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Involuntary SWU downgrade whilst seated on the plane

Involuntary SWU downgrade whilst seated on the plane

Old Dec 20, 17, 7:24 pm
  #1  
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Involuntary SWU downgrade whilst seated on the plane

I just received a message from my girlfriend who told me that she was pulled from sitting in her business class seat on flight AA86 from O'Hare to Heathrow, and told to get off the plane. She was then told that the business class cabin was overbooked and she would be involuntarily downgraded to Economy. This was a SWU that was confirmed AND ticketed back in November.

The gate attendant told her that the upgrade was confirmed in error and that there was nothing they could do about it (the downgrade), as the cabin was oversold. The gate attendant then said that the only choice my girlfriend had was to accept the 'voucher' that was presented, otherwise they were going to pull her bags from the plane, deny her boarding, and dispose of the voucher. My girlfriend called me up in tears before her first ....ing flight overseas and I am livid.

According the EXP rep I was just talking with, there was no kind of last minute equipment change or any other extenuating circumstances. They churned the algorithm in revenue management and picked her as the passenger to be booted. I understand that mistakes happen, but the manner in which this was done is absolutely despicable. She was not told there was an issue with the ticket when she checked her bags, when she went to the flagship lounge, or more importantly when she boarded the plane. The icing on the cake is the fact that they coerced her into signing this POS voucher.

What kind of recourse should I proceed with here?

Last edited by Lavezzi; Dec 20, 17 at 7:52 pm
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Old Dec 20, 17, 8:06 pm
  #2  
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Unfortunately, these third-hand situations are always difficult. The OP was not present and his GF is apparently an inexperienced traveler and in a highly stressful situation.

Indeed, when a cabin is overbooked and then actually oversold, AA ---- just like most carriers, include AA & UA ---- will downgrade in reverse order. I suspect from your statement that she has no status and it was your SWU. As a passenger flying without status on a SWU, she would have been the first to be bumped. Put another way, the last passenger to be bumped would have been a CK flying in full paid J.

Who said what exactly is always unclear, but the bottom line is that as the clock is ticking down to scheduled departure, I suspect that what the GA said is roughly the case. E.g., you are downgraded, here is a new seat assignment and if we don't deal with it right now, you are off the flight and we will then have to pull your bags.

Under the COC, all AA owes your GF is the fare difference which was the SWU. The voucher, for whatever amount it is, is a customer service gesture based on status, class of service and rough length of flight, e.g. long-haul.

Why was J overbooked and then oversold? Who knows. Generally doesn't happen. But, could have been as simple as an inop seat or an Air Marshal.
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Old Dec 20, 17, 8:35 pm
  #3  
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"bribe" another J to go to Y

Since it is an intl flt, if she chose not to fly in Y, they would have had to pull her luggage, causing a considerable delay (I was on a JFK-ZRH flt a pax became ill, just before t/o, it took 90 minutes to get luggage)--if she "called AAs bluff" some how AA would have "bribed" another J pax with enough of a voucher to go to Y.
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Old Dec 20, 17, 8:39 pm
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after the Chicago incident, UA said it would never again pull a passenger off a plane for oversold situations.

the gate agent should have made an annoucement on the plane offering up to $2,000 for a J passenger to volunteer for either a downgrade or confirmed J on the next flight to London mentioning the exact new departure time.

if it were me in this lady’s shoes, the only way i’d be off that plane is with a fat voucher or escorted by police
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Old Dec 20, 17, 8:56 pm
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Could the passenger have asked to be put on the next available flight to LHR in Business?

It would be helpful if those more experienced in the proper way to handle this (both by the airline and by the pax), could weigh in on the best way to respond when faced with a similar situation.
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Old Dec 20, 17, 9:30 pm
  #6  
 
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I personally think AA lied. She had a BP. Something went wrong. Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought AA purposely did not overbook J.
Customer experience is certainly declining.
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Old Dec 20, 17, 9:41 pm
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There are two sides to every story. The one the OP posted (which at best is shakey secondhand information from an emotional girlfriend), the one from the AA agent and the truth that will be somewhere in the middle.

I have a feeling the narrative written by the OP might have a few points contained within it that would cause it to be placed in the "fiction" section of your local bookstore.

Originally Posted by Lavezzi View Post
What kind of recourse should I proceed with here?
The SWU will be refunded, and your GF was offered a voucher of some sort. Hopefully she accepted and is on the way to London. If that's the case, you have no recourse.

Originally Posted by bustraveler View Post
I personally think AA lied. She had a BP. Something went wrong. Correct me if I'm wrong but I thought AA purposely did not overbook J.
Customer experience is certainly declining.
You are correct, AA does NOT overbook the J cabin.

Last edited by TheSkyGuy; Dec 20, 17 at 9:50 pm
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Old Dec 20, 17, 11:37 pm
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Originally Posted by TheSkyGuy View Post
There are two sides to every story. The one the OP posted (which at best is shakey secondhand information from an emotional girlfriend), the one from the AA agent and the truth that will be somewhere in the middle.

I have a feeling the narrative written by the OP might have a few points contained within it that would cause it to be placed in the "fiction" section of your local bookstore.
Could you be more specific on what sound like fiction because it all sounds plausible to me. She had a confirmed J seat and was involuntarily moved to Y. The GA is under pressure to get the flight out and it would not surprise me if they said something to the effect of accept this or you are off the flight. It would be unlikely that a GA would say something like that, but it isn't unheard of especially in a hurried situation.

If I had to guess, there was a last minute Air Marshall which AA has no choice, but to accommodate and unfortunately your girlfriend was at the low end of the totem pole. American Airlines GA and FA handling of the situations was poor customer service. I would complain and stay with the facts. You probably won't get much, but I would expect AA to throw you some miles.

Also, make sure to call AA and have them note that the SWU was not used for the flight. I wouldn't be surprised if in 2-3 years down the road an audit takes away an SWU for the flight and having a note there with the explanation will speed things up to get your SWU back.
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Old Dec 21, 17, 12:25 am
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Originally Posted by Lavezzi View Post
What kind of recourse should I proceed with here?
For what? This was handled pretty satisfactorily. Get the SWU back, take the voucher, and fly in Y or ask to be put on the next flight with J availability.
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Old Dec 21, 17, 3:14 am
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Could be pilots needing positioning, no?

Happened to me coming back from LIh to LAX. I got called a few days ahead. I never accpepted the offer, figuring to take my chances at the airport.

It turns out that a couple of pilots needed the seats to get somewhere, but when I didn't give in early, they found another way back.
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Old Dec 21, 17, 3:27 am
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Originally Posted by beachfan View Post
Could be pilots needing positioning, no?
Speculation: Delta pilots
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Old Dec 21, 17, 3:38 am
  #12  
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Originally Posted by kb9522 View Post


For what? This was handled pretty satisfactorily. Get the SWU back, take the voucher, and fly in Y or ask to be put on the next flight with J availability.
I am not sure where it is satisfactory for a passenger with a confirmed business class ticket to be downgraded whilst on the aeroplane. it is not a domestic free upgrade

I would bet that AA would be much less inclined to take such action if the flight was the other direction from LHR to ORD where it would be required to compensate the passenger of 75% of amount paid for the flight
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Old Dec 21, 17, 5:19 am
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It was either a broken seat or a deadheading pilot that caused this. My guess is the former.
No good options, especially so close to departure. I probably would have asked to go on the later flight in biz or on BA, but I assume your gf was unaware of all the options available to her. Not a good situation, and apparently handled a bit tactlessly unfortunately.
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Old Dec 21, 17, 5:45 am
  #14  
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Originally Posted by YtravelF View Post
It was either a broken seat or a deadheading pilot that caused this. My guess is the former.
if the former why wouldn't they just tell the passenger that? As much as it sucks I would be able to at least tell myself if was for some reason. I realize a FAM isn't something they can obviously tell you about but a broken seat, sure.
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Old Dec 21, 17, 5:55 am
  #15  
 
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Originally Posted by Lavezzi View Post
I just received a message from my girlfriend who told me that she was pulled from sitting in her business class seat on flight AA86 from O'Hare to Heathrow, and told to get off the plane. She was then told that the business class cabin was overbooked and she would be involuntarily downgraded to Economy. This was a SWU that was confirmed AND ticketed back in November.

The gate attendant told her that the upgrade was confirmed in error and that there was nothing they could do about it (the downgrade), as the cabin was oversold. The gate attendant then said that the only choice my girlfriend had was to accept the 'voucher' that was presented, otherwise they were going to pull her bags from the plane, deny her boarding, and dispose of the voucher. My girlfriend called me up in tears before her first ....ing flight overseas and I am livid.

According the EXP rep I was just talking with, there was no kind of last minute equipment change or any other extenuating circumstances. They churned the algorithm in revenue management and picked her as the passenger to be booted. I understand that mistakes happen, but the manner in which this was done is absolutely despicable. She was not told there was an issue with the ticket when she checked her bags, when she went to the flagship lounge, or more importantly when she boarded the plane. The icing on the cake is the fact that they coerced her into signing this POS voucher.

What kind of recourse should I proceed with here?
How much was the voucher ?
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