Yesterday I was on a flight between Sao Paolo and Porto Alegre on TAM as the last leg from a longer transcontinental flight. I had a boarding pass originally issued for seat 20E, but at the Sao Paolo airport at re-check in they issued me a new seat, this time 27D. Well, I wasn't about to complain, losing a middle seat for an aisle seat.
Only problem was, there was no row 27. Or 25, 26, 28 and well, you get the picture. The back end of the galley area started to fill up with passengers bearing boarding passes that corresponded to seats that simply didn't exist-- at least a dozen of us. I asked a FA if they had switched out the usual aircraft for the flight--nope, it was the usual plane!
After a series of phone calls by the FAs to try to see what options we had, they resettled a few of us in the remaining empty seats, and then apparently held an auction on the plane to see who was willing to get bumped. (I say apparently because the entire transaction was in rapid-fire and agitated Portuguese, which was far beyond my simple "Bom dia" ability to follow.)
In the end, all but four of us were resettled. Really strange, though. Is it really possible that TAM doesn't know how many rows they have on a flight the run a couple times a day?
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I have been traveling on TAM quite often recently ex-EZE because they are the only company offering legitimate business class service on these routes (EZE-GRU-xxx, EZE-GIG-xxx). Sometimes these flights are on three class A332 and sometimes on two class A320 aircraft. However, only SOME of TAM's A320 aircraft are in fact configured with a two class setup; domestic routes are sold as one class regardless of the aircrafts actual configuration, and my guess is on your particular route a two class configured aircraft with less rows was subbed in last minute in place of a single class configuration that would normally be on the route, thus explaining the missing rows.
Interesting thought, but no. It was a one class plane--they never run a two class plane between GRU and POA. I guess there's not much reason to do so, it's not that kind of destination.
Never say never. They do, as otehrs have opined, sometimes sub planes. GRU-FOR, for instance, is a one-class route, and seats are always sold as such, but a few months ago we flew that route and there were two cabins-- though just one class of fare. We managed to score one of the bigger seats. Flight attendant said the plane had come from EZE. Just a one-time fluke.
TAM doesn't normally assign seats in advance, at least on domestic routes, as far as I know, so even in your case it doesn't appear they sold seats that don't exist, but did, at the check-in counter, assign seats that didn't exist (maybe because of a plane sub). People do switch seats when buying upgrades to exit rows, so maybe the computer system got onfused. All in all, I don't see anything in your post as proof that TAM sells seats that don't exist. Overbooking, perhaps, and lots of airlines in many parts of the world do that. Now, about the dimunition in size of food given on domestic flights (used to be meals then foil-wrapped sandwiches, now sometimes just cookies and crackers).
Ah, TAM. Great service from nice FAs once you are on the plane (and in a seat which hopefully exists.) Really pathetic oldfashioned business processes and outdated automation.
Something I hope the LAN merger fixes with LAN culture and systems.
Great service? You've been lucky. I do remember the days when I got a meal even on the short hop between GRU and GIG (attendants had to rush to serve meals and collect trays before landing). May still get the foil-wrapped sandwiches on longer domestic flights, but on shorter hauls just got cookies and crackers or chips.