Over the years I’ve seen a countless number of people try to self-upgrade (essentially just taking a business class seat that they didn’t pay for). However, I’ve never witnessed anything quite like what I saw yesterday, which even caused the police to get involved.
The pre-departure self-upgrade attempt (not so bad)
Yesterday I flew Qatar Airways business class from Doha to Dallas, which was a 16+ hour flight departing around 2AM. I was seated in the second to last row of business class initially. As boarding finished up, a guy came forward from economy and took the seat right behind me, in the last row of business class.
The crew noticed this, and quickly approached him. He first claimed that he needed to move because someone was in his economy seat and there was nowhere for him to sit. When the crew investigated and found his seat was open, he changed his story.
He went back and forth with the crew for a few minutes, and eventually he returned to his seat in economy. I’ve seen situations like this a countless number of times before, so this didn’t really faze me.
The pre-arrival self-upgrade attempt (BAD!)
About 45 minutes before landing, the same guy from earlier came up to business class, took the seat across from Ford, and just left his two suitcases in the aisle. Like, he didn’t try to put them in a suite or in the overhead bin, but literally just left them blocking the aisle. If you’re going to try to sneak into business class without anyone noticing, that’s probably not the ideal way to do it.
The crew quickly caught on to it being the same person as before, and then the cabin manager, Her, was called. Her was incredibly professional, and he handled the situation in a calm but firm way.
The self-upgrader didn’t take rejection well, though, and started cussing out the crew — “I don’t give a f*ck what you say, I’m not leaving my seat.” Her repeatedly told the man he had to return to his seat, and that this wasn’t negotiable.
“What are you going to do, arrest me? I don’t give a f*ck.”
At this point Her started moving his bags toward the back of the cabin (in the direction of economy), and then the discussion continued right by my seat. The passenger then once again claimed that his seat in economy was occupied by someone else.
The cabin manager asked where he was seated, and the guy pointed to an occupied seat. Another flight attendant informed the cabin manager he was seated on the other side of the cabin, and the seat was empty. The guy then changed his story — he then claimed he had a connection, and needed to sit in the front of the cabin. That didn’t fly.
He then changed his story yet again. “I’m having a f*cking panic attack and need to sit in business class.”
The cabin manager continued to stay calm but stood his ground. That didn’t stop the passenger from continuing to cuss him out, and he once again told him to f*ck off.
At this point the cabin manager said “if you don’t go back to your seat right now we will have the police meet the flight.” He responded with “I don’t give a f*ck.”
After a couple more minutes of the cabin manager making it clear this wasn’t optional, the guy returned to economy. Upon arrival, there were four airport police officers waiting on the jet bridge. I unfortunately didn’t see what exactly happened from there, since I got off the plane before he did.
Airline crews put up with a lot, and unfortunately self-upgraders are pretty common. Usually self-upgraders are embarrassed when caught, or at most try to put up a mild fight before giving up.
On yesterday’s flight from Doha to Dallas, I saw the most shameless self-upgrader I’ve ever seen. He was verbally abusive toward the crew, and made up baseless lies about his seat being occupied, as if passengers got onboard somewhere over the Atlantic.
Huge kudos to the crew for the professionalism with which they handled the situation. I’m happy they stood their ground in a calm but firm way, and called the police.
What’s the worst self-upgrader situation you’ve witnessed?