United No Longer Letting 1Ks Assign International First Class Seats In Advance

Filed Under: United

United is in the process of reconfiguring their international fleet with new business class seats. As they do that they’re also adding premium economy to longhaul planes, and are removing international first class from those planes that have the cabin. As a result we’re still seeing a lot of inconsistency on international routes.

United stopped selling international first class last summer. However, the airline still has some 777-200s that feature first class seats. These are no longer sold, but up until recently United’s policy has been that Global Services and 1K members can select these seats for free at the time of booking when flying business class. Then at check-in all business class passengers can access those seats on a first come first served basis.

United 777-200 first class seat

Those seated here get the same service as in business class, so the benefit is simply that you’re getting a much more comfortable seat. Keep in mind that the 777s with first class cabins are also those with eight seats per row in business class.

Well, it looks like United has recently changed their policy on this. Since February 5, 2019, United is only allowing Global Services members to assign international first class seats in advance. That means 1Ks no longer have the opportunity to assign these seats in advance.

As United explains it, this is “due to high GS demand and limited seat availability.”

United does say that “to provide the best experience for all our customers, a dedicated team will monitor flights and may assign former Polaris first class seats to Premier 1K and other high value customers closer to departure when the actual aircraft is assigned and most accurate seatmap is confirmed.”

As before, other business class customers can select these seats at check-in.

Bottom line

It’s clear that at United, Global Services is really the top tier status (rather than 1K), and this policy reflects that. As such I wouldn’t consider this unreasonable, though I find it weird that United is changing their policy so late in the game, rather than having this policy to begin with.

I imagine at this point many 1K members may book a flight expecting they can assign a first class seat based on having done so in the past, only to be told no.

Furthermore, there are reports of some 1Ks who have pre-reserved these seats being kicked out in favor of Global Services members.

Are there any United flyers who have flown in a first class seat when the cabin wasn’t sold?

(Tip of the hat to Miles from Blighty)

  1. 1Ks are treated with such disdain I really question why United has so many loyalists. I don’t think I’ve ever had my 1K status acknowledged, even why flying Y and the FA tries to charge me for food but the tablet won’t them.

  2. The number of 777s with the former GF seats is dwindling fast… I believe only 16 of 33 will be left after this week, and the 767s are done.

  3. I was wondering what that was about. Booked a biz ticket Iad-SFO in Dec (as lowly platinum) and several global 1st seats were open. I could choose one, but the app and website both errored out trying to save them. Pretty lame policy, but whatever, soon they’ll be all Polaris and this won’t matter, though it also won’t soon be forgotten by current 1K flyers.

  4. The have the old cabin 777-200 on routes where they compete with other poor products like BA, so think SFO-LHR. A very GS heavy route.

  5. 1K is not much of a status at United. Half of group 1 empties out when they call the 1K’s to board. They make it too easy to achieve 1K status and too difficult to get GS unless you fly international for business.

  6. Hey Lucky, since we’re talking about UA, did you know they are now blocking NH award availability as well as SQ, TG, and TP?

  7. Flying United and American is like staying in an abusive relationship
    As for you mere 100k folks face it you are all freeloaders and United is well aware you are a low value frequency customer that they can depend on
    They know customers will complain and still open their wallets to
    fly them no matter what the airline does
    So expect it only to get worse
    Like shooting at helpless fish in a barrel

  8. I’m more concerned that this means they aren’t phasing out the 2-4-2 seats on the 777 as fast as I had thought. I would still rather have a Polaris seat over an old Global First seat.

    Hell, I took one of these 777s on a domestic from SFO-IAD and I think the premium plus seat I had was more comfortable than a lie flat in the 2-4-2 configuration.

  9. @Dwondermeant…

    “As for you mere 100k folks face it you are all freeloaders…”

    How are 1Ks “freeloaders?”

    Real question, I avoid United as much as possible theses days, but I don’t understand how 1Ks are freeloaders.

  10. After 9 years at 1K I left for Silver and about 950k bis miles. The experience was just so bad that it wasn’t worth it. I’m booking the cheapest flight now and leaning on awards.

    I miss SDC and UA award fee exemption and I orphaned a lot of miles but it wasn’t worth it.

  11. With the economy good and business people moving around more, it makes sense that there are more GS flyers. What surprises me is that UA has not created another tier to further separate high volume/spend flyers.

    Everyone is just going to have to deal with this until the economy slows. Just my humble opinion.

  12. The old policy if you are describing it correctly did not seem well-understood even by United personnel. I am GS and sometimes get assigned these seats automatically but not always….and on some occasions phone agents have tried to get me to use a GPU and cash just for going from eight-across-business to the old Global First seats. The progress on installing new seats is quite slow….in contrast to the rapid pace at which United is bailing on many aspects of the improved soft product that were promoted with such gusto during the 2016 rollout.

  13. In mid January as a PAX (Silver) on SFO-IAH Biz, iirc, the plane had a 24 hour change and I was able to change my biz seat to one of the first class seats about 16 hours before boarding via the mobile app.

    I was able to do it as a lowly Silver status. I’d recommend giving it a try within the 24 hour window anyway.

  14. United 2-4-2 business cabin is a disgrace. Is there any other airline that has such a shitty business class??? Last year I almost booked a United flight from Tokyo to New York but stopped once I realized it’s a 2-4-2 configuration….

  15. Dwondermeant said it best. UA knows that no matter what type of food, snacks or attitudes the flight attendants have, we just keep coming back for more. On a recent round trip in Polaris from Shanghai I was offered Lays potato chips and Cheezeit as a snack option, not very original. You would think UA Polaris could at least shop Trader Joe’s or Costco and not Walmart for a snack option.
    Whenever possible I now fly Delta..although a domestic carrier DA leaves UA in the dust ✈️

  16. United’s 2-4-2 Configuration is a total disgrace , when the seats are totally reclined in a sleep position you have to actually crawl over the passenger next to you to get out to go to the restroom.

  17. As a 1K I had booked both segments in the old Global First…. But a few days before each flight, they swapped for Polaris, and I ended up with worse seats….

    1K doesn’t mean anything anymore, as a 3 Million Miler, that doesn’t mean anything anymore either….

    Its all about the here and now, and how much you spend in the current year. Loyalty for 20 years means nothing.

  18. I flew UA from BRU-IAD in legacy first class seats on a GPU and I was able to select ahead of time (as a GS) and a Gold traveling on separate booking on same flight used a GPU and was able to select a legacy first class seat too.

  19. I had been able to select the 1K and 2K seats for several domestic first flights (Nov & Dec 2018, Jan & Feb 2019), so will be sorry to see that option go the way of the Polaris wine flights.

  20. @Dwondermeant is spot-on!

    Was a Premier1K for years and pulled the plug last year relegating myself to Gold…BEST DAMN THING ever, since that is really all you need with UA. Only thing I would add different to Dwondermeant post is that Platinum is much worse that 1K fodder since they get NOTHING to differentiate Gold from 1K . The only thing UA is good for anymore is to cycle churn through their crappy credit cards for points, and even their credit cards provide so much less than most.

  21. I am GS and I find it baffling that this change just came around, especially as there are less and less 777’s with the old Global First and 2-4-2 United Business. As others have said, 1K’s should have been excluded from the start, or this change of policy not enacted. Just going to cause angst when there not need be any.

  22. @TravelinWilly
    Hey TW
    Only great respect for your business and dedicated flying.
    Please know I was clearly being sarcastic and believe most every customer counts
    albeit some more than others.
    Having been in your shoes as I K and a Premier Executive over the years there was a day back in the 90s when there was nothing like a Global Services in existence to look down on what once was the crown jewel top tier like 1K
    United like some other Legacy carriers have wrongly taken those folks
    for granted over the years

    If there was a secret club like Global Services in the 90s it didn’t get in the way of cultivating a good culture @ United with flyers
    We mattered and those at United mattered.
    Can you imagine someone saying they loved United?
    I did back in the 90s.First Class was special meeting celebrities in the First Class lounge
    Was so proud to fly the airline.

    Feel so lucky to be a part of a special appreciative group of flyers back in the day
    Flight attendants genuinely hugged us when we came onboard and it was like an exclusive private club in the sky with fine dining Godiva’s and attentive service and more
    Even Premier Executives mattered
    All this long before we had the likes of prolific bloggers like Gary & Ben to analyze the good
    and bad of these programs covering near every detail brilliantly detailed to the best of their ability.In those days ignorance about programs wasn’t uncommon and maximizing value wasn’t the norm as it is today.Inside Flyer magazine was our lifeline for information

    Looking back frequent flyers had much to be loyal for in those days
    How about 180,000 miles for two round trip First Class
    tickets to Australia ?With reasonable availability and it showed on the award chart printed or online.
    Most any flight could be booked with some fair flexibility with miles on UA metal
    Your miles had enormous value and it drove many
    into a frenzy spending and staying fiercely loyal
    At the end of the day most loyalty was appreciated @ Mileage Plus, as well as deeply respected and generously rewarded

    The toxic culture started happening after the bloodbath of 9-11
    Year after year things got progressively worse right up to and after their bankruptcy
    Sadly UA never recovered the great legacy of their hay day
    Unless one considers Polaris a lifetime cultural achievement

    From United making it impossible to speak to customer relations agents, disconnecting the phone numbers and email addressees to world HQ ignoring concerns,overpricing revenue tickets, strangling award availability and putting layer or layer endless rules and exclusions that even contract lawyers need help understanding
    It became enormously complicated and didn’t need to be
    I hold lifetime status at American & United yet I earn my status annually elsewhere while refusing to support carriers that are willing to take our money and leave us bleeding
    Especially when things go wrong that are in their control

    I know I am being foolish by having less opportunities for various flight departures needing more connections and paying a premium to do so but I am proud to support a small variety of carriers that treat me as if I were valued like back in the good old days
    No matter how much AA and UA brutalize customers any or most will stick around
    Change takes enormous work and effort.
    Thanks govt monopolies
    So at the end of the day I choose to close my wallet with UA/AA and go elsewhere to open it Happy to spend it despite the trade offs simply because I do thankfully have a choice and utilize wherever possible

  23. Hello all,
    It is hilarious to read so many people with high privileges complain that their privileges are worthless.
    FYI the 1k status is worth about $8.5k (the points guy). It’s achieved by a few %s of flyers. It is what it is.
    Yes we get it you were valued higher when you were flying in Ford TriMotors.
    Gives all a break and find your life’s value in doing something useful rather than complaining about being under-appreciated.

  24. How likely do you think GS would be traveling ORD-GRU or how likely I could choose one of these seats at check in? I want to book this route so I can snag one of those seats at check in but do not want to be stuck in the 2-4-2 layout.

  25. @Pavel

    You do know that the $8.5k valuation is just to sell credit cards.
    Like @Endre if you only fly First/Polaris those upgrade/bag fee/priority/snacks/etc. is worth $0 YES ZERO. Like many flying premium all the time doesn’t get you GS.

    So @Pavel you are nothing more than wanna be who has no loyalty and just try to squeeze value and not recognition, unlike the Ford TriMotor days where loyalty is about recognition not maximizing value.
    This is what people calls “class”.

  26. Not one positive thought about anything. America feeds/breeds on hate now. Thanks Trump for the tax breaks to allow corporate America to care even less about customers and employees.

  27. They are now not allowing me (a 1K for 4 consecutive years now) to assign my business class seat at booking. I have to wait until ticketing. (Except I called and she allowed this.) My last overseas trip was Delta business class and it was significantly better seating and service than United’s business class. I have been on a few of the updated cabins for “polaris” benefits, but most of my BC flights are still on the 2/2/2 arrangement. I’m super surprised that I cannot pick my seat when booking!!! These are not cabins that used to have first class. I see I’m treated better on airlines where I have minimal to no status than I am on United where I’m 1K. Seriously amazing.

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