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I Paid for Seat Selection for a Non-Preferred Seat - What Can I do with OLCI?

I Paid for Seat Selection for a Non-Preferred Seat - What Can I do with OLCI?

Old Oct 24, 2022, 4:46 pm
  #1  
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I Paid for Seat Selection for a Non-Preferred Seat - What Can I do with OLCI?

OK, I have to start by saying this "preferred seat" thing is kind of a scam - they are just normal seats with a higher price designed to cause a shortage of available seats at the lower price. On my flight it's $77 for a "preferred" aisle seat and $37 for a non-preferred aisle seat - if you can get one.

So I managed to get a $37 aisle seat, but it's not ideal - right next to a rest room.

I assume once OLCI commences I keep the ability to change seats to another non-preferred seat. Do I also have the ability at that point to switch to one of the "preferred" seats without extra payment? (never been on a BE ticket before, so not familiar with the rules.)
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Old Oct 24, 2022, 7:40 pm
  #2  
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Call it what you want. I don't know that 'scam' is the correct term...maybe you consider it this. UA (as well as other carriers) market this as a way to sit closer to the front, theoretically de-plane faster, and get earlier service onboard the flight (maybe more important on longer flight, as preferred snack boxes or meals can run out). It's basically [now] part of the airline's way of segmenting the marketing and getting more $ from those that are willing to pay more. These 'preferred' seats are not marketed as extra legroom seats - those are E+ and have a further price premium (again, another aspect of marketing strategy). In the early days, preferred seats were not available for purchase - they were only available to premier members and certain corporate travelers until checkin.

Note that other companies do this in other ways (ever seen a product where a more popular color of their widget is more than a less popular one?).

You can change your seat now..or anytime, the preferred seat page does note that if you change a preferred seat to a lower priced seat, you will not receive a partial refund, but will be charged the balance of a higher priced seat. I don't know if they go 'free' at OLCI or not (I'm a silver, so irrelevant to me, and most on this board probably have some level of status where they also get these). If preferred seats aren't available without charge at OLCI, there is always the option to check with an agent at the check in desk or at the gate - as seats become available, and it does happen, they may change you...or maybe not? It's also wise to check on the seat map every so often to see what happens...cancelations happen, and so more valuable seats open up and you can snag those as they become available - with full flights these days, simply waiting for prime seats to become available last minute is not a great strategy, IME.....it does happen, but not a given, for sure.
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Old Oct 24, 2022, 9:34 pm
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Also, starting at t-96 I believe, elites become entitled to Economy Plus seats (extra legroom) at no charge. I think it's 1Ks gets them at T-96, Platinum members get them at T-72, Gold at T-48, and Silver at T-24. It's quite possible that a good one will open up and still be available at OLIC. Many non-regular flyers (the ones remaining in the back at T-24), aren't aware of this and don't frequently check the seat map.

If my goal was to get a preferred seat without payment, I would secure a complimentary seat and watch the seat map starting at exactly T-24 and move myself around accordingly. Then finally, at the gate, if there's something I wanted, I would ask the gate agent, but I would choose my words carefully. Rather than asking if I can be moved, I would ask if I'm eligible to select that seat. GAs are used to people asking for freebees and might respond better if it's presented that differently.
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Old Oct 24, 2022, 9:37 pm
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So.."preferred seats " are a scam and are just normal seats with a higher price tag... but at the same time the Non-preferred seat you DID get cheaper "is not ideal, right next to a rest room". Ummm..... is it just me or has there been a major missing of the point there??
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Old Oct 24, 2022, 9:58 pm
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On another note, given there was a charge for you for a non-preferred seat - that means you are in BE - the only fares that do not include a standard seat. So you picked a bottom of the barrel fare, which is the only fare that does include a standard seat. I would never pick that fare since something like that has never met my needs - and doubt it will. If you were looking for a free seat assignment, would have been best to pay a regular fare - which includes that. At least if bought through UA, the site is quite clear about this - not sure if it is on an OTA.

On a BE fare - if you arent willing to take a chance with the seat you get assigned at checkin - then you have to pay. Even at check in. Maybe you can find an agent who will do it - but they will be doing you a favor. BE assignments are either paid selection or what UA gives you. Thats the deal with the bottom of the barrel fare.

it is certainly your right to complain about what one gets for a BE fare - but to buy it, and then complain about its features is kind of ludicrous. Sounds like maybe next time you should be more carefully considering what you buy. You may have done better by waiting to see what you would have received - could have been better, or could have been the middle seat next to where you are now. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the unknown. You never know what you get with random assignments. One reason I dont fly WN, or buy BE fares.
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Old Oct 24, 2022, 10:01 pm
  #6  
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Originally Posted by phkc070408
Also, starting at t-96 I believe, elites become entitled to Economy Plus seats (extra legroom) at no charge. I think it's 1Ks gets them at T-96, Platinum members get them at T-72, Gold at T-48, and Silver at T-24. It's quite possible that a good one will open up and still be available at OLIC. Many non-regular flyers (the ones remaining in the back at T-24), aren't aware of this and don't frequently check the seat map.
No, that's not true. Gold and above get E+ at booking. It's only Silver that gets free access to E+ at T-24. The numbers you quote are for Complimentary Premier Upgrades, which don't really happen reliably (although I got one at T-96 today), and generally for someone already sitting in E+.

Originally Posted by trooper
So.."preferred seats " are a scam and are just normal seats with a higher price tag... but at the same time the Non-preferred seat you DID get cheaper "is not ideal, right next to a rest room". Ummm..... is it just me or has there been a major missing of the point there??
I mean, to be fair, they did start monetizing something that had always been free before. They're counting on people paying the fee to keep from getting a middle seat... or (worse, IMO), they're counting on customers believing that a seat purchase is mandatory. And the whole 'preferred seat" thing is a bit of a crock; they're only preferred if you care about getting off of the plane a couple of minutes faster.
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Old Oct 25, 2022, 3:43 am
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Originally Posted by BigFlyer
OK, I have to start by saying this "preferred seat" thing is kind of a scam - they are just normal seats with a higher price designed to cause a shortage of available seats at the lower price. On my flight it's $77 for a "preferred" aisle seat and $37 for a non-preferred aisle seat - if you can get one.

So I managed to get a $37 aisle seat, but it's not ideal - right next to a rest room.

I assume once OLCI commences I keep the ability to change seats to another non-preferred seat. Do I also have the ability at that point to switch to one of the "preferred" seats without extra payment? (never been on a BE ticket before, so not familiar with the rules.)
To add a perspective to the comments already made, think of UAs Basic Economy fare and offering as Frontier Airlines (or Spirit Airlines) d.b.a. United Airlines. UA created this lower fare to match, theoretically, what those two airlines offer for those who really value the lowest base fare. In exchange, you pay for any optional extras like pre-assigned seats, etc just like Frontier and Spirit.
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Old Oct 25, 2022, 8:47 am
  #8  
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WN may be the king of getting people to pay for preferred seats. While not really designating what preferred seats are, WN puts it on the passengers to fight it out as to what their idea is of preferred seats by charging for priority boarding.
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Old Oct 25, 2022, 9:06 am
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Given the prices and the description of seats, is this an International BE ?
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Old Oct 25, 2022, 1:02 pm
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Originally Posted by trooper
So.."preferred seats " are a scam and are just normal seats with a higher price tag... but at the same time the Non-preferred seat you DID get cheaper "is not ideal, right next to a rest room". Ummm..... is it just me or has there been a major missing of the point there??
No point missed by me. There are many non-preferred seats which are fine - but they were already taken by the time I bought my ticket, as a result of the shortage created by United arbitrarily designating seats as preferred.. So I took the only aisle seat that was still available that was non-preferred.

Originally Posted by WineCountryUA
Given the prices and the description of seats, is this an International BE ?
Yes. So carry on is included.

Originally Posted by emcampbe
On another note, given there was a charge for you for a non-preferred seat - that means you are in BE - the only fares that do not include a standard seat. So you picked a bottom of the barrel fare, which is the only fare that does include a standard seat. I would never pick that fare since something like that has never met my needs - and doubt it will. If you were looking for a free seat assignment, would have been best to pay a regular fare - which includes that. At least if bought through UA, the site is quite clear about this - not sure if it is on an OTA.

On a BE fare - if you arent willing to take a chance with the seat you get assigned at checkin - then you have to pay. Even at check in. Maybe you can find an agent who will do it - but they will be doing you a favor. BE assignments are either paid selection or what UA gives you. Thats the deal with the bottom of the barrel fare.

it is certainly your right to complain about what one gets for a BE fare - but to buy it, and then complain about its features is kind of ludicrous. Sounds like maybe next time you should be more carefully considering what you buy. You may have done better by waiting to see what you would have received - could have been better, or could have been the middle seat next to where you are now. Sometimes the devil you know is better than the unknown. You never know what you get with random assignments. One reason I dont fly WN, or buy BE fares.
I did not complain about United charging for seats on BE fares. I complained about United creating a scarcity of non-preferred seats by designating many perfectly normal seats as preferred, at more than double the price of the non-preferred seats.

My recollection is that even on normal coach fares the "preferred" seats are not free for non-elites, so had I bought a regular coach ticket I would still have the same complaint - a scarcity of free seats because of the designation of a large number of seats as preferred.

Also, I don't think my question has been answered - at OLCI, can I only change to non-preferred seats, or can I grab any coach seat? Right now I can change seats, but only to non-preferred seats unless I want to pay more.

Last edited by WineCountryUA; Oct 25, 2022 at 1:50 pm Reason: merged consecutive posts by same member
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Old Oct 25, 2022, 1:52 pm
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Originally Posted by BigFlyer
... My recollection is that even on normal coach fares the "preferred" seats are not free for non-elites, ....
Preferred seats are free to all at check-in

Originally Posted by BigFlyer
... - at OLCI, can I only change to non-preferred seats, or can I grab any coach seat? ,,,
Free to change to any non-E+ seats at OCLI

The concept of preferred seats is to save seats for late booking corprorate customers -- a select list of corporate customers (non-elites) have free access to preferred seats at booking. They trend to be late bookers
New Corporate Preferred (upgrade tiebreaker) / new 'preferred' seating section
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Old Oct 25, 2022, 1:57 pm
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Originally Posted by WineCountryUA
Preferred seats are free to all at check-in

Free to change to any non-E+ seats at OCLI
Thank you for answering my questions! While I enjoyed the philosophical discussion (yes, I'm guilty for starting it), it's nice to get an answer.
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Old Oct 25, 2022, 3:12 pm
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Arguably, any aisle seat could be considered preferred. Or even a window. Middles should almost never be preferred but if they charged for every window/aisle, the middles would fill up not allowing any parties of 3 to book together.

I generally agree that the airlines have gone overboard (some worse than others) trying to balance the competing interests of early boomers and late-booking Biz travelers and elites with the sheer magnitude of seats requirement payment even on non-BE fares.
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Old Oct 25, 2022, 4:36 pm
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Originally Posted by ijgordon
I generally agree that the airlines have gone overboard (some worse than others)
I disagree, the airlines responded to the demands the market showed them. The business model of ULCC's showed there is a large segment of the population (that also make up a not insignificant portion of legacy carriers passengers) who prefers everything to be decoupled from the fare and will purchase based solely on the base airfare/worry about all the other ancillary components separately. This forced legacy carriers to respond and offer a similar product to not lose that market share, which therefor necessitates them segmenting their seats and other ancillary amenitities of a fare as we see them now. When you have a chunk of your consumer base who wants to buy solely on lowest fare, then in order to offer only base fare, everything else needs a price attached to it too.
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Old Oct 25, 2022, 5:00 pm
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United is Particularly Aggressive in its Seating Policy

I usually fly KLM/Air France to Europe, so I compared the seating policies on UA vs. KLM. I compared the KLM SFO-AMS flight to my SFO-FRA flight, which is roughly equivalent.

The UA flight looks like it allocates about 2/3 of its normal coach seats as "preferred." These seats cost $77 for aisle seats, while the non-preferred seats charge $37 for an aisle seat.

On KLM 3 rows of their normal coach seats towards the front are upcharged at $47 for an aisle seat. An aisle seat other than those first 3 rows (and excluding Economy Comfort) are between $25 and $30.

Those are the prices for BE passengers wanting seats, normal coach fares every seat is free except the aforementioned 3 rows and Economy Comfort (extra legroom seats.)

Yes, I know that I don't have to fly UA, etc. But it is noteworthy that KLM designates 3 rows as "premium", while UA designates 2/3 of its seats. Obviously this affects non-BE passengers as well.
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