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.”
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.