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Random seat changes to UA itineraries after having an assigned seat [Consolidated]

Old Jan 4, 2015, 2:37 pm
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Archive thread - Random seat changes to UA itineraries after they are booked & purchased [ARCHIVE]

Potential causes {draft list -- needs work}
  • Aircraft equipment changes (appears can be an issue even if the new aircraft is the same type)
  • Computer "glitch" -- common explanation, real source unknown
  • Weight & Balance issues
  • Federal Air Marshal {FAM}
  • Seats needed for passenger with medical / disability / .... issues {particularly a bulkhead issue}
  • Pet in cabin {no bulkhead}
  • Accommodating an high elite or VIP {somewhat unlikely, not standard company policy, and more likely to occur in a premium cabin}
  • Accommodating a family group {not very likely and not standard company policy}
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Random seat changes to UA itineraries after having an assigned seat [Consolidated]

Old Aug 16, 2021, 8:00 am
  #166  
 
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Originally Posted by VRFast
How many days out from flight do you see this? Equipment change or just random seat change on same aircraft?
For a flight tomorrow night, I received a text at 3 am today:

"We had to change the aircraft type for your August 17 flight to Washington (IAD). Because of the switch, you have a new seat assignment. We've done our best to keep your original preferences and apologize for the inconvenience."

The part that kills me is it's a blatant lie. There is literally no airplane in the fleet that doesn't have a 2A. So how could I have ended up in 1D? And either way, it was E-170 to E-170.

The one before this was right around check in time, same thing. informed via text that I've been moved from 8F on the 738 to 11A on the...738.

Originally Posted by lincolnjkc
Maybe I've been lucky but thus far no. If the flights were recent enough it would be interesting to plug them into something like FlightStats.com (then click Flight Details) and see if there was an equipment change somewhere along the way.

I've had a number of segments in the recent past that have been up-gauged from the E170 to the E175 it seems logical that there may be some segments that went the other direction or got up-gauged and then quickly down-guaged
It's showing that overnight the flight was swapped from E170>E175>E170 (but only if I look up the tail numbers, flightstats still shows it listed as E175)

2A exists on both of those planes, so what is the problem? there was literally never a reason to change the seat.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Aug 16, 2021 at 10:33 am Reason: merged consecutive posts by same member
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Old Aug 16, 2021, 12:04 pm
  #167  
 
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Originally Posted by goyankees32790
It's showing that overnight the flight was swapped from E170>E175>E170 (but only if I look up the tail numbers, flightstats still shows it listed as E175)

2A exists on both of those planes, so what is the problem? there was literally never a reason to change the seat.
So I don't have enough data points to be certain of this but what I think happens if the change was long enough for someone to notice they may have moved themselves to one of the E175-only seats (3 or 4). It seems like when there are no conflicts in the cabin aircraft changes go just fine -- hence why a 170->175 doesn't create chaos -- but when there are conflicts in the cabin (like a 175 -> 170 with anyone in row 3 or 4) some heck breaks lose when the system tries to reconcile things (maybe status or fare basis plays into it, maybe it's just sheer luck of the draw)

But this is part of the reason, in fact, why the seat numbering is kind of wonky across the fleets, e.g. on a mainline narrowbody 7 will always be a bulkhead and 21 will always be a reclining exit row; on express if there is an exit row and it's not the devil's chariot it will be 18 -- at least in theory this is to allow more seamless equipment swaps
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Old Aug 16, 2021, 1:30 pm
  #168  
 
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Originally Posted by goyankees32790

2A exists on both of those planes, so what is the problem? there was literally never a reason to change the seat.
Maybe by the time the computer got to you it had already put someone in 2A?
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Old Aug 16, 2021, 1:45 pm
  #169  
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My guess is aircraft reassignments is not a closed-form solution and occasionally UA will make a second pass to further optimize. Hence these changes and then unchanges. The consequences on passengers does not seem to be considered sufficiently critical to address this issue.
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Old Aug 16, 2021, 2:27 pm
  #170  
 
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Originally Posted by HNLbasedFlyer
Maybe by the time the computer got to you it had already put someone in 2A?
But why would they create a program that re-seats everyone rather than just re-seating those without seat assignments?
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Old Aug 16, 2021, 2:33 pm
  #171  
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Originally Posted by goyankees32790
But why would they create a program that re-seats everyone rather than just re-seating those without seat assignments?
Evidence suggests the system is not smart of enough to consider the case of moving back to the same equipment. Rather each change is a separate event with no prior history.

And in some cases there are no directly equivalents for those already seated, so all are considered new. (many times prior rows do not exist -- such as for 737s) So given all possible configurations to change between, UA just when simple.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Aug 16, 2021 at 2:44 pm Reason: more
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Old Aug 16, 2021, 2:34 pm
  #172  
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Originally Posted by goyankees32790
But why would they create a program that re-seats everyone rather than just re-seating those without seat assignments?
I doubt it's intentional. They just haven't prioritized making it make sense.
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Old Aug 16, 2021, 5:48 pm
  #173  
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Sometimes when there's an equipment swap you'll get assigned to an analog, and sometimes it's like they used a random number generator for the new assignments.
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Old Oct 3, 2021, 8:58 pm
  #174  
 
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My first experience with an unwanted seat change. Partner and I (both GS) had reservations made months ago on two separate PNRs (me paid F and partner in saver F award), in 3E/3F on a 7M9 with 20 seats. Two days before departure, partner gets a text there's a new seat due to an equipment change. The computer moved from 3F to 2E with me staying in 3E. The 7M9 was changed to a 739, also with 20 seats. You'd think the computer would be smart enough to do a 1:1 seat reassignment. But, no.

I called GS, and they acknowledged an equipment swap with the same seat map (even just a tail swap) can cause passengers to be reassigned, even if all seats are sold/assigned. The very nice agent was apologetic and said there was no way that reservations could swap seats (not even a supervisor) once all seats were assigned, even in a case like this -- even for GS. She said the only thing to do was get to the gate early and ask the GA to call up the neighboring pax and ask for a swap. Alright, I was prepared to do this.

But amazingly, one day after the unwanted change, and one day before the flight, I just happened to look at the seat map and saw 3F empty! I was able to quickly reseat my partner from 2E to 3F. Problem solved, but very random that the "new" 3F cancelled the seat and I happened to look at the seat map during the small window it was open. Time to play the lottery!
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Old Oct 3, 2021, 10:28 pm
  #175  
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Originally Posted by wxguy
The very nice agent was apologetic and said there was no way that reservations could swap seats (not even a supervisor) once all seats were assigned, even in a case like this -- even for GS.
This such classic UA logic. "Yes, we can take your seat away, any time, for any reason, but we can never give it back."
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Old Jan 12, 2022, 12:46 pm
  #176  
 
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Last minute seat assignment changes

Haven't seen UA pull this in a while (on this board), and the first time in 20 years with CO > UA that its happened to me. The body of the email I just sent to 1K Voice:To Whom it May Concern:

My husband and I bought tickets SDF-DEN-LAS on December 6, 2021. Granted, I had to make two changes in the last week due to COVID work issues. I am on XXXXXX and he is on XXXXXX.

Checked in this morning. We had chosen, and were assigned, 12A and 12C from DEN to LAS on UA373. Just in the last hour, Wes was moved from 12C to 21F. Why?

Now we have no options for an aisle and a window in Econ Plus on this flight, which we booked a month ago. He is on a V fare, but I am on a Q fare. We were trying (unsuccessfully) to use Plus Points for the upgrade.

We have rebooked into Economy Minus seats in order to have an aisle and middle together.

My frustration is why the random movement? We are both 1K. What is the point of status (which you can see by my record is long term) if this kind of shenanigans happen behind the scenes? The agent that help us reassign was kind and professional, but could not tell me why it happened.

Please give me an answer, rather then the canned “we are sorry for the inconvenience.”. At the least, a refund for the difference of a Q+V fare to T fare for both of us (at time of purchase on 12/6) is in order, as you determined the downgrade on your own.

I look forward to your response.
Anyone else have this happen (of course you have...LOL), and/or have any response or satisfaction from UA?
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Old Jan 12, 2022, 12:59 pm
  #177  
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Generally there are many reasons for seat assignment changes. Note being on separate PNRs makes these even more likely

The thread's wiki has a few
Potential causes {draft list -- needs work}
  • Aircraft equipment changes (appears can be an issue even if the new aircraft is the same type)
  • Computer "glitch" -- common explanation, real source unknown
  • Weight & Balance issues
  • Federal Air Marshal {FAM}
  • Seats needed for passenger with medical / disability / .... issues {particularly a bulkhead issue}
  • Pet in cabin {no bulkhead}
  • Accommodating an high elite or VIP {somewhat unlikely, not standard company policy, and more likely to occur in a premium cabin}
  • Accommodating a family group {not very likely and not standard company policy}
The first is the most likely especially for a 739 -- there are multiple (four) different seat maps and which seats are E+ vary.

However, customer service agents will general not know the full reason. But I see no refund coming as there is no price different for E+ vs E- for elites. You might get a minor ETCs for the inconvenience.
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Old Jan 12, 2022, 1:09 pm
  #178  
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FAMs fly in Y now, so I imagine an E+ aisle could be their territory.
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Old Jan 12, 2022, 1:19 pm
  #179  
 
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I have a flight this week where my companion and my seat has been changed twice by United without any sort of notice in the last week. Last week they moved my companion back a row and I changed our seats a few rows back to be together again. Today we were moved up a few rows back to our original row and seats. Weird.
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Old Jan 12, 2022, 1:19 pm
  #180  
 
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Thank you WineCountry (have always appreciated your contributions to this board).

Really? No refund or compensation? A minor ETC would be the same (I doubt the fare difference is more than $300), so I would be cool with that. More confused as to the "why". Nothing above makes any sense, other than the "glitch" (and maybe the FAM - but why row 12?).
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