularly since the flight was scheduled to leave at 10:15 but did not leave until 10:46 am. And you boarded way after 10:15, with rest of First class seated and in place. You were lucky to get overhead space above row 1. But I assume you arrived at the gate after 10:15.

    The departure time changed twice, first to 10:40, then later back to 10:30, then back to 10:40.

    So I think the agents thought you were a know show. You seat was given away before you arrived at the gate, as I was waiting in line when the upgrade seats were cleared, You boarded at least 20-252 minutes after boarding at started.

  43. @ Randy — Umm, did you read either of the posts?

    Ben was late to board because of this issue, not because of a late arrival on his part. He was sitting in the gate area by 9:36 (we had a bet on how long it would take him to get through the terminal, so were texting) and by 10:19 we were talking about how he had tried boarding, but was waiting on the agent to fix things. In the prior post he noted that this took well over 15 minutes, and was only resolved in the final minutes of boarding.

    So yes, the seat was given away prior to Ben arriving at the gate (the point of this post!), but not because of anything he or the gate agents did (or didn’t do).

  44. Sounds like another AA demo of incompetence.
    When they know 24h in advance that 2 seats are broken why don’t they send in someone to fix it?

  45. It seems like the “for whatever reason” is the problem.

    Passengers who cannot be accommodated because of an equipment problem should not be unchecked in. They should be taken care of. Or contacted. There is plenty of fault for AA here.

  46. What could they have done differently? Their system should be setup to notify you via email, text, phone call, and/or app notification if you are reverted from checked-in to not checked-in.

  47. @Tiffany – if Ben was sitting at the gate at 9:36am then why did he not board when boarding started at 10:15am (the scheduled departure time – so boarding was 30 minutes late start). Doesn’t Ben always board early.

    I was sitting at the boarding gate in a seat right next to the boarding lane, well before boarding time. Then about 8 minutes before board I was standing at the entrance to the priority lane. I never saw him approach the gate from behind when group 1 was finished – he sort of stands out in bright red sweat shirt. He did not board until about 10:35am or later – which I guess is due to him having to wait at the time to get the issue resolved. The agent did board and I am not sure what she was doing with a boarding pass in hand – so I guess that was the downgrade.

    I was sitting at the gate area when they upgraded the 2 people, which was just before boarding. The electronic signs were out of order but you can see upgrade list of course on the app. I too wondered about position 2 and 3 but with same last name – a couple.

    I guess Ben was hiding in the back – as opposed to boarding near the start. The two seats did clear and I know 3F was one of them and I believe 6B (his seat was the other). I did notice several hours before there were 2 empty seats – so it was showing J2 before I left my hotel – in downtown.

    Not clear why Ben doesn’t check the seat map. I always do up to boarding to make sure my seat is intact.

    Somehow the timing doesn’t add up. Unless the 9:36 am time was the time he left US immigration. The TSA pre-lines were very long – thank goodness I have CLEAR. I got the impress he had not tried to board until way after Group 1 was boarded and later.

  48. How were you able to use the boarding pass to pass security though? Don’t you need a valid one for that?

  49. Sabre has a lot of issues with upgrades it seems. I see it on Alaska a lot too (who also uses Sabre). Especially with upgrades not fully processing and then showing as un-checked in or not re-checked in for the upgrade.

  50. I am a retired AA gate agent at MSP. I resent what Shawn said, unless you’ve done our job yourself you shouldn’t have said that. I worked one flight after another without anytime in between. All it took was 1 or 2 delays and then we were sometimes working flights by ourselves dealing with overbooked planes and way too many issues to get into here. We have no way of knowing if a passenger that was checked in who ( for ever reason) became unchecked. Our computer system doesn’t show that. In fact that did happen to me once or twice, luckily without issue as we were able to get the same seat back. Many times I wished I had more time to provide better customer service, as I did enjoy having conversations with my passengers. And sometimes I did!

  51. @ Randy — Boarding early makes sense when one is trying to grab pictures of an interesting product for a review; there’s nothing all that interesting about an AA 738. And by 10:20 we were texting about how they were working on the seat situation, which is just a few minutes after boarding started, and lines up nearly perfectly with your timing, but still doesn’t have anything to do with the system glitch that created this situation.

  52. well, it sounds to me like there’s a software issue in the code where they have to unassign your seat. It sounds like they also set your “checked in” flag to FALSE. Those are two different things… seat assigned and checked in. It still would have been strange and problematic if you went to board and you then discovered that you didn’t have an assigned seat. I would think it wouldn’t be too hard to improve that area. (but hell, sometimes code is so screwy that simple tweaks have very unexpected consequences… whack-a-mole time).

  53. In a similar vein, I used points to book tickets well in advance for a trip SFO to Maui on United. For no apparent reason, my wife lost her seat. She was showing as being in First, but no seat assignment. I actually called the President of United and talked to one of his many executive assistants who had no idea why. I assumed an Air Marshall grabbed the seat. Any rate, United did nothing for me, but I kept checking the seat map, and finally a first class seat opened up and I grabbed it for my wife. Very odd. Same plane. No change in equipment. The person who got my wife’s seat was obviously not an air marshall. Still a mystery.

  54. Strange that someone who relentlessly complains about AA and CONSTANTLY refers to how superior Delta is, flew AA out of a Delta Hub on a flight that wasn’t nonstop. If you had to lay over anyway, why not just let all your dreams come true and fly Delta through ATL.
    Manifest Destiny. And if all of your info was current on the app, why wasn’t your original screenshot in the article shot from the app instead of mobile boarding pass generated by email? Your whole story is fishy and I can’t believe this has turned into a 2 part saga. You will probably delete this comment before it posts but just a heads up that you may want to reconsider the relentless petty stories about American as they are losing their impact.

    I’m sure the strategy behind flying separate airlines with multiple layovers/ridiculously tight connection times via an airline you hate despite potential opportunity to fly the airline you love would make for a much more beneficial story to readers. Airline mile hack? Mileage run? Anything legitimate at all?

  55. Would you have felt diff. If they didn’t put you in first and just said tough your in coach even though wasn’t your fault?

  56. This has happened to me TWICE in the last year on PAID tickets. The gate agent for the second flight was rather rude. I went to the Admiral’s Club and they were quite nice. Fortunately, I was able to wait 4 hours for another flight. But when one pays $1000 for a ticket to get shoved into the back of the plane is very not cool. American Airlines needs to improve their surge capacity – but it’s just another example of how they often don’t take good care of high-dollar customers.

  57. I had a very similar thing happen with Alaska Airlines on a return leg of a round trip – I got an upgrade to first class (I have high status) and selected a seat. Day before however I was actually unable to be checked in online. Called customer service – they told me I should check in at the airport and this “occasionally happens”. When I got my boarding pass it had me now waitlisted for the flight – gate agents ended up putting me in an exit row middle seat. Everyone apologized but no one ever could tell me WTF happened.

  58. This sounds like a bunch of nonsense from AA as usual. Two broken seats on one flight? Also, even if true, what does a broken seat have to do with unchecking a passenger either automatically or manually? This was done deliberately by someone who is mad at your criticisms of AA. However, you got a gate agent that either didn’t get the memo or is a really conscientious employee.

  59. @ K Dub — Wow, a lot of conspiracy theories you have!

    The mobile boarding pass was generated through the app, not through an email. Clearly you’re not familiar with how American’s app works, or what their boarding passes look like.

    Why did I book American? Because as I explained in the previous post, my goal was to get home as early as possible. The next Delta itinerary would have gotten me home two hours later. Also, on Delta I would have paid for first class (since there would have been no shot at an upgrade), and that ticket would have cost $750+ one-way, compared to the $200 I paid on American, since I used an expiring systemwide upgrade to confirm the upgrade at booking.

    American is fine for me operationally at this point. They don’t have the same issues they had when the mechanics were taking planes out of service.

    Of course service on Delta is better, but I’d rather pay $200 and get home two hours earlier, than pay $750 and get home two hours later. It was as simple as that for me.

    Any other questions I can help with?

  60. @ Randy — I think Tiffany has done a good job explaining the situation, but my gosh, I’m not sure what you’re even trying to infer. You’re spending a lot of time commenting, but did you bother to read the response in the previous post? Because you’re making exactly the same accusations again.

    Let me once again emphasize I was at the gate over an hour before departure. I tried to board maybe two minutes after boarding started. I am sorry that unlike you I wasn’t lined up in the priority line eight minutes before boarding started.

    I try to board early when I’m reviewing flights, but I wasn’t reviewing this flight. So I boarded a couple of minutes after boarding started, which to me is the sweet spot. That means I don’t have to waste time lining up for no reason, but there’s also never an overhead bin issue.

    Any other things I can clarify?

  61. @Ben – I can see you deleted my response to Tiffany. Not sure why you are filtering a legit response.

    I think there is a lesson learned – that should be presented to your readers.

    One should always recheck the reservation a few times including before boarding starts, particularly if you checked in 24 hours before. Not a good idea to rely on a saved boarding pass.

    For the App – that means opening the reservation and refreshing it to check the seat. Could have been an aircraft swap or you lost your seat for some reason. AND ON THE AA APP – the reservation is NOT refreshed when you view it – so you will have stall data. You have to pull and down and make sure it holds.

    In your case, had you checked the app, say while taxing to the gate on your international flight – you would have seen that you no longer had a seat. You may have been able to recheck in and reassign a seat. At a minimum – you should have checked the app and refreshed before upgrades cleared.

    I generally reprint a boarding pass at a kiosk even when checked in on the app, so the airline knows I am at the airport.

  62. @ Randy — No comments have been deleted. I *did* recheck the app, including 45 minutes before departure, and it was still showing my seat correctly assigned…

  63. @Ben, thanks for the reply – I guess Tiffany deleted then.

    But did you refresh as well as check? I think even if you pull up the boarding pass it will still give you an old boarding pass (not referring to one saved in Apple Wallet), which would require recheck in on the app.

  64. AA does this all of the time. I work for them and they always uncheck someone in and only reserve the first class seat. It does not have to be broken seats its a common thing they do with AA advantage elite passengers. Gate agents do not check for unchecked passengers. Gate agents do not know anything about the unchecked passengers. If a passenger is not checked in then that tells them they aren’t coming. I hate when AA does this because it puts us at a disadvantage and is not good customer service.

  65. It is unlikely that the entire flight was fully checked in when you were unchecked so if AA tale of two front seats broken were true they would have simply changed your seat assignment to economy, which happens often for many bad reasons. Zero reason to uncheck any checked in passengers under those circumstances. I have numerous times been reassigned from a coveted seat to a terrible one and always lied to as to why (like change of aircraft) when every darn time I found off duty crew in my original seat.

  66. @ Nizzy — The point is that they didn’t immediately downgrade me. I was in first class, and all of first class was checked in. Since it’s likely at least some people will cancel within 24 hours, it’s logical that they wouldn’t yet bump me to economy, but rather would leave me confirmed in first class without an assigned seat.

  67. Sounds like a software error, the kind that can exist for a long time, since the exact situation that caused it is rare; the programmer who made the error is long gone; and the company doesn’t want to spend money fixing something so unusual. They would prefer to handle complaints by stonewalling the customer. Who’s going to find out?

  68. @Ben and @Nizzy

    “@ Nizzy — The point is that they didn’t immediately downgrade me. I was in first class, and all of first class was checked in. Since it’s likely at least some people will cancel within 24 hours, it’s logical that they wouldn’t yet bump me to economy, but rather would leave me confirmed in first class without an assigned seat.”

    That is the exact point I was trying to make. Just pulling up a boarding pass on the app will still pull up an old boarding pass. You need to look at the reservation in the app and refresh and the seat would be gone. Has happened to me and I will call or take action at the airport.

    Some of us read your blog – to save us time – since you capture all the key big items on Flyertalk and post – so you are filtering for us. I am also more concerned about technology, fares, changes, glitches, etc and less so on the “Reality” aspect or the review of airlines that I would likely not fly.

    @Larry – to each his own – this blog has sort of become a new version of FlyerTalk – reduced with focused topics – so I don’t see anything creepy about discussion. I suspect Ben likes it that why as it provides lots of hits.

  69. @ Randy — As I stated in my previous responses, I *did* refresh the app, and it *did* still show the seat…

  70. @Randy — perhaps you could tell us more about Ben’s red sweatshirt in between all this highly illuminating discussing of the tech? That should get to the bottom of it.

  71. If I were the passenger seated in 10A or 16A it would have been a big deal to me if I had to give up my assigned seat, especially if I had to go from main cabin extra to a middle seat in the far back.

  72. I had an interesting close call a few weeks ago flying from RDU to CVG via CLT. My leg to CLT was to be on an Oasis A321 (and was excited to try it out too) with 20 first class seats versus the standard 16 that are slowly being replaced. When my upgrade cleared they placed me in row 5 on the map but ended up changing my seat to row 4 so I could be closer to my friend who was in row 3. When I boarded the flight I noticed that they had swapped the A321 with a non-Oasis aircraft which meant whoever was in row 5 was presumably downgraded. Because of my seat change (or perhaps I had higher status than other status that cleared), I was able to keep my upgrade. Moral of the story- if flying on an Oasis A321 (with 5 rows in first class) beware of booking in row 5 until they have more aircraft converted.

  73. Hello Lucky and everyone else on this post. My Dad was not so lucky – you won’t believe what AA did to him and then today, Jan 16, 2020 an AA customer service rep called me to offer me/my Dad $750 compensation to go away!! Can anyone help me on get this horror story out there? Sorry, it’s a bit long…
    My mother recently passed away unexpectedly. My husband and I have always flown my parents to Playa del Carmen, Mexico every Christmas to spend the holidays together. This tradition continued every year even after my Mother was gone. My Father lives alone and I would NEVER have him spend the Christmas holiday season by himself!

    As usual, I booked his flight from SNA to CUN and paid for it on December 10th for his travel date of December 23rd: SNA-PHX, flight #486 and PHX-CUN, flight #2002. I also pre-paid $79.00 for a ‘main cabin’ bulkhead seat and waitlisted him for a business class upgrade using 15,000 of my AA FF miles and $75 knowing this would be more comfortable for him to stretch his legs, as his knees are quite painful staying bent for a long time. Despite my Father’s age of 90 years & 8 months old, he is super coherent and bright and NOT forgetful! Let me also mention that I had requested ‘wheelchair service’ for my Father to and from the gates. I know you cannot book/buy ‘Emergency Row’ seats if you require wheelchair service (FAA rules) – this will be good know, as you read on.

    On Dec. 22nd, the night before his flight, the upgrade for the long flight PHX-CUN went through and I was so happy knowing he would be much more comfortable and have something to eat on the 2nd flight. Given that, I told him he didn’t need to bring any food with him. I checked him in online, including entering his passport and emailed him his 2 confirmed boarding passes to print. He was (luckily) only taking a carry on and a small satchel, but I asked him to check in with an AA representative once at the airport anyway to see if the first leg; SNA-PHX upgrade went through. He did so and called me to inform me it had not. He went through customs and waited at the gate A7 for his flight (he arrived quite early just to be safe that he arrived on time, as the weather was rainy that morning).

    NOW, the nightmare begins. I learned that the flight from SNA to PHX was delayed and I called my Father to make sure that he let the AA agents in SNA know that he had a connecting flight. In the meantime, I was on another phone call with an AA agent just to ask what the options were in the case that he did not make the connection; in the case that the SNA-PHX flight were to be further delayed. The agent, a male whose name was never disclosed to me (BUT, it’s all in the transcript on a recorded phone call) checked his flight and said to me “he cannot make the 2nd flight, the time is way too short, he’ll never make and it’s not a legal connection” and said he can’t help me and then put me on hold many times. Then he said my Father can fly the next day (Christmas Eve day) at 6:30AM and I said no way is he leaving the airport, going home alone on and getting up at 2AM to get back to the airport – that was not OK. He kept saying hold on, hold on. Then he came back and very quickly said he can fly in a few more hours from SNA through DFW and then land in CUN at 10:50 PM.
    Meanwhile, I was also, simultaneously on my cell phone with my Father when he spoke to the AA agent at gate 7 and they told him not to worry about the connection, as the next flight’s departing gate PHX-CUN could easily be reached in 31 minutes, leaving him the ‘legal’ 10 minute boarding cut-off time and he was already checked in for the second flight.
    I then told the AA male agent that we do NOT want to change anything, he has been told that he can easily make the connection in PHX. I was on the phone for such a long time and the AA male agent kept putting me on hold and coming back and saying things like my Father needs to reticket the ticket with an agent – I was very frantic, stressed and confused – he was not telling me the truth or anything about what was going on. The plane from PHX-SNA had landed and they were getting ready to board and I had NO IDEA that the male agent had CANCELED my father’s entire itinerary, without any reason or permission from me or my Father. My Father said I’ll call you from the plane, we’re boarding…then he called me back and said what’s going on? – they said I can’t use this boarding pass, I cannot get on the plane, what?? – the AA agent in SNA got on the phone with me and said his flight has been canceled, as this was happening, the flight was boarding and I kept saying this is impossible, he’s already checked in-he has a checked boarding pass, on the other line I’m asking the AA male agent what is happening!!!! HELP ME!!!!!!! the flight is boarding! I cannot understand any of this, he had a paid ticket, he was completely checked in with his boarding pass in hand that was totally valid hours before and moments prior??? My poor Father was so sad and confused and just said, ‘that’s it, they gave my seat away, wouldn’t let me board and closed the gate!” The AA male agent never got back on the phone, instead his supervisor took over and told me that the AA male agent had canceled my Father’s flights and rebooked him without consent or permission. and that he was at fault. He had actually rebooked my Father ONLY from PHX to DFW on flight #1796 (keeping his original SNA-PHX, flight 486- which he actually had ALREADY canceled and was not on board), departing PHX at 1:00PM, which departed 10 minutes earlier than the PHX-CUN flight which the AA male agent said my Father would never make the connection!!! How was my Father taking an earlier connecting flight in PHX, when he was not even on the SNA-PHX flight because the AA male agent had canceled it and not that it matters, since he wasn’t going to be in PHX – where was his flight to CUN??? So he canceled my Father’s two flights and rebooked him SNA-PHX, WITH A 30 minute connection, even though the AA male agent told me that a 41 minute connection was not a legal connection and could NOT be legally booked by AA and then he forgot to book the rest of his flight to his destination, Cancun???
    And now it gets worse. The AA agent at SNA was issuing him a new flight and in doing so, asked for his passport.
    She re-booked a flight from SNA-DFW / DFW-CUN, same record locator number. She assigned him the “Emergency Row” on BOTH flights and made him pay $50.23 for these. She was NOT allowed to assign (paid or not paid for) ‘Emergency Row” seats to a person who requires/requests wheelchair service; FAA rules, not mine.
    Now, he lands in DFW, has not eaten ALL day and I tell him to please sit down and have a meal as the two new flights were not upgraded and he would not arrive to Playa del Carmen until about 12:30-1:00AM (5 hours later than originally scheduled). No-one ever asked for his USA passport in SNA or DFW until he was at the final gate to go from DFW-CUN.
    My Father confirmed that the last agent at the gate in SNA had asked for his passport again, as she needed it to rebook the the SNA-DFW-CUN flights – but she neglected to return it to my father. No-one was reachable at the SNA airport, even though it was only about 4:30-5:00PM. DFW didn’t have it, it wasn’t on the plane -ALL was checked and double checked, no passport and no-one can reach AA at SNA? Needless to say, he was not allowed to fly and we asked for some help. He was put up at the Hyatt hotel inside the DFW airport and given (3) $12 food vouchers, which the restaurant ended up NOT accepting. We were hoping that AA would fly the passport to DFW the next day on the 6:30AM flight. We never reached anyone at SNA until the next day, Dec. 24, it was too late anyway, the flights had departed and no passport was recovered – what did she do with the passport?? The Passport offices would be closed all day on Dec. 24 and 25th and reopen on Dec. 26th. At this point AA was not willing to pay for my Father to stay in Dallas for 2 more nights and the AA rep helping in Dallas offered to fly him back to SNA on Dec. 24th (4 flights in 24hrs to where he started). I did not want my Father to be alone for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. My sister was in San Diego with her husband and her son and offered to help in any way that she could. My Dad was flown (standby) from DFW to San Diego in the afternoon of Christmas eve.
    THANK GOD, my 90 year old, widowed Father was NOT alone for Christmas! How sad and unforgivable for what American Airlines put my Father through. Christmas was just NOT the same without my Dad. After he paid $200+ to expedite a new passport for him on Dec. 26th, I booked him a new flight for the next morning – it cost $701 for a coach seat + 15,000 for an upgrade on one leg only and a $75.00 award mileage fee – I booked it on AA, assuming they would be reimbursing me. Finally, my Father arrived in Cancun in the evening of Dec. 27th. A day later my Father developed a very nasty cough and quickly became quite ill so we took him to the Urgent Care in Playa del Carmen to get checked. He must have contracted something on one of his 6 flights, as he had a serious virus and had to be put on 5 days of antibiotics, plus continue to be monitored for walking pneumonia. AA thinks $750 is a fare compensation! I am asking for help, please!! Appreciatively, Tracy

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