Getting Bumped on United

April 12th, 2017

On two occasions, I’ve been bumped from my seat on United, though not from the flight. On one trip, I was upgraded to business class. I was in my seat, enjoying my complimentary drink before takeoff, when a gate agent walked over to me. She said I had to give up my seat, and move back to coach. Why, I asked? Because another seat in business class was broken. The person assigned to that seat had higher status than me, which trumped my complimentary upgrade. The gate agent offered a $200 travel voucher, and stuck me in a cramped middle seat towards the back of the plane. Originally, I had an economy plus seat, which offers extra leg room. On the whole, it was a downgrade, notwithstanding the $200 travel voucher. I was pissed off, but I complied. Had I never been upgraded, I would not have been bothered. But in light of the endowment effect, I was losing something I already had. But I didn’t really have it. The thought never occurred to me that I would resist getting out of the seat–though in hindsight, I could have held out for more money, knowing that the maximum payout is four times the ticket price.

On another flight, I also received a complimentary upgrade. As I checked in at the airport, I heard my name on the PA system. Never a good sign. Due to mechanical problems, United had to swap out our original plane, for a smaller plane. As a result, there were fewer business class seats on the new plane. Once again, I was downgraded to coach because my status was lower than those above me. Mind you, I have 1K status, which is awarded for flying 100,000 miles a year. That was not enough. Again, I was really pissed off, and groused to the gate agent, but there was nothing she could do. Again, I received a $200 travel voucher–which I could have held out for more.

When you fly a lot, you see lots of screwups–screwups that are exacerbated when incomplete expalantions go viral on social media. Like the leggings incident.

Yesterday, I boarded an early morning flight from Newark. Moments after the door closed, the flight attendant did her count, and realized there were more passengers than seats! The gate agent had inadvertently cleared one more passenger from standby than she should have. There was a mini freakout, because the flight attendants realized they would have to kick someone off the flight who was already in a seat! Awful timing. Fortunately, one parent with a lap-child ticket had put her kid on a separate seat. With the child put back on the lap, the problem was resolved.

Last week, as I was boarding and putting my bag in the overheard, the guy behind me-who wreaked of alcohol–started making crass comments about how I was holding up the line. I ignored him. He continued to complain. Whatever, I ignored him. About five minutes later, a gate agents boarded the plane, and she walked off with the drunk passenger. He left, without incident. No one had to remove him physically. I’m glad he was removed from the flight. Hopefully, he was given a chance to sober up, and take a later flight.

Flying is not for the weak of heart.