Home Airlines United: The Airline That Proves They Just Have No “Effs” To Give

United: The Airline That Proves They Just Have No “Effs” To Give

by SharonKurheg

We’ve not made it a secret that we refuse to fly on United anymore (here are all the reasons why) and haven’t for well over a year and a half. Which isn’t to say we’ve 100% written them off – we still keep up on what they do and what their CEO says, to see if they’ve made any sort of turnaround. And they have, at least to an extent – they don’t seem to be killing as many pets as they used to. That’s still not enough to lure us back. And to be honest, this didn’t help, either…

California resident Krunal Patel was apparently on a United flight from Minneapolis to Denver when he tweeted United:

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The plane was a Boeing 737, which means that Patels’ row, 22, was the first row of the Economy seating (note: there are actually 3 versions of United seating charts for the 737-800, but all 3 have row 22 as the first row of Economy).

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Here’s what United wrote in response:


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And Patel’s reply:

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Here’s where things start to get sticky. United’s response to Patel:

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Patel gave a response that I can totally identify with:

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The Twitterverse, not surprisingly, chimed in with responses such as:

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Patel, by the way, has since deactivated his Twitter account. If these were the kinds of things people were saying to/about him “in public,” heaven knows what kind of crap people were giving him elsewhere.

But back to his request and United’s response…

Frankly, I don’t see what’s so horrible about Patel’s initial question. The cabin door was closed and no one else was going to use those seats. It certainly didn’t (or rather, shouldn’t have) hurt to ask to move forward, nor would it have hurt United in any way to let him move and allow him and everyone else in row 22 have more room. They allow families to move around when they don’t sit them together. They allow people to lie across 3 seats if they happen to have 2 empties next to them. If you go to a theater show, people often sit in the empty, better (more expensive) seats during the second act. The same thing happens at concerts. Car rental companies and hotels will sometime give an upgrade, just because they can. So again, I see no harm in his asking.

United’s response, however, was absolutely unprofessional and inappropriate. Not so much their initial response – the UA rep named “^BA” simply explained that those seats cost more and him moving to them wouldn’t be fair to those who had paid for an upgrade. But when Patel explained that the seats were going to remain empty anyway, United’s mean spirited, “…If you were to purchase a Toyota, you would not be able to drive off with a Lexus, because it was empty” reply was 100% uncalled for and inappropriate. There are much nicer ways to say, “Sorry, no,” to a paying customer.

Without looking at their list of rules and regulations, I’m sure United has a policy that says you can’t change seats to a better seat. I’m equally as sure that, or some other policy/policies is/are allowed to be broken every single day. This was an opportunity for United to show some goodwill and perhaps earn some brownie points with those who won’t fly on their because of their past issues, and they blew it.

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


Levy Flight September 13, 2019 - 6:37 pm

Stay innthe stay in the seat paid for. Are you recommending people self upgrade to biz or first class? UA are right on this one.

Ryan September 13, 2019 - 9:41 pm

I agree. While UA was a bit too snarky, they were in the right. E+ is a separe product that costs extra.

NYUJ September 13, 2019 - 7:23 pm

The twitter team member may have handled this situation poorly. However, people should not self upgrade themselves on the plane just because it is “empty.”

Christian September 13, 2019 - 8:07 pm

I’d use a hotel analogy here. Is it a smart move and really good business to upgrade someone into a place that would otherwise remain unused in order to highlight the better product, increase customer satisfaction and foment loyalty? Of course. It’s a no brainer. That said, maybe United has some crazy stringent policy that this is never allowed. In any case, the response was achingly stupid.

George September 13, 2019 - 9:32 pm

I agree that the Toyota/Lexus analogy doesn’t fully work, but it’s not WAY off, and I feel the rest of the article is you letting your disdain for United cloud your judgment. If someone is allowed to switch seats, it encourages others to (ask to) do the same, potentially leading to ugly situations. It may also make the seat-switcher, and possibly others, think they can buy the cheapest ticket/reserve the worst seat and then switch to a great seat once on board. There’s a slight chance of a center of mass issue, too, but that’s unlikely unless people start moving en masse.

The theater analogy is spot-on, and I have to say, I hate it when people do that!

The rental car/hotel analogy is worse than the Toyota/Lexus one – if the company is showing preferential treatment proactively, they’re buying loyalty; if you asked for it and got it, you did so at check-in/pickup, not afterward (unless there was a legitimate issue with what you were assigned). Guess what? You can do the same at the airport check-in counter! What a novel idea!

Why does asking at check-in work? Because you’re asking someone with knowledge of the overall picture, knowledge of your status/history, clear instructions as to how to do it, and a way to communicate the updated information to whomever it may affect. And it’s done quietly. But asking when on board is like getting to your hotel room and then loudly asking the first employee you see to unlock a specific empty room** and let you stay in it. That employee probably won’t know the housekeeping workload (or if that room has a plumbing issue), doesn’t know whether you’re Joe Schmo or a distinguished guest, hasn’t been given a procedure for it, and doesn’t know who to tell that they did it. Oh, and the guest next door is standing in the hallway.

**Yeah, yeah, no way to truly tell for sure… just work with me here.

Paulz September 13, 2019 - 9:57 pm

This is so easy! Pay for the seat you want and there ya go. Don’t make me feel like a chump for buying the seat and then when someone moves up I feel taken advantage of.

United is only stating you sit where you bought. Why does everyone want everything for free?

JohnB September 13, 2019 - 10:09 pm

“nor would it have hurt United in any way to let him move and allow him and everyone else in row 22 have more room.“ What about row 23? 24? 25 – 38? Which passengers should United be nice to? And United did tell him nicely why he couldn’t, and he responded “I understand that”, but he obviously didn’t. While the car analogy was odd (they should have used the empty first class seat scenario), a stronger response was needed because he wasn’t getting it. And his response saying he won’t fly United again shows he still doesn’t get it. He didn’t get what he wanted. Too bad. Next time, he should consider spending more. And if he does spend more next time, and there are lots of empty upgraded seats, would he be ok with an airline filling up that section with passengers who didn’t spend more? I doubt it. He’d be complaining that they should pay what he paid.

Jackson September 14, 2019 - 12:35 am

United may have some issues or a lot but this is absolutely not one of them. You paid for an economy class ticket, that’s the product that you should receive. If this was a 4 class plane, if there was empty first class or business class seats should someone get to sit there and not “hurt” the company?

Another poster got it right, if the situation were different. The Twitter poster would have been absolutely fuming if they’d paid for a higher level of service of product and suddenly after doors close, it’s a free for all.

Richard Cockram September 14, 2019 - 10:25 am

If someone that didn’t pay for the seat self upgrades, then the people that paid for the upgraded seat will feel slighted and quite rightly be due a refund of the extra money.
If you buy the cheapest seat on the plane that’s on you, and you cant complain because someone else paid to sit up front.
I dont self upgrade to. 1st class just because there is an empty seat now do I???

gus September 14, 2019 - 10:53 am

This United hate-train needs to stop. AA is in many ways a worse airline in how they treat their passengers. Some of my worst experiences ever have been with BA. I’ve flown almost a million miles with United in the past 8 years and had maybe 2 bad experiences. It’s because of the David Dao story that now everyone is flipping out at every little thing.

Of course they don’t allow you to move to a premium seat either just because it’s empty. By the way, no other airline would either.
What about business class? What if there’s a free business class seat, can I just move there?
(obviously not)

By the way, United moves passengers to economy plus all the time even though they haven’t paid, when they’ve oversold regular economy – at the end, any empty and unclaimed economy plus seats (usually middle seats) are distributed to people without seat assignments.

Tony September 15, 2019 - 1:58 am

Really Dude? Its totally not fair to the people who paid for the seat. Otherwise why bother paying for the seat when u can just sit in regular coach, wait for the door to close then upgrade yourself. This sort of entitled behavior is BS. Kudos to United for enforcing this.

RH September 15, 2019 - 11:25 am

It’s not clear to a customer why the seats closer to the front are more expensive. He was asking to move to what appeared to him to be equivalent seats to what he was sitting in, but more spread out so everybody would be more comfortable. “I understand that” was his acknowledgement that he could not freely move to the “business class” seats in the next cabin. He felt he was asking something different, to move to an empty row. The United person, steeped in the airline culture of slicing things as thin as possible so that an imperceptibly larger slice can be charged twice as much, referred to row 21 as a “Lexus” and row 22 as a “Toyota”, which is nonsense to the passenger, who can see the seats are virtually identical.

For the flight to be going out with so many premium seats empty suggests either a Revenue Management failure by the airline, or weight-and-balance issues, perhaps because of a heavy mail load, that required clustering the passengers at the back as ballast.

dylan W September 15, 2019 - 3:19 pm

Want to sit in a premium cabin? Pay for it. Doesn’t matter if the door is closed. Pay for it. The passengers seated there paid for it, why should someone else get a free upgrade just because the door closed? That’s effing stupid.

Ken O. September 16, 2019 - 3:17 pm

I actually had someone on an international try to steal my business class seat that our client company had paid for based on — I don’t know — he got there first and possession is 9/10 of the law or something?

I wasn’t having any of it and had the flight attendant escort him back to his coach seat.

I’m no travel snob; I’ve probably flown more miles in coach in the space of a year than most people will in their lifetimes. But it never once occurred to me to try and move up to a higher-class seat than what I’d paid for or earned in an upgrade.


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