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“You Missed Your Child’s Birth Because You Couldn’t Fly Business Class?”

“You Missed Your Child’s Birth Because You Couldn’t Fly Business Class?”
FlyerTalk

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The FlyerTalk forum is full of interesting travel stories. DYKWIA is a state of being, and no one is afraid to get frustrated with a first world problem. But, every once in awhile, we come across a post that’s bound to raise eyebrows. Titled What Compensations Can/Should I Get for My Paid Business Class Seat Given Away, it was a fair question: the poster was late to the gate and was told by the gate agent that they’d given his first-class seat away to someone on the waitlist because they thought that he was a no show:

I booked a flight from Boston to South Korea (via Chicago and Tokyo) a few weeks back. When I arrived at Boston Logan International airport, the flight was delayed. The reason (I was told at the lounge) was that a flight attendant had woken up late and was on her way.

We departed 45 minutes late and arrived around in Chicago 45 minutes late. I, and several other passengers, ran to our next gate. As they scanned my boarding pass, they asked me to go to the counter where they told me my first class seat had been given away because they thought I wasn’t coming. They offered to put me in economy.

A Frustrating Situation and a Frustrating Exchange

And, that’s frustrating. It wasn’t his fault his flight arrived late and the gate agent did not sound very helpful:

I was quite upset considering I paid full fare for a business class ticket and was already checked in to the last two legs of my trip. I asked what my other options were and the lady was quite curt and said they could rebook me two days later or I could take the ecnomy seat.

I asked if there were any other flights that day and she sighed, rolled her eyes and waved to the other worker who closed the door, then handed me back my boarding pass and told me I missed the flight and need to go to the ticketing desk.

We Sort of Get It

When you’ve paid $5,000 for a business class ticket you want to sit in a business class seat. And, it bears mentioning, this leg of his trip was from Chicago to Tokyo which is a little over 13 hours. That is a long time to fly in economy, especially when you planned and paid to be considerably more comfortable. And, as someone else commented, “It is entirely lame that they couldn’t take into account that your inbound, same-ticket flight was in the air and you could conceivably have made the connection, and held off on giving the seat away.”

But, when the poster mentioned that he’d also missed the birth of his daughter because he refused to fly in economy, the eyebrows we mentioned previously went up.

“Hold Up”

Post a thread in the FlyerTalk forums and you’re going to get some follow up questions. “Hold up,” asked one commenter, “you missed the birth of your daughter because you didn’t take the offered economy seat on a flight to which you showed up late (understanding that you were delayed) and you want compensation from American Airlines for delaying you a day?? You should have taken the seat in economy and followed up for compensation later. That’s all I have to offer – it’s your own fault per your story you missed the auspicious occasion.”

More to the Story

No, it is not my fault and you shouldn’t assume. The birth happened while I was in the air from Chicago to Japan and was early due to a medical emergency, so I didn’t know the consequences of missing the flight at the time.
But, the fact remains that if they hadn’t given away my seat, I would have been there on time. They weren’t forthcoming with any information at the gate, saying they didn’t know if I would get refunded (fully or partially) if I flew in economy, and saying the desk would rebook me on a later flight if I wanted.
When I was asking what “later flight” meant, they closed the doors and told me to go to the desk since I’d missed the flight and the next time this flight left was in 2 days.
Lastly, I am quite tall and have lots of metal hardware in my body from a major car accident years prior, so sitting in an economy seat for 14 hours would literally have been excruciating and I doubt I could have done it. That’s why I planned ahead, saved up and paid for a business class seat, and made sure to arrive at the airport plenty early for my flight…

Is He Due Compensation?

While FlyerTalk is a place of many follow-up questions, it’s also a great place to go for help. And, in this case, the debate is still ongoing. From suggestions that American Airlines introduced as a connection saver-style feature to chastising American Airlines for frequently giving away reserved business class seats:
I’ve seen a number of stories in the FlyerTalk forums where passengers have showed up for their flights before the boarding door closes and while other passengers are still being loaded only to find their reserved business class seat has already been given away to another passenger. Why would American Airlines do this and not wait until boarding has concluded to give away those seats? 
What do you think? Who’s in the wrong? Is this traveling dad entitled to compensation or not?
View Comments (18)

18 Comments

  1. Dr.Ells

    January 7, 2020 at 8:41 pm

    Insipid “author” as usual… cut and pasted from an authentic venue.

  2. Dr.Ells

    January 7, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    Since my daughter died several years ago, I can say this: the OP is a heartless fool, to have missed his daughter’s birth because of such a selfish reason of discomfort. Discomfort??? Watch that living baby suffer from colic, croup, flu, etc. Then he would WISH he was in an economy
    seat. I pity the wife and family. DIVORCE, now. Such an egotistical, arrogant imbecile should suffer; what? Is he going to miss his baby daughter’s funeral because he can’t travel in business? He should be ashamed.

  3. JimInOhio

    January 8, 2020 at 5:09 am

    I don’t think the passenger fully realized they were going to close the door when he was asking the GA what his other options were. Bad move by AA… they shouldn’t give away paid J seats when they full well know they have a late connecting passenger in the airport and on his way to the gate.

  4. kkua

    January 8, 2020 at 5:11 am

    Complete first world problem. He should have tried to connect elsewhere (PEK or PVG in Asia, or via Europe). Think outside the box.

  5. Counsellor

    January 8, 2020 at 6:02 am

    @Dr. Ells: Apparently you didn’t actually read the posting, or you would know that he didn’t miss the birth on purpose, it was an unforeseen consequence. The birth was early due to an emergency that (apparently) arose after the (missed) flight took place.

    I fault American for not taking action to remedy their error. They could have checked for availability on other routings to Tokyo, if necessary on other carriers, which apparently they did not do (hard to tell from the posting).

  6. davidlcamp

    January 8, 2020 at 8:52 am

    Why would this person schedule such a short layover time between flights? I never schedule less than a two hour layover and if catching an international flight even more time. I say this was poor planning. One needs to think about delays in advance when purchasing the tickets and as a private pilot I always take that into consideration along with which airport one transfers (Chicago can have weather issues any time of the year).

  7. m44

    January 8, 2020 at 11:13 am

    You were not late. You were on time before the door closed. The AA agent should be sued personnally for defrauding you – that would teach. Checking into your first flight, checked you into the rest of your itinerary. AA broke the contract for no reason. In old days, before deregulation, the airline would have put you on the first flight of any carrier. The law does not prevent them from doing it today.
    Next time, if you can, buy the tix, and later sue for damages.

  8. Slickw

    January 8, 2020 at 11:18 am

    I’d bet dollars to donuts “Dr.” Ellis has a PhD in either one of the soft sciences or literature.

  9. alexmyboy

    January 8, 2020 at 11:27 am

    DR. Ellis, if you are a medical doctor, I bet the nurses can’t stand you.

  10. NotSoFrequentColorado

    January 8, 2020 at 2:11 pm

    Reading between the lines, I bet the seat was given away to someone with “status”, or a friend of AA staff, or non-rev AA employee, etc. etc. And the poster was still asking questions when they closed the door on him. AA at fault here.

  11. Athina

    January 8, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    If he had a PhD in literature, he could read and comprehend a simple sentence…

  12. AJNEDC

    January 9, 2020 at 3:46 am

    Totally agree with the passenger. I too would not have flown economy. The fact that I booked business class, would be a clear indication that economy is not something I was interested in doing or else it would have been booked.

  13. polinka

    January 9, 2020 at 10:39 am

    He didn’t miss the birth on purpose. AA should never have given his seat away. They knew where he was and when he would be arriving. They should never has dismissed him to the desk while passengers were still boarding. OP did nothing wrong is due major comp. Like m44 said, in the old days, the the airline would have done the correct thing and put him on the next flight of any carrier. Disgusting behavior by AA.

  14. D3KingAmerican

    January 10, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    What a shmuck. If I had to get home to my wife in labor I’d do whatever it takes. I’d sit in a lavatory for 13 hrs if I had to.
    Yup I have an injured back as well and when I’m in economy class I get an aisle seat and stand up and stretch during the flight. And on American no less he really missed out on some delicious meals and warm service they provide in their premium cabins.

  15. Fonsini

    January 11, 2020 at 4:15 pm

    Someone needs to have her next child with a new husband….

  16. Maestro Ramen

    January 15, 2020 at 10:03 am

    The number of people who comment based on the headline without having read the article -.-

  17. CalVol

    January 16, 2020 at 2:41 pm

    I’ve never understood why they can’t move the person who got the upgrade back to coach. It would suck to have that happen. But, that seems to be the most reasonable and fair course to take in such situations.

  18. spamkiller

    January 18, 2020 at 4:47 pm

    I smell a sheena.

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