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

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

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Old Jun 22, 22, 1:31 pm   -   Wikipost
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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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Old Apr 19, 21, 1:54 pm
  #121  
 
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Originally Posted by zombietooth View Post
That was my strong suspicion because all of the UA agents and reps were so defensive about it. They could've told me that the computer scrambled the seats or something but they all claimed that they had no idea what happened. Really? In this day and age, you can't look at the record to see when someone grabbed my wife's seat?
It seems perfectly plausible to me that no line level UA agents can see what happened to your seat assignment, and that their assertion that they have no idea what happened to it is likely to be true.
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Old Apr 19, 21, 2:41 pm
  #122  
 
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Originally Posted by zombietooth View Post
That was my strong suspicion because all of the UA agents and reps were so defensive about it. They could've told me that the computer scrambled the seats or something but they all claimed that they had no idea what happened. Really? In this day and age, you can't look at the record to see when someone grabbed my wife's seat?
Is it even remotely possible that there was a 'phantom' aircraft change? A few years ago I was...in a polite word...livid when my 20A exit row window mysteriously became a 21B exit row middle to the point that I asked many more agents than I probably should have if they had any way of telling what happened (Character fault: My parents taught me from an early age that 'that's just the way things are' and 'because I said so' aren't valid answers to a question). More agents than I would have expected were trying to be helpful and I wound up with a bunch of stumped agents until at one of the hubs I found a lead who was intimately familiar with SHARES through his long time at CO and who was more than a little bored at the time.

Several minutes of typing, a few "hmmms" and an an "aha" later it turned out that a few days before I noticed the seat change the aircraft type had changed from a 738 (20A and 21A exist) to a 73G (20A doesn't exist) and then a few hours later had been changed back to a 738... So the seating engine went "Oh, Mr. LincolnJKC is in a seat that doesn't exist! we must fix this!" and automatically moved me to a new seat (it seemed to be the "closest seat that actually exists and isn't otherwise occupied") but when the aircraft changed back since the seat I was still in was valid it didn't see fit to move me back and someone subsequently grabbed the now vacant 20A. Happy ending: 21A (or F...it was a while ago) opened up and I grabbed it as soon as I saw it.

Obviously 738->73G->738 isn't a major change but if you do something weirder (any narrowed to any widebody or VV, polarized/PP WB to non-polairzed/non-PP...and if there aren't many "open" seats to toss people into... strange things happen.

And no, the lead didn't have access to the transaction history/audit trail (I'd be shocked if any, let alone many, customer facing employees do) but this was more putting the pieces of what they did (and didn't) see in the PNR notes and flight history together.
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Old Apr 19, 21, 2:53 pm
  #123  
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Originally Posted by lincolnjkc View Post
Is it even remotely possible that there was a 'phantom' aircraft change? ....
IN past incidences of "random" changes, this assigned equipment ping-pongs have been noticed in number of cases.
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Old Apr 21, 21, 5:47 pm
  #124  
 
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So I recently had the pleasure of experiencing these mystery seat changes. Nothing too crazy but thought it would be interesting to share and get your take on what might have happened.

My family and I recently flew from ATL to EWR. Originally when I booked the flight I had selected 9D and 9E for my wife and 5yo daughter, and 9F and 10F for my 7yo son and myself. So my wife and kids would be in 1 row and I would sit behind them in a window seat. This is our preferred seating arrangement when we travel on aircraft that is 3-3 in economy.

When I checked us all in via the app on 4/18 I noticed that my wife and daughter still had the same seats but somehow my son and I had been moved to 11E and 11F. Thankfully the previous seats were still open and I was able to move my son and myself back to 9F and 10F respectively. I figured it was some type of one time error in the system and let it go.

Next day when we were about to board the flight, imagine my consternation when I found that somehow my son and I had been moved back again to 11E and 11F. I checked with the gate agents and they were unable to help since the flight was full, however they said it may have been due to us being on 2 different PNRs and some effort being made to keep child and adult together. That the system or whoever made the change on the United side were unaware that my wife and daughter were in 9D and 9E and automatically moved my son and I back to a row where there were 2 seats next to each other.

I am not sure if this is some type of automated system that tries to rearrange seating in this fashion or someone at United reservations or operations executes these seat changes. In the past the only times this has happened was when there was an aircraft change or if bulkhead seats were needed for the disabled and neither was the case this time. It was not a big problem as my son and I were seated next to each other, however this was not my family's preferred seating arrangement. I guess from now on I need to babysit all our reservations...
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Old Apr 21, 21, 7:28 pm
  #125  
 
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Originally Posted by pigzilla View Post
I am not sure if this is some type of automated system that tries to rearrange seating in this fashion or someone at United reservations or operations executes these seat changes. I guess from now on I need to babysit all our reservations...
Someone else will probably be better able to quote the specific DOT/FAA (or United-specific) rules than I will, but there is indeed an automated system (https://www.transportation.gov/indiv...nited-Airlines). I think there is both a restriction that if possible, the child be sitting next to the adult, AND that there are not more than one child in a row (so two children accompanied by one adult is not going to work). This is because in a loss of pressure emergency, the adult in the row would have to put THEIR mask on, then BOTH of the children. That's likely why he was moved to sit next to you instead.
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Old Apr 21, 21, 8:02 pm
  #126  
 
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Originally Posted by lincolnjkc View Post
Is it even remotely possible that there was a 'phantom' aircraft change? A few years ago I was...in a polite word...livid when my 20A exit row window mysteriously became a 21B exit row middle to the point that I asked many more agents than I probably should have if they had any way of telling what happened (Character fault: My parents taught me from an early age that 'that's just the way things are' and 'because I said so' aren't valid answers to a question). More agents than I would have expected were trying to be helpful and I wound up with a bunch of stumped agents until at one of the hubs I found a lead who was intimately familiar with SHARES through his long time at CO and who was more than a little bored at the time.

Several minutes of typing, a few "hmmms" and an an "aha" later it turned out that a few days before I noticed the seat change the aircraft type had changed from a 738 (20A and 21A exist) to a 73G (20A doesn't exist) and then a few hours later had been changed back to a 738... So the seating engine went "Oh, Mr. LincolnJKC is in a seat that doesn't exist! we must fix this!" and automatically moved me to a new seat (it seemed to be the "closest seat that actually exists and isn't otherwise occupied") but when the aircraft changed back since the seat I was still in was valid it didn't see fit to move me back and someone subsequently grabbed the now vacant 20A. Happy ending: 21A (or F...it was a while ago) opened up and I grabbed it as soon as I saw it.

Obviously 738->73G->738 isn't a major change but if you do something weirder (any narrowed to any widebody or VV, polarized/PP WB to non-polairzed/non-PP...and if there aren't many "open" seats to toss people into... strange things happen.

And no, the lead didn't have access to the transaction history/audit trail (I'd be shocked if any, let alone many, customer facing employees do) but this was more putting the pieces of what they did (and didn't) see in the PNR notes and flight history together.

No equipment swap in my case-I had the 1K desk check that. And, absent a FAM, what possible explanation could there be for moving my wife from 2F to 5A?
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Old Apr 21, 21, 8:56 pm
  #127  
 
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Interesting to see this thread active recently. I have a reservation on an ERJ-175 and chose a single side First Seat at booking. Checked again today and had been moved to a D seat on the 2 seat side. Called to see what happened and was told it was an "operational change" and could be due to a plane swap. Route has been all 175s for a while now so I doubt that explanation. I asked if the could "operationally change" me back to 2D to no avail, not sure what happened.
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Old Apr 22, 21, 11:56 am
  #128  
 
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Seeking a Solution

As the thread resurrector, I want everybody to know that I am not seeking compensation for this situation where my wife was moved from her seat next to me to the back of the cabin. I have not written the 1K desk and don't intend to. I really want to know how to prevent this in the future.

I understand that the, "your seat selection is not guaranteed", escape clause protects UA and allows them to do whatever they want to you, but I really don't think that it's reasonable for a customer like myself, who buys two adjacent seats in paid F for a 5-6 hour flight (over 30 days out), to be capriciously separated from my wife with no explanation whatsoever.
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Old Apr 22, 21, 12:09 pm
  #129  
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Originally Posted by zombietooth View Post
As the thread resurrector, I want everybody to know that I am not seeking compensation for this situation where my wife was moved from her seat next to me to the back of the cabin. I have not written the 1K desk and don't intend to. I really want to know how to prevent this in the future.

I understand that the, "your seat selection is not guaranteed", escape clause protects UA and allows them to do whatever they want to you, but I really don't think that it's reasonable for a customer like myself, who buys two adjacent seats in paid F for a 5-6 hour flight (over 30 days out), to be capriciously separated from my wife with no explanation whatsoever.
From that perspective, UA and it's systems are going to be mean and capricious given how often they seem to be swapping plane assignments and the inability of the seat assignment algorithms to easily manage the swaps. Things like Shares weren't really engineered to manage this much change and the results keep showing up with folks posting about these arbitrary seat assignment changes.

David
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Old Apr 22, 21, 12:24 pm
  #130  
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Originally Posted by zombietooth View Post
.... I understand that the, "your seat selection is not guaranteed", escape clause protects UA and allows them to do whatever they want to you, but I really don't think that it's reasonable for a customer like myself, who buys two adjacent seats in paid F for a 5-6 hour flight (over 30 days out), to be capriciously separated from my wife with no explanation whatsoever.
Purchasing separate tickets does involve a risk that the tickets will be treated as two separate tickets. Making assumptions about similar last names is a dated concept.

I do not like have my seat moved and I have had a couple of cases when I pushed back strongly -- in one case leading to UA rebooking for a different flight.

Experience in this thread will suggest being bump as a favor for another customer is exceptionally rare as multiple GS have reported their attempts have been rebuffed. The majority of verified cased have been FAM, aircraft swaps (and then sapped back -- making it appeared no swap happened), seats needed for passenger with medical / disability / .... issues {particularly a bulkhead issue}, ... and other reasons listed in the thread's wiki. For various reasons, UA employees may be restricted from being able to divulge the reason.

Frustrating, yes, expecting a explanation or feeling like UA has personally dissed you (when you booked separate tickets) -- probably taking this too personal.
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Old Apr 22, 21, 1:08 pm
  #131  
 
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA View Post
Purchasing separate tickets does involve a risk that the tickets will be treated as two separate tickets. Making assumptions about similar last names is a dated concept.

I do not like have my seat moved and I have had a couple of cases when I pushed back strongly -- in one case leading to UA rebooking for a different flight.

Experience in this thread will suggest being bump as a favor for another customer is exceptionally rare as multiple GS have reported their attempts have been rebuffed. The majority of verified cased have been FAM, aircraft swaps (and then sapped back -- making it appeared no swap happened), seats needed for passenger with medical / disability / .... issues {particularly a bulkhead issue}, ... and other reasons listed in the thread's wiki. For various reasons, UA employees may be restricted from being able to divulge the reason.

Frustrating, yes, expecting a explanation or feeling like UA has personally dissed you (when you booked separate tickets) -- probably taking this too personal.

Thanks for the sincere advice. However, in our case, we were on the same PNR, so I am worried that this is a new problem. Especially since I'll be flying soon with my wife and her 95-year old aunt to take her to her sister's 100th birthday. We are all on the same PNR (with one of us across the aisle from the other two) in paid F but, if we get separated from her aunt, my wife is really going to lose it. I'd really like to prevent this from happening again.
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Old Apr 22, 21, 1:41 pm
  #132  
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Originally Posted by zombietooth View Post
... However, in our case, we were on the same PNR, ....
Sorry, I misread.
This is highly unusual, not completely unknown, but highly unusual.

You will probably never know the reason , let's hope this was weird one just one-off.
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Old May 27, 21, 7:03 pm
  #133  
 
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Angry United changed my assigned seat (with no aircraft change)

Folks, first world problem, but I am irked.

Booked on a B757 departing tomorrow and I secured 21C (second row exit) at booking. When I checked my reservation last night I still had 21C with 21B vacant. Then as I was ready to checked in this morning. I noticed my seat had been changed to 20C. There was no aircraft change. It was obvious that someone with a higher status than me who is traveling in two called up United and persuaded them to move me because they wanted to sit together in an exit row. I am fine if United had moved me to 21D which is still exit row aisle that can recline. While row 20 is exit row on this plane, it is NOT reclineable. Is there somewhere in the T&C that says they reserve the right to do this? I guess my 1K 2 Million Miler status means jack to them!

Sorry, venting here
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Last edited by WineCountryUA; May 27, 21 at 7:17 pm Reason: moved to existing thread
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Old May 27, 21, 7:13 pm
  #134  
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Originally Posted by alim123 View Post
... There was no aircraft change. ...
To be sure about this you will need to check the detailed flight history. Changes can occur and then be reversed can create this. Sometimes some one makes an error. Additionally changes to a different tail number of the same aircraft type can cause this problem. Thread wiki provides addition possibilities

Originally Posted by alim123 View Post
...It was obvious that someone with a higher status than me who is traveling in two called up United and persuaded them to move me because they wanted to sit together in an exit row. ...
Very unlikely. Even GS elites have reported they are total this is not possible (against policy).

Originally Posted by alim123 View Post
...Is there somewhere in the T&C that says they reserve the right to do this? ...
Actually yes, seat assignments are considered a preference but are not guaranteed.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; May 27, 21 at 7:19 pm Reason: moved to existing thread
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Old May 27, 21, 7:35 pm
  #135  
 
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Ah thank you so much for the detailed and informative reply. So it happened sometime between last night and this morning then. Gosh, do I have to look at my reservation every hour!? ugh

Ethan
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