Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Miles&Points > Airlines and Mileage Programs > Other Asian, Australian, and South Pacific Airlines
Reload this Page >

Air China: PEK to ZRH. two pax demanding upgrade to C class due to not getting Y+

Air China: PEK to ZRH. two pax demanding upgrade to C class due to not getting Y+

Reply

Old Jun 7, 19, 1:22 pm
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: European: ZRH, Asian: SIN
Posts: 7,416
Air China: PEK to ZRH. two pax demanding upgrade to C class due to not getting Y+

I just had the - ummmm - pleasure, to be seated across the aisle from a US-American couple on CA781 PEK-ZRH.

It started very normal. Boarding was early, I was happy enough with my seat 31H (first row of economy, very nice legroom and no "traffic" besides very frequent water service from the crew.

Flight was mostly full (about 85-90% in Y) but lightly in C.

Aircraft was a A330-200 (Version 1, as seatguru calls it)

The couple in question was on seats 31J and 31L - arguably the best "couple seats" in Economy.

About an hour in flight - shortly before the first drink service - the female part of the couple went up and walked down the aisle (hardly noticed by myself at this point) - then came back about two minutes later.

"We are in Economy!!" she was shouting at her boyfriend (couldn't spot any rings - and later the manifest showed different last names, thus assuming so) in a level that was heard across almost the whole forward economy cabin.

Then they started to loudly (slightly less loud than her first initial outbreak) to discuss how this happened.

For a few minutes, before the drink service started in full.

I was wondering what was going on. At that moment I thought they apparently bought Premium Economy, but since there was no Y+ on this aircraft, they got the best Y seats available. Which are more or less what Premium Economy actually is on Air China.

More pitch. And that's about it. Which is why - at this moment - I realized it's usually sold at a very low extra premium cost, and that sometimes I got "upgraded" there as a *G member without costs even when the Y cabin wasn't full.

So they were missing their "Premium Economy" experience somehow.

Now while it's probably known to a frequent traveller that Premium Economy isn't the same on all airlines - on some it's just a bit more seat pitch and maybe a slightly improved IFE or food - on others its a reasonably different class of it's own where one could feel outright cheated by getting a downgrade. I made my last SEN-requalification with some LH Y+ flights, and I can very well assure you I'd have been very unhappy if I was downgraded to their regular Economy.

But on Air China - and I knew that - it wasn't really a big deal, hardly a difference between seats 31J/L and their Premium Economy seats.

So, now the drink service rolled on. They complained heavily to the crew, who were a bit irritated by their shoutings "Why are we in Economy? We booked "PREMIUM economy!!!" and so on. They eventually asked them - just as everyone else - for their drink wishes as well as telling them they'll investigate it, served them, and eventually everyone else was settled too. Or so I thought.

Seconds after the trolly went down the aisle a bit more, they kept on complaing on what happened. Their English was showing they were from some kind of (Southern) US state (I can't really differenciate, but it didn't sound like some Boston or NYC accent to me) and they were telling each other that "we got another 8 hours to go and we will not accept this". 8 hours is about what it's from ZRH to somewhere like Atlanta - a bit more than to JFK, BOS or the like. I didn't asked for details.

But about 15min later, when they were basically still discussing with each other the very same issue - that they were in "poor ECONOMY" and not in glorious "PREMIUM economy" and that they paid "100 dollar" more than everyone else for their flight, I was getting slightly irritated.

So, I eventually asked them, in a friendly manner, what's the discussion about, and tried to explain them that the only difference between Economy and Premium Economy on Air China was a slightly increased seat pitch, and that due to a aircraft change this one didn't had a "proper Economy comfort section", but they got the best seats and they'll most probably get their surcharge back rather easily. They'd have none of it. Immediately telling me off, they told me that they are FREQUENT FLYERS, and that they know better, that they shouldn't be there, and what not. I rested my case. The women then .....ed (in a voice clearly meant so I could hear it) that I "sided" with "them" (the crew, apparently) and that I "belong" to them.

I didn't answered. I realized at this time those were DYKWIA kind of people, and that I was happy to have the aisle between them and me. But it went on..

Shortly after, the drink service finished, and the crew came rather quickly with the cabin crew manager and two crew members (those who served the drinks) to the two pax in question.

They explained very much the same as I just did a few mere minutes to them - that due to an aircraft swap, this aircraft didn't had premium economy seats, that they got bulkhead seats which were at least equal in pitch, and that they'll get back the surcharge paid. It wasn't in the best English, but clearly understandable by even myself, a non-native English speaker on the other side of the aisle. Cabin crew manager then disappeared (his English wasn't that great - actually quite a bit worse than that of the crew serving the aisle) and the other two staff tried to explain in (reasonable well) English the same again. The couple would have none of that. At that moment, they started demanding they want to be seated in Business class, due to them having bought Premium Economy and it not being available.

They went on and on, explained they're "very frequently flyers", and that it's "normal airline behaviour" to upgrade Premium Economy class passengers to Business class if such class wasn't available.

I was having trouble to hold myself together at that point, but managed so. Crew eventually told them "they'll check with the flight manager", and went off to prepare the meal service.

When the crew was gone, I couldn't really stop myself from asking if they're really expecting an upgrade to Business class. I have to admit, I wasn't entirely friendly towards them at this point, but still was very neutral (as the crew who came back at this point already confirmed pretty much) and honestly interested how they're believing they were due Business class seats when they pretty much got the product they paid for - which is the best Economy class seat on the plane, plus a refund.

I got more of the insults already having started above for "siding with the crew", and decided I'll not talk to them for good, however stupid they'll behave. And luckily I did.

So the crew came back cutting them off, telling them they'll get a form for the refund, and went off again. Then meal service started.

It was beef or seafood, I had the seafood, and while it was a bit chewy, it was reasonable good for Economy class. 6/10 I'd say. The rice was pretty good, the salad fresh, and the small snack pack actually rather tasty. And the dessert couldn't be fouled either. Reasonable Economy class quality. Or "Premium Economy", if you'd like to say that.

While the boyfriend ate his food, the girlfriend just complained how awful it was. And kept on complaining for the next few hours. Eventually - after watching a movie and reading a bit - I fell asleep. Upon waking up, nothing had changed. We were now about 6 hours into the flight, and apparently they were still complaing. I don't think the crew was much interested or interacted with them anymore at this point, and they were quite clearly still in their bulkhead Economy class seats. So I tried not to care much. Realized the women was very hungry at that point (and did shout so), somehow refusing the cookies offered to her several times (they're not great, but perfectly acceptable as a snack - guess it's always the same kind of yellowish cookies - two pieces per pack - so maybe others could agree or disagree with that)

She went as far as calling the food "Dog food" and if her boyfriend is expecting her to eat that..

Anyway, after having had a cookie myself, I decided I'm more hungry, and that I luckily grabbed an instant noodle pot in Chengdu (after asking the lounge staff there if that was actually acceptable, which they happily agreed it - their sign to not take out food was probably meant more against mass-takings) - went to the real galley with it, had it filled with hot water, returned to my seat and after a few minutes started to eat it. I'm easily getting hungry on flights, so I wolfed it down quite fast, not-intentionally apparently getting a lot of attention from the hungry women across the aisle.

When the next crew member came on water duty a few minutes later, she immediately demanded to get "the same pot as that guy", pointing at me. Flight attendant answered that this wasn't offered, turned around to me and asked if I was finished (I was), then happily took them empty pot.

The face of the women across the aisle was rather priceless I've to say.

And now they really got into some kind of massive tantrum, pushing her boyfriend. I had put on my earphones (quite okay by Economy class standards, actually) and tried to ignore them at my best at this point. But boy they went on and on.

Another hour later, before the second meal service, the cabin crew manager came with a form (probably for the happened downgrade), and had them fill it out. That - luckily - took them ages, and they were quiet while doing so. He came back a sensible moment later, filled out the many blanks they left together with them, then handed them their copy (it was one of those forms where you'll fill out 3 identical sheets at once and they can get separated afterwards) and left. He wouldn't come back later.

Second meal drink service came. Not more than the average complaints across the aisle. Second meal service came. It was slightly better than before (7/10) and the choice was between chicken noodles and pork rice. I had the chicken noodles.
Apparently, now even the women ate her "dog food". Mumbling and complaining went on a bit, but soon we reached ZRH and finally everyone was let off the aircraft. Just the couple was stopped at the aircraft door by some staff.

Unfortunately I couldn't hear very well what was going on, but I doubt it was some very warm welcome to Zürich.

Anyone else been on CA781 PEK-ZRH on Wednesday, 5th June and could second what I heard (or even better, tell me what happened to the couple in ZRH )

I doubt their next 8 hours flight was better (and I checked, no departure to the US on that evening anymore from what I understood) and while I enjoyed the lovely 28C evening on the sun terrasse of the SEN lounge for a bit before heading home, I couldn't think of a stranger experience I've made on Air China, ever.

Just felt like sharing this experience about the "Premium Economy" couple here on FT, hoping someone else was on the same flight on 5th June or happened to notice a strange couple on a ZRH-UnitedStates bound flight a day (?) later.

I have to say I admit the crew to staying so professional and not involving any kind of air marshall. The couple was heavily abusive towards the crew, China in general, and myself. I'd say in that order. I was thinking for a short while (after I tried to explain them what Premium Economy on Air China was about and then getting sh... for it) to actually report the issue in a proper report to the crew and have even ZRH authorities involved in it. But it seems that the crew at least did the second part themselves, probably the first one as well.

It's one thing to get the (small) monetary amount back you've paid to upgrade to Y+ on CA - it's another thing to complain the whole flight long about it and demand upgrades to Business class as well as insulting the airline staff, the airline's home country as well as other passengers (who, if I may compliment myself, probably were slightly more experienced flyers overall as well as on Air China)
fairhsa likes this.
YuropFlyer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 8, 19, 12:07 am
  #2  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 28,743
IME (mostly on CX), PE pax often get seated in business class in the case of airport swaps. That having been said, CA seems to realise that its PE is nothing to write home about, and those people seem like complete jerks, based on your description.
tris06 likes this.
moondog is online now  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 8, 19, 9:49 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: ATL
Programs: Delta Plat
Posts: 5,524
Whatever they elect to call it, the CA product is Y+, not PE. Every true PE product has less seats across than in Y. OP is correct that the seats the complainers had were as good (and possibly better) than CA's PE seats.

I do find true PE is a huge advantage over Y on TPAC flights. That extra couple inches in width allows one to somewhat relax with being squeezed in.

Complainers were ignorant, stupid and obnoxious. They probably should be barred from having sex to avoid reproducing.
exwannabe is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 8, 19, 12:22 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 4,351
Too bad they aren't Chinese. They would get a black mark on their social credit score.

Did you thank them for reinforcing the "Americans are entitled jerks" stereotype?
s0ssos is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 8, 19, 11:15 pm
  #5  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 28,743
Upon further reflection, I'm increasingly inclined to side with the complaining couple:

1. whether or not PE is better/worse than bulkhead Y, is immaterial

2. they didn't force the a/c swap

Basically, if there were empty seats in J, CA should have moved them (would be helpful if they were civil, though)
tris06 likes this.
moondog is online now  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 9, 19, 12:17 am
  #6  
 
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: ONT, LAX
Programs: UA1k 2.5MM, AA Plt, peasant on everybody else, elite something or other at a bunch of hotels.
Posts: 4,430
I don't think CA is completely blameless in this case as I believe they market their Y+ seats as premium Y, which is misleading. But this does not call for irresponsible behavior on the part of the pax.
nancypants and tris06 like this.
1kBill is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 9, 19, 1:33 am
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: European: ZRH, Asian: SIN
Posts: 7,416
Originally Posted by moondog View Post
Upon further reflection, I'm increasingly inclined to side with the complaining couple:

1. whether or not PE is better/worse than bulkhead Y, is immaterial

2. they didn't force the a/c swap

Basically, if there were empty seats in J, CA should have moved them (would be helpful if they were civil, though)
They literally bought the upgrade to Y+ for 100$ (at least that's what they claimed many times - and if they paid more for it, I'm very, very sure they'd have said so )

Bulkhead seats are AT LEAST as good as what you get in Y+.

So they got the features of the product they up-sold themselves AND the money back.

I do agree that Air China should have a better system in place to catch any aircraft swaps where Y+ isn't available anymore, to simply hand out a reasonable amount of cash upon boarding or having an easy process in place (like setting a WeChat /e-mail account set up for this, who then would handle any such requests) so that there simply wouldn't any space for complaints.

But when even airlines who do run a proper Economy Comfort class do NOT even consider to put the pax into C when they've an aircraft swap (I know that from Lufthansa and SQ for guaranteed) and will happily assign you whatever left in Y cabin (mind you, Air China DID made sure to give them the best Y seats available, again, better/at least as good than Y+ in fact) with a minimal compensation.

ONLY if there are no free seats in Y they'll upgrade pax from Y+ to C.

Then why should Air China, who are basically running their Y+ seats as "slightly more legroom" (as do some other carriers - always worth checking what you actually get with Y+) hand out free upgrades to C?

I think the fact that they were US-Americans actually plays a bit into the "but I should get an upgrade" argument, since the US domestic system still works in that - in my eyes rather silly - way, that frequent flyers are getting upgraded for free if there are seats available. But that's something very, very much us-specific, and definitely shouldn't find it's way into international travel since it basically dilutes C/F class massively.
MSPeconomist likes this.
YuropFlyer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 9, 19, 1:51 am
  #8  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 28,743
The price they paid for the upgrade does not matter.

What matters is that they paid for a product that CA didn't deliver.
LapLap, uanj and tris06 like this.
moondog is online now  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 9, 19, 2:11 am
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: European: ZRH, Asian: SIN
Posts: 7,416
Originally Posted by moondog View Post
The price they paid for the upgrade does not matter.

What matters is that they paid for a product that CA didn't deliver.
On the risk to repeat myself..

You're aware that: Y+ on Air China means more seat pitch (or bulkhead seat) than Y. They got that.

That's it. Y seat, Y food, Y IFE, Y drinks, Y service..

So they already got what they paid for.

They did NOT understood that, quite clearly, and despite the crew (and myself) telling them that they basically got the very "Y+" product, they would have none of it

If CA would have called that first row in Y as Y+, they'd had no recourse at all to complain (or get their money back). Since that would have been the "correct", yet very same product.

The only thing they didn't got from the product was the name itself.

But the product description was delivered, and even some money was promised back.
YuropFlyer is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 9, 19, 2:20 am
  #10  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: London
Posts: 13,639
Originally Posted by YuropFlyer View Post
I think the fact that they were US-Americans actually plays a bit into the "but I should get an upgrade" argument, since the US domestic system still works in that - in my eyes rather silly - way, that frequent flyers are getting upgraded for free if there are seats available. But that's something very, very much us-specific, and definitely shouldn't find it's way into international travel since it basically dilutes C/F class massively.
Is there a chance that they set about to Game the system from the outset?

They insisted that they were veteran frequent flyers who know better than you how things are done. As such, they would have been aware of the numerous instances where Premium Economy pax get bumped into better seats when planes are swapped with different class configurations.
Lots of airlines do this and there are threads running through the whole of Flyertalk discussing this with advice on how to exploit and/or maximise this potential for a cheap upgrade.
The only reason I see for the continued and ongoing protests from actual savvy flyers (and your account doesn’t actually rule out that they are not frequent flyers, in fact it supports the claim) is that they saw that the flight had been swapped (or could be swapped) to an aircraft without Premium Economy and when they realised that they could still pay for it, thought that they had stumbled onto a way to bag an upgrade. It was actually a no-risk gamble since they were entitled to a refund.
Instead of high fiving themselves for having gotten themselves the best Economy seats in the plane (with the only real “cost” being the administration hassles in getting their money refunded) they focused solely on not having achieved their goal of Business Class and blamed the crew rather than their approach, which they then doubled, then tripled, then quadrupled down on. Easier to do this than have a massive fight where they blame each other - which is probably where all that ugly and continued energy was coming from.
fairhsa likes this.
LapLap is online now  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 9, 19, 2:30 am
  #11  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: Shanghai
Posts: 28,743
I certainly know what CA PE is, and would never pay for it, but the couple bought it.
tris06 likes this.
moondog is online now  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 9, 19, 11:02 am
  #12  
 
Join Date: Oct 2015
Location: London, UK
Programs: BA Silver; IHG Spire; Hertz 5*; Starbucks Gold(!)
Posts: 1,301
What was the aircraft swapped from? You're wrong about PE on CA's A350 at least - it is very much a different product. Cabin layout is 2-4-2 (vs 3-3-3 in Y), seats are wider, have more storage, leg-rest etc. When I flew PE on the A350, I got 4 choices of main course for dinner, the hot dish was on a china plate, I got a pre-departure beverage, a hot towel, a bottle of water at my seat, better headphones and slippers.

I'm not sure what aircraft they had booked on, but I very much agree that bulkhead Y on an A330 is a material downgrade from PE on an A350.

That said, the correct course of action would be to take it up with customer services afterwards, rather than complain about it on board. (Although I'm in the process of that after my own downgrade due to involuntary re-route, and haven't got very far yet...)
Deltus is online now  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 9, 19, 8:34 pm
  #13  
Accor Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Oct 2012
Programs: Dynasty Frequent Flyer (Elite Plus),Accor Platinum
Posts: 1,695
From personal experience I am pretty sure PE china southern would be very similar. Yes no additional width, increased pitch, extra bottle of water and maybe 1 small extra item added in the meal.

I am split on this story. Behaviour was horrible by the passengers. But I am equally disturbed the airline did not straight away offer the refund before boarding (After they knew the aircraft change) or when on the plane before their complaints. The product advertised clearly was not what they got. If they had been told 100 USD extra for a bigger pitch seat in economy then that would be fair. Upgrading to business class would not be unheard of in these cases in many airlines of the world. Definitely as I fly CI premium economy all the time now for long haul flights I would expect at a min a refund (cost of PE over cheapest economy is double the price) or an upgrade to Business class (but I wouldn't push it) if I was swapped on to say an A330 to BNE which has no PE.

I think why CA crew were tough nuts is because this is very common kind of issues for them. I have been on CZ flights from AMS to CAN where economy was fully packed and PE was almost empty. Some passengers decided to just upgrade themselves because it looked better. Also I had a friend a long time ago who admitted to just walking into business class during the flight and sitting down and enjoying herself on 2 occasions. 1 time she was there until landing and the other time it took a while before the crew asked her why she was there.
moondog likes this.
tris06 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 9, 19, 8:53 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Location: ORD
Programs: US Air, UA BA LH AI DELTA MARRIOTT CHOICE SGP
Posts: 9,645
Originally Posted by moondog View Post
Upon further reflection, I'm increasingly inclined to side with the complaining couple:

1. whether or not PE is better/worse than bulkhead Y, is immaterial

2. they didn't force the a/c swap

Basically, if there were empty seats in J, CA should have moved them (would be helpful if they were civil, though)
While I would have asked nicely for J and appreciated it ...CA is NOT obliged to move them to J. A/C swap does not entitle upgrades.
HMPS is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 10, 19, 3:37 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: ATL
Programs: Delta Plat
Posts: 5,524
Originally Posted by tris06 View Post
From personal experience I am pretty sure PE china southern would be very similar. Yes no additional width, increased pitch, extra bottle of water and maybe 1 small extra item added in the meal.
Just like CA, CZ has a few planes with true PE. But they sell Y+ on many planes labeled as PE.

China Southern has 777's at 10 across in PE. Are you F'ing kidding me?

If they would properly brand the seats, then some of this insanity would go away.. If I buy a TRUE PE, then I would expect either serious compensation or a bump to C. If only in Y+, I would expect almost nothing.
exwannabe is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread