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VS Randomly Assigns Seats Before OLCI - Cam Make it Difficult to Select Seats at OLCI

VS Randomly Assigns Seats Before OLCI - Cam Make it Difficult to Select Seats at OLCI

Old Feb 12, 19, 11:07 pm
  #1  
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VS Randomly Assigns Seats Before OLCI - Cam Make it Difficult to Select Seats at OLCI

I am flying on Virgin tomorrow from the US to the UK. I bought a light fare, figuring I would go online at 24 hours exactly before flight and pick the seats I wanted (two aisle seats across from each other) with OLCI - which is what the VS website says.

I have been checking the seat map every day or so and there was row upon row without seat assignments.

Today, at 4 hours before OLCI, I went online and found that VS had randomly assigned seats (adjoining) to my companion and myself. Not only did we have seats, but from the way the seat map had filled up from the day before it appeared that others had also received unrequested seat assignments (including one passenger who was assigned the middle seat of 3 when the surrounding seats were empty.)

I got panicky that they might keep doing this so that I could not get the seat I would want at OLCI, so I spent the money to move one of our seats to another aisle seat.

As it turns out, there were some decent seats available at OLCI time - but many fewere than there would have been had VS not started randomly assigning seats. Also, if the flight were more crowded, the strategy of waiting to OLCI to pick good seats might not have worked if enough random seats had been assigned.

So be forewarned - if you wait until OLCI to pick a seat on a light fare, depending how crowded the flight is you may end up with the dregs.
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Old Feb 13, 19, 3:17 pm
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Shock! Horror! VS automatically assigns adjacent seats to passengers travelling together on a single booking. And it does it in advance of OLCI so that those checking in can't make a mess of the seat map and force those travelling together to sit separately?

And somehow this is a bad thing?

I'm no fan of "Light", "Basic Economy", etc. fares which is why I pay more to avoid them, but they do come with the expectation that you might not get a very good seat.
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Old Feb 13, 19, 3:38 pm
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Originally Posted by craigthemif View Post

I'm no fan of "Light", "Basic Economy", etc. fares which is why I pay more to avoid them, but they do come with the expectation that you might not get a very good seat.
Actually, they come with the expectation that the airline will do what it says it will do - which is the passenger selects their seat at check-in. I have bought light fare equivalents on other airlines that have the same policy, knowing that if I do OLCI at the 24 hour mark I will have a decent selection because most people won't pay to book their seat in advance.

I don't buy light fare equivalents on airlines that don't allow you to select your own seat but select the seat for you - e.g., Delta.

I have no problem with Virgin doing it however they want to do it - so long as they are transparent and the rules of the game are disclosed to the customer.
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Old Feb 13, 19, 4:17 pm
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I think you're being unfair here - the airline has done exactly what it says it will do -they've allowed you to select a seat at OLCI at 24 hours from departure. I don't think they advertise anywhere that you'll be able to choose any seat on the airplane, or 'decent' seat (although no-one can guarantee that because our tastes vary), just any seat that remains available.

By buying a Light the risk you take is that there won't necessarily be a good selection of seats available, and I think most people understand that - that's the entire reason for charging for seat selection.

I don't think it's fair for someone to hold Virgin responsible when taking a chance on a Light fare and the seats they want aren't available.
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Last edited by Theirin; Feb 13, 19 at 4:38 pm Reason: clarify the last sentence
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Old Feb 19, 19, 4:20 pm
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Originally Posted by Theirin View Post
I think you're being unfair here - the airline has done exactly what it says it will do -they've allowed you to select a seat at OLCI at 24 hours from departure. I don't think they advertise anywhere that you'll be able to choose any seat on the airplane, or 'decent' seat (although no-one can guarantee that because our tastes vary), just any seat that remains available.

By buying a Light the risk you take is that there won't necessarily be a good selection of seats available, and I think most people understand that - that's the entire reason for charging for seat selection.

I don't think it's fair for someone to hold Virgin responsible when taking a chance on a Light fare and the seats they want aren't available.
But if the flight is fully booked, then in theory there won't be ANY seats available to select once OLCI opens, if they're all pre-assigned. I do agree that VS should be more transparent (and as a side benefit they'll probably sell more seat assignments), though this is exactly the kind of nuance that FT is great for.
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Old Feb 19, 19, 4:59 pm
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I'm still not sure I agree. Yes, theoretically in a situation where the flight is sold out and VS have pre-selected all seats on the flight you wouldn't be able to select any seat at all. But I think most people understand that when you buy a Light fare or any fare which doesn't allow seat selection until check it, the risk is that you won't get what you want.

If you look at the sales page for Economy Light, I think they are pretty transparent about the situation. VS do clearly state that your seat will be automatically assigned at check in and that you may not be able to select the seats you want. If it is accurate that seats are assigned at check-in, the above scenario would only occur if you were the last person to check in in the cabin.


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Old Feb 21, 19, 11:35 am
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Originally Posted by Theirin View Post
I'm still not sure I agree. Yes, theoretically in a situation where the flight is sold out and VS have pre-selected all seats on the flight you wouldn't be able to select any seat at all. But I think most people understand that when you buy a Light fare or any fare which doesn't allow seat selection until check it, the risk is that you won't get what you want.

If you look at the sales page for Economy Light, I think they are pretty transparent about the situation. VS do clearly state that your seat will be automatically assigned at check in and that you may not be able to select the seats you want. If it is accurate that seats are assigned at check-in, the above scenario would only occur if you were the last person to check in in the cabin.


The quoted portion above from the Virgin site illustrates my point - they state that on Light Fares, seats will be "allocated at check in."

As a reasonably experienced traveler, you can then perform the calculus based on that statement - which basically results in the conclusion that if you jump on OLCI at the 24 hour mark, there will be a decent number of unreserved seats. On the other hand, the chances of getting a seat that you would like at OLCI time is reduced in they allocate seats in advance of OLCI.

The practice on my flight - of automatically allocating seats in advance of OLCI time instead of at OLCI time - is contrary to the stated policy. They are certainly free to adopt whatever policy they wish - but, having publicly stated a policy, they should adhere to that policy.
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Old Feb 21, 19, 12:07 pm
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Originally Posted by BigFlyer View Post
The quoted portion above from the Virgin site illustrates my point - they state that on Light Fares, seats will be "allocated at check in."

As a reasonably experienced traveler, you can then perform the calculus based on that statement - which basically results in the conclusion that if you jump on OLCI at the 24 hour mark, there will be a decent number of unreserved seats. On the other hand, the chances of getting a seat that you would like at OLCI time is reduced in they allocate seats in advance of OLCI.

The practice on my flight - of automatically allocating seats in advance of OLCI time instead of at OLCI time - is contrary to the stated policy. They are certainly free to adopt whatever policy they wish - but, having publicly stated a policy, they should adhere to that policy.
I don't think that's a calculus you can make though. It's a risk you take by not paying for seat selection, and it's exactly why seat selection ahead of time costs extra.

Even assuming we can use that calculus, it assumes that most of the economy passengers are on Light fares without status. If they have status they can assign seats at any time; if they are Gold they can assign seats for themselves and everyone in their party at any time, as well as anyone who paid for seat selection, or anyone with a disability. Anyone with an Economy Classic or Economy Delight or Reward fare can choose their seats ahead of check in. That may already account for a large number of seats, especially because Light/Basic fares are designed to upsell people into Classic or Delight. On top of that you have anyone else who bought a Light fare and also jumped to select seats as soon as OLCI opened.

Essentially, you're making assumptions about why the seat selections are limited without considering a number of other completely plausible explanations, and we don't have nearly enough evidence to demonstrate that Virgin aren't being transparent with their terms. It's possible, certainly, but if they were assigning everyone's seat before check-in, there would likely be even fewer seats available at OLCI.

Edit: I'm not trying to pick an argument or anything, but I think its better to consider alternative explanations rather than jumping straight to dishonesty/lack of transparency.

Last edited by Theirin; Feb 21, 19 at 12:11 pm Reason: Added extra sentence.
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Old Feb 21, 19, 12:23 pm
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Originally Posted by Theirin View Post
I don't think that's a calculus you can make though. It's a risk you take by not paying for seat selection, and it's exactly why seat selection ahead of time costs extra.

Even assuming we can use that calculus, it assumes that most of the economy passengers are on Light fares without status. If they have status they can assign seats at any time; if they are Gold they can assign seats for themselves and everyone in their party at any time, as well as anyone who paid for seat selection, or anyone with a disability. Anyone with an Economy Classic or Economy Delight or Reward fare can choose their seats ahead of check in. That may already account for a large number of seats, especially because Light/Basic fares are designed to upsell people into Classic or Delight. On top of that you have anyone else who bought a Light fare and also jumped to select seats as soon as OLCI opened.

Essentially, you're making assumptions about why the seat selections are limited without considering a number of other completely plausible explanations, and we don't have nearly enough evidence to demonstrate that Virgin aren't being transparent with their terms. It's possible, certainly, but if they were assigning everyone's seat before check-in, there would likely be even fewer seats available at OLCI.

Edit: I'm not trying to pick an argument or anything, but I think its better to consider alternative explanations rather than jumping straight to dishonesty/lack of transparency.
I wasn't claiming dishonesty. But, it seems to me that assigning seats in advance of OLCI to Light Fare passengers is contrary to the stated policy that seats will be allocated to light fare passengers at time of check-in. At a minimum I know that seats were assigned to myself and the other passenger in my PNR well in advance of OLCI. How is that not a violation of the stated policy?

The part where I go from clear knowledge (my seat was assigned early in violation of the policy) to the assumption (other seats were assigned early in violation of the stated policy) is that after having checked the seat map every day or so, on the first day that I saw that seats had been assigned to myself and my companion I noticed that the rest of the cabin had filled up at a faster rate than before (as it turned out, the flight was far from full,)
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Old Feb 21, 19, 12:31 pm
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Originally Posted by BigFlyer View Post
I wasn't claiming dishonesty. But, it seems to me that assigning seats in advance of OLCI to Light Fare passengers is contrary to the stated policy that seats will be allocated to light fare passengers at time of check-in. At a minimum I know that seats were assigned to myself and the other passenger in my PNR well in advance of OLCI. How is that not a violation of the stated policy?

The part where I go from clear knowledge (my seat was assigned early in violation of the policy) to the assumption (other seats were assigned early in violation of the stated policy) is that after having checked the seat map every day or so, on the first day that I saw that seats had been assigned to myself and my companion I noticed that the rest of the cabin had filled up at a faster rate than before (as it turned out, the flight was far from full,)
I apologise for coming across in an accusatory manner. I wonder if what they're doing is assigning seats literally at check in - i.e. as soon as check-in opens at T-24 they're allocating seats, rather than when each passenger checks in.
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Old Feb 21, 19, 12:36 pm
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Originally Posted by Theirin View Post
I apologise for coming across in an accusatory manner. I wonder if what they're doing is assigning seats literally at check in - i.e. as soon as check-in opens at T-24 they're allocating seats, rather than when each passenger checks in.
You think you were accusatory? You should see me when I get going.

Not sure exactly when they assigned my seat, but I know it was more than 24 hours before flight time, and therefore before OLCI.
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Old Feb 21, 19, 12:52 pm
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If that's the case then I agree they ought to be a little clearer about the fact that seats are pre-allocated earlier, or at least aren't self-assignable then
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