Was I Almost Downgraded On A Paid First Class Fare?

Was I Almost Downgraded On A Paid First Class Fare?

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I was supposed to jet off on a fun round the world trip in Emirates first class this weekend with Matt, though sometimes plans change. Unfortunately I have an emergency to attend to in Florida. I had just landed in Dallas this afternoon, at which point I found out I needed to fly to Tampa as soon as possible.

Last minute fares were outrageous, as you’d expect on a Thursday afternoon in late August. And given my valuation of American miles, paying cash was still a better value than redeeming miles. The good news when fares are ridiculous is that paid first class is often only marginally more expensive.

In this case first class was only $80 more than economy, which seemed worth it… especially since literally the only unassigned seat in economy was a middle towards the back of the plane. So I paid the extra $80 for the last first class seat. At this point it was just a couple of hours before departure.

After ticketing my reservation I went to select a seat, only to realize that there weren’t any first class seats left to assign! While some airlines will block first class seats in advance, American isn’t one of them. They’ll typically allow you to assign any first class seat in advance.

So it seemed like they were legitimately overselling first class.

I went to check in online, though wasn’t able to… because they weren’t able to assign me a seat. I was told to check-in at the airport.

AA-Downgrade-1

At the airport check-in kiosk I received a departure management card, indicating that I was confirmed on the flight but didn’t have a seat assignment. This is pretty common as a non-elite if you’re in economy, though that was my first time getting such a card as a first class passenger.

AA-Downgrade-3

I headed to the gate, and about 10 minutes before boarding approached the gate agent:

“Excuse me, do you know when I’ll get a seat assignment?”
“You’re number one on the upgrade list, and there should be a misconnect.”
“Just to clarify, I shouldn’t be on the upgrade list. I’m on a paid first class ticket.”
“Oh… I’m sorry. You should get a first class seat, don’t worry. Hold onto this boarding pass in the meantime.”

She handed me a boarding pass for a middle seat in economy, which wasn’t exactly reassuring. But it’s not like I had much of a choice, and ultimately my priority was getting home, regardless of what seat I was in (and I wouldn’t have made any sort of a fuss if I were downgraded, other than contacting customer relations after the fact for a fare adjustment and to see what their policy is).

AA-Upgrade-3

Sure enough right as boarding began the gate agent handed me a boarding pass for a first class seat, and said “see, I told you there would be a misconnect.”

Of course this isn’t at all a big deal — if anything I’m writing this to get my mind off the reason I’m traveling home — but I found it to be an interesting situation nonetheless.

It raises a couple of questions, as this was my first time seeing American oversell first class:

  • Was the reason they oversold first class because they knew someone would misconnected? I was booking literally a couple of hours before departure, though I would be surprised if the reservations system would be that smart (I figured they’d “release” the inventory/seat when they knew someone would misconnect and then resell it, but the back-end technology fascinates me)
  • What is American’s correct procedure when it comes to downgrading passengers? Is it by status, fare class, time booked, having a seat assigned, or some other metric?

Has anyone experienced a similar situation, of an airline overselling in first class?

Conversations (62)
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  1. John Guest

    Hope all is well in Florida.

    But am sure that AA management was secretly hoping u stayed in that middle seat in Y. :-)

  2. John the Wanderer Guest

    I wonder what fare class you booked into? Was it actually a Y fare or was it an F fare? Sometimes the webpage shows those YUP fares as F but they are really Y.

    Glad you got the seat you were expecting though.

  3. Kaspars Guest

    Given your status the just downgraded someone else to get seat for you in first

  4. Al Guest

    Gotta love all the mindless lucky-brigade drones whose comments on this post veer things completely off-topic.

  5. Sam Guest

    You'd have thought that after years of travel blogging, you'd know what a y-up fare is

  6. Rj Guest

    What is with some of the aholes on here. Why he went home is nobody's business but his. And @James. You're a homophobe so do us a favor a crawl into a hole.

  7. Rj Guest

    What is with some of the aholes on here. Why he went home is nobody's business but his. And @James. You're a homophobe si do us a favor a crawl into a hole.

  8. Matt Guest

    He was booked in "Y" you can see that on the ticket.

  9. dmodemd Guest

    Airlines have a shadow inventory they work from to oversell. I would think it should be smart enough to see guaranteed misconnects and sell the seat.

  10. dmodemd Guest

    I was once complimentary upgraded into a sold out first class once on United 24 hours before departure. I did eventually get a seat at the gate last minute.

  11. Gene Diamond

    @ Ben -- Yes, I appreciate the value of money -- that's what I get paid to do for a living. I am fortunate enough to never fly in coach.

  12. allen Guest

    best wishes to your family...

    don't know about YUP fares, but didn't know they would instant upgrade two classes (unless it's a two class flight).

    wonder if it was a FAM who took your seat just as you booked, and then didn't fly at the last second?

  13. James Guest

    So your emergency - $20 says that it's a medical thing. Have you had a bit of a rave recently (if you know what I mean ;))

  14. Ben Guest

    @gene - clearly you don't understand what broke means. When you're broke you have to scavenge for the cash to get a ticket in the first place. An extra $80 would be a luxury. But it's cool, some of us actually appreciate the value of money

  15. Kelly Guest

    I echo so many others: I'll keep you and your family in my thoughts and do hope everything is okay. Al the best to you and your family, Ben.

  16. Patrick Guest

    AA doesn't typically oversale first class, however if there is irregular operations, I have seen them oversale first class only by 1 seat.

  17. Minter Dial Guest

    I had a fairly crazy experience with BA where I was downgraded for an 10+ hour international flight. Took a lot of wrangling, time, effort and blogging, to get a minimalistic compensation. If you care to read, you can find my last chapter (3rd of 3) here: http://myndset.com/2015/06/30/british-airways-downgraded/. There is a part one and two that recounts the way they tried to handle it!! Quite clear that BA (AA partner) does not have a slick process.

  18. Tom Member

    Hey Ben - Sending you and your family our best. Remember, there is an army out here that cares about you. Truly, let us know if you need anything.

  19. LarryInNYC Guest

    Best wishes in what sounds like a difficult time. . .

  20. takke Guest

    Hope everything is OK with your family, Ben. x

  21. Really Guest

    Hope all is ok

    Really? Do you think that it's AA computer system? It could be a Day of Departure specialist in Revenue Management who decided to do this. It's foolish to think things like SWU or oversold F class fares even on domestics are not handled by a real person. There is too much money at stake for AA to let a computer do it in the last minutes before departure. Why do some...

    Hope all is ok

    Really? Do you think that it's AA computer system? It could be a Day of Departure specialist in Revenue Management who decided to do this. It's foolish to think things like SWU or oversold F class fares even on domestics are not handled by a real person. There is too much money at stake for AA to let a computer do it in the last minutes before departure. Why do some SWU clear before others despite status? Why did they oversell when thee were mis connects?
    There are more people involved than you think.

  22. Samuel New Member

    Hope everything is well with you and your family Glad you made it there safely to be with them

  23. TEX277 Guest

    I hope everything works out well for you and your family. Best wishes!

  24. 2paxfly Member

    I was brung up the old fashioned way: 'If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all'. Particularly if you're talking about 'family'. A couple contributors here could learn something from that.

  25. R B Guest

    Hope everything is ok with your family and friends in Tampa.

  26. Speedski Guest

    Triple-hopped into and out of the US last week with AA/US - all I can say is never again. From losing bags, to loading the nearest destination into the onboard planner because where we were actually going wasn't in there (they didn't correct it till well after takeoff either) to overquoted flight times, snack towers of doom in the lounges to filthy planes it was a really poor experience.

    AA/US doesn't know its arse...

    Triple-hopped into and out of the US last week with AA/US - all I can say is never again. From losing bags, to loading the nearest destination into the onboard planner because where we were actually going wasn't in there (they didn't correct it till well after takeoff either) to overquoted flight times, snack towers of doom in the lounges to filthy planes it was a really poor experience.

    AA/US doesn't know its arse from its elbow at the moment and its only going to get worse with the big system switch over in a few weeks.

  27. Ron Mexico Guest

    who the f cares....NeNe does...living your life through the internet/tv/movies,,,whacked

  28. Ivan Member

    Never been into that situation personally but heard some Chinese trip report that MU oversold their J cabin from PVG to SIN, and the guy got RMB6000 compensation(for three pax)

  29. SFDAASFD Guest

    Here's what really happened.

    Gate Agent A: "Hey Gate Agent B, hold my beer and watch this!!"
    Gate Agent B: "Ok!"

    Gate Agent A: "Here you go!"
    Ben: "um, ok, I guess..."

    Gate Agent B to Gate Agent A: "Did you really just give that Executive Plat blogger on a paid F fare a Middle Seat Boarding Pass?"
    Gate Agent A to Gate Agent B: "Yeah, that was awesome"

  30. BigDaddyJ Guest

    (sorry if the previous comment came across as harsh... in retrospect, you probably weren't thinking of fare classes given your personal emergency. Hope everything turns out OK.)

  31. BigDaddyJ Guest

    omatravel has the answer. And Ben, I'm *really* surprised you haven't realized it, given how much you travel on American.

    You *did not* buy a F (flexible/refundable) ticket, you bought a YUP (instant upgrade) ticket, which is basically an economy ticket plus upgrade (although unlike complimentary/mileage upgrade, it gives you F mileage/point earning). Most importantly, it does *not* guarantee a first class seat, especially in the case of IRROPS.

    There are countless threads about this...

    omatravel has the answer. And Ben, I'm *really* surprised you haven't realized it, given how much you travel on American.

    You *did not* buy a F (flexible/refundable) ticket, you bought a YUP (instant upgrade) ticket, which is basically an economy ticket plus upgrade (although unlike complimentary/mileage upgrade, it gives you F mileage/point earning). Most importantly, it does *not* guarantee a first class seat, especially in the case of IRROPS.

    There are countless threads about this on FlyerTalk. http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/american-airlines-aadvantage-pre-consolidation/1110881-aa-instant-upgrade-yup-kup-up-ticket-fare-consolidated.html

  32. Gaurav Guest

    Hope everything is ok.

  33. Joseph Guest

    your situation is in my prayers and thoughts. Whether it is family or something else, I hope everything is all right. You have my deepest sincerity.

  34. C Diddy Member

    I hope everything is ok with your family and friends.

  35. Bill n DC Gold

    best wishes for you & your family

  36. Jay Guest

    So maybe they oversold, but maybe it was good inventory management... But basically, this is all much ado about nothing? You were almost kinda bumped but weren't? I guess I do get this post

  37. puckjeff Member

    Ben,
    Thoughts and prayers for you and your family. Hope all turns out OK.

  38. omatravel Guest

    So I'm not sure about American but some of the other US airlines sell an economy class ticket that includes an upgrade to first class (I forget the fare type). In that case, yes they could oversell first class and since it's an upgrade they won't owe you anything.

    Maybe that was your fare. On the flip side, I hope your emergency turns out ok.

  39. Recap Guest

    So you got the seat you paid for and the whole point of this article was to pitybrag about a family issue.

    This site's gone to pot.

  40. Lisa Guest

    I hope your emergency turns out to be a false alarm. If it's not a burden, please keep us updated so we know you're okay.

  41. TravelinWilly Diamond

    "Another “mystery” post. Why not be upfront and tell people why you suddenly have to get to Tampa? You try to say that you are forthcoming, but with posts like this you really aren't!"

    THIS ^^^^^^^^!!!!!

    Ben, you owe your readers an explanation on EVERYTHING YOU DO!!!!1!!! NO PRIVACY EVAAAR!!!!!!!!!!!

    YOU OWE US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111111!!!!1!2!111

    Bus srsly, hope things are okay or turn out okay, and you keep on looking after you. Let us know how...

    "Another “mystery” post. Why not be upfront and tell people why you suddenly have to get to Tampa? You try to say that you are forthcoming, but with posts like this you really aren't!"

    THIS ^^^^^^^^!!!!!

    Ben, you owe your readers an explanation on EVERYTHING YOU DO!!!!1!!! NO PRIVACY EVAAAR!!!!!!!!!!!

    YOU OWE US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!111111!!!!1!2!111

    Bus srsly, hope things are okay or turn out okay, and you keep on looking after you. Let us know how things are at whatever level of detail or generality you want when/if you feel like it. Thoughts are with you.

  42. VDRose Guest

    What a funny boarding pass, looks like an old style paper ticket. Haven't seen this in Europe our Asia for more than a decade.
    Doesn't the U.S. have e tickets and mobile/self print boarding passes yet?

  43. william Member

    Hope all is well for you and your family Ben.

  44. Andy 11235 Gold

    Along with others, never really met you or your family but feel like I have through your blogs, and so I do hope everything is ok!

    As for your ticket, I know they have official policy on what to pay in compensation for involuntary downgrades (and for this, y-ups are y fares), but never heard of over-selling first.

  45. Dan Guest

    Last month I was flying from LHR-LAX on AA and they had oversold business class by 3 seats,I volunteered my seat for a nice sized travel voucher. I was surprised that they were overselling a premium cabin as well.

  46. Brian Guest

    Another "mystery" post. Why not be upfront and tell people why you suddenly have to get to Tampa? You try to say that you are forthcoming, but with posts like this you really aren't!

  47. Gene Diamond

    @ Jon -- His decision has nothing to do with wealth or income. He basically chose to pay $80 to upgrade from a horrible coach seat to first. I would have made that same choice back when I was a broke college student!

  48. pavel Guest

    ditto. Hope everything is ok.

  49. PainCorp Guest

    You'd think they'd have downgraded a free upgrade instead of a paid ticket....

  50. mangoceviche Member

    I hope everything back home turned/turns out ok.

  51. Jon Guest

    If cash fares were outrageous, wouldn't it have made more sense to save the $80 instead of caring about a middle seat? Maybe you're super rich I guess so that doesn't factor in.

  52. Gene Diamond

    @ Matthew -- Never noticed this on UA, but interesting to know, especially since I've been buying lots of fake-first P-class on UA lately.

  53. credit Guest

    Yeah. That's screwed up. Need to get to the bottom of this.

  54. John Carter Guest

    Hope everything is ok with the family Ben as thats the main priority here - This has happened to me before on AA but it turned out just like your situation. Sending you best and positive wishes your way. All the best my friend.

  55. Stephan Guest

    Lucky - Please do keep everyone up to date once you know more. People on this blog care about you and your family. Hopefully, nothing too serious and everyone is ok.

  56. Fredd Member

    To echo Gene above, I hope all is well or turns out well.

  57. 31583 Member

    What happens with your money if you get downgraded? Do they refund the difference and give you some miles for the inconveniences? I hope that they can't walk away with your money since it would means that they can oversell $10k tickets and put you on economy.

    Please explain this, I'm curious!

  58. Gene Diamond

    @ Ben -- Most importantly, I hope your family is OK. We had to make a similar trip 2 weeks ago when my mother had a heart attack. Thankfully, she is OK. In fact, we will be in Tampa for her 71st this weekend! We will keep you in our prayers.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

John Guest

Hope all is well in Florida. But am sure that AA management was secretly hoping u stayed in that middle seat in Y. :-)

0
John the Wanderer Guest

I wonder what fare class you booked into? Was it actually a Y fare or was it an F fare? Sometimes the webpage shows those YUP fares as F but they are really Y. Glad you got the seat you were expecting though.

0
Kaspars Guest

Given your status the just downgraded someone else to get seat for you in first

0
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