F seat poached by disabled passenger

Old Jan 20, 14, 6:06 pm
  #1  
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F seat poached by disabled passenger

On a recent RPU-upgraded flight, I lost my F seat to a Y passenger who was unwilling to move out of her poached seat.

The boarding process started out normal enough, we boarded disabled passengers, GS, then it was my turn. At the steps to the aircraft, the gate-check cart wasn't ready yet, so we had to stand around in the cold for a bit while the gate-check cart was wheeled to a passenger accessible position.

I finally boarded the plane after getting the gate check taken care of. As soon as I entered the aircraft, I immediately noticed that all F seats were already taken. In my seat was a middle-aged woman of presumably Indian descent, her passport was clearly visible, seated comfortably and looking like she belonged.

"Excuse me, I believe that's my seat." I had already put away my boarding pass at this point, so I dig it out again to make sure I am indeed accusing the correct passenger of stealing my seat. I get no response. My boarding pass indeed shows that I am assigned to sit there. Meanwhile, the woman in my seat looks as comfortable and nonchalant as when I first entered the aircraft.

"Excuse me, I think you're sitting in my seat," I said again, more slowly and forcefully this time. She reacts. We make eye contact, and she opens her passport to where her boarding pass was inserted inside. I could clearly see her seat assignment, and it wasn't where she was sitting. She utters a few words. A non-native speaker, several of her words were unintelligible, but her meaning was unambagious. Can I sit here?

At this point, the flight attendant at the boarding door has caught on to what's happening. I step aside to allow other passengers to get past me, while the flight attendant patiently explained that her seat is towards the back of the aircraft. "Would you like any help moving to your seat?" he asks, while motioning for the other flight attendant to come forward to give her a hand.

The other flight attendant arrives and offers to help her with her bags. "Can I take your bags to your seat?" she asks. There is barely a response from the passenger. The first flight attendant tries the question again. This time, the passenger responds, "can we swap?" she asks.

I was caught off guard. "Eh... I'd rather not..." Who has ever heard of giving up a first class seat to a poacher simply because she got there before you, then asks you plainly when confronted?

"I can't move back, can I stay?", she countered, showing off some sort of a bracing mechanism around her lower back that was previously concealed beneath her clothing. She mentions something about not being able to move, then once again directs her gaze towards me. "Can we swap?"

At this point, I have decided to give up sitting in F on this flight. Between empathy for the other passenger and not wanting to cause any sort of a scene that might further delay the flight, I capitulated. I was already in danger of missing my tight connection with no good alternates if I misconnect, and besides, the first class seat and service on this Express aircraft is only marginally better than economy.

The rest of the flight was uneventful, if a bit bumpier and noisier than my usual seat selections towards the front of the aircraft. The flight attendants were thankful they didn't end up with a situation on their hands, and made sure I was well taken care of during the flight. We arrived at our destination 20 minutes late, where gate-check unloading priority was not given to yellow handle bags. Fortunately, I was able to make my connecting flight and was among the very last passengers to board. I was pleased to see my seat was, as expected, empty. I was even more pleasantly surprised to learn that despite already having a long line of overflow gate check bags, the mainline sUA crew was good enough to set aside overhead space for a late-arriving bulkhead passenger in first.

I'm wondering though, how did the disabled passenger end up in my seat in the first place? I assume she was helped aboard by the ground/gate crew at the origin airport. Did they know what seat she was assigned, or did they simply trusted the passenger when she mentioned she wanted to sit in my seat? Or perhaps someone decided it would be easier to unload this particular passenger up front and not tell anyone about it, rather than having to go through the motions to officially displace another passenger in F?

For the record, the aircraft in question was a Q400 operated by Republic. The ground and gate crew at the origin airport was outsourced to American Eagle, who replaced some rather excellent sUA and sCO folks last year.
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:11 pm
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Originally Posted by jon0 View Post
I'm wondering though, how did the disabled passenger end up in my seat in the first place?
That's probably the seat she told them she had. I'm sure she knew exactly what she was doing and is adept at taking advantage of people's good nature.
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:13 pm
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I would just go ahead and ask UA for downgrade compensation under GG OVS DOWNGRADE. On a flight operated by a Q400 don't expect a lot (typical compensation is distance-based).

This is a bizarre scenario where boarding early might be a good idea for an F pax.
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:15 pm
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First off-sorry this happened to you

Secondly-I know I'm gonna get flamed but the pax on your seat moves to her assigned seat-end of story! (and my gut is telling me, this pax knew exactly what she was doing (conveniently saying "can we swap" in front of witnesses when ultimately busted) and sort of reminds me of Helen Hayes in "Airport")

Thirdly-if the pax required no assistance to board (and again, my gut says none) as that's when the f/a's should be asking "the handler" where this person is seated, the only way a poacher is gonna get caught is when the actual seat her shows up

Fourth-you had better be getting your upgrade back
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:16 pm
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Originally Posted by mahasamatman View Post
That's probably the seat she told them she had. I'm sure she knew exactly what she was doing and is adept at taking advantage of people's good nature.
That seems very likely.

Did you write/call to have your RPU redeposited? Was it? Any other response from UA?
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:16 pm
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Most probably a simple poacher, maybe unfamiliar with traveling but willing to use their "situation" to garner sympathetic treatment. Very doubtful any UA / ground personal would encouraged the behavior but the brace makes for a difficult situation and potential claims of mistreatment.
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:18 pm
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Something tells me this isn;t the first time she has done this lol... You did the right thing - and I give you credit.
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:19 pm
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You are kind-hearted OP. There is no way I would ever let a poacher take my seat, even a disabled old woman.

I don't think you are due downgrade compensation because you chose to give up your seat, but UA should give you $ in goodwill compensation.

You're a nicer man than I.
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:19 pm
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Originally Posted by mherdeg View Post
I would just go ahead and ask UA for downgrade compensation under GG OVS DOWNGRADE.
Could that come back to bite the flight attendants? Surely they're responsible for making sure passengers sit in their assigned seats. Not sure the OP's intent is to get them in trouble.
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:22 pm
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Originally Posted by mherdeg View Post
This is a bizarre scenario where boarding early might be a good idea for an F pax.
Disabled trumps GS and F. About the only way you could get ahead was if you have one of those Known Crew Member badges issued by the FAA. Either that, or you can also pretend to be disabled and shove ahead of the other passengers when it's boarding time.
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:25 pm
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Originally Posted by jon0 View Post



..........I have decided to give up sitting in F on this flight.
As others have mentioned --- "BIG MISTAKE!"

Once you decided that capitulation would get your flight out sooner, you screwed up.

Sorry --- Your mistake!

Now, "Everyone PLEASE take their assigned seats so we can leave on time!!!"
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:27 pm
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Originally Posted by jon0 View Post
Disabled trumps GS and F. About the only way you could get ahead was if you have one of those Known Crew Member badges issued by the FAA. Either that, or you can also pretend to be disabled and shove ahead of the other passengers when it's boarding time.
That is not true. Would it trump paid F? How about paid A? How about a mileage upgrade? Then why not a good customer, like an elite upgraded to first. I'd be polite if it happened to me but I would insist on my assigned seat.
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:30 pm
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Originally Posted by RichardInSF View Post
That is not true.
I think he means in terms of boarding order, not in terms of deserving anything.
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:32 pm
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Originally Posted by LilAbner View Post
As others have mentioned --- "BIG MISTAKE!"

Once you decided that capitulation would get your flight out sooner, you screwed up.
Are you telling me that we might have been able to get out of the gate sooner if I had insisted that either 1) I get my original assigned seat, in which case we'd have to spend additional time to either convince the passenger to move voluntarily, or arrange to have her forcefully removed; or if I had insisted that 2) My involuntary downgrade is properly reflected in the system and my new boarding pass, in which case I will have to be unloaded and reloaded, and a new manifest printed...

Remember, I care much more about making my connection than I do of sitting in UX "First" for this brief flight.

Originally Posted by RichardInSF View Post
That is not true. Would it trump paid F? How about paid A? How about a mileage upgrade? Then why not a good customer, like an elite upgraded to first. I'd be polite if it happened to me but I would insist on my assigned seat.
I'm only referring to the boarding order, not how important a customer is to the company.

Last edited by iluv2fly; Jan 20, 14 at 9:55 pm Reason: merge
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Old Jan 20, 14, 6:55 pm
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OP - you did the right thing. Karma will reward you. For others who seem to have jumped to the conclusion that the woman who is disabled and who doesn't speak English as her first language, I would hope that you would have been as kind as the OP. Perhaps attitudes displayed here are why travel has become so "not fun" over the last few years.

As somebody who has been sick this last two years and has had to fly when sick I have always appreciated the displays of kindness e.g., I was in a middle seat and the person on the aisle offered me her seat so I could be more comfortable (I declined but it was the offer that was so appreciated and made an impact on me).

Instead of being outraged perhaps taking a moment and realizing that the OP did a nice thing should be the theme here. I say nice job OP! ^ You displayed kindness; a rarity these days.
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