Unpopular Opinion: Leaving Premium Seats Empty Has Never Made People Book Those Seats In The Future

I’ve never seen Sharon unwittingly walk into a tornado of comments like she did last week. Apparently her thoughts in her article United: The Airline That Proves They Just Have No “Effs” To Give were more controversial than she imagined they would be. The basis of the article was about United’s Twitter team response to a request of a passenger to upgrade to the empty rows of Economy Plus left empty in front of him.

What seemed to set everyone off what Sharon’s comment about how United could have instilled some goodwill to passengers by offering upgrades to the empty seats.

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How To Understand Airline Seat Class Names

Have you ever felt like this when booking airfare? “I’d like to book a seat in Basic Premium Extra Plus Comfort Class that includes exit row seat assignments but without an extra carry on bag.”

Knowing what class of airline seat you were buying didn’t use to be hard. There were only two or maybe three classes to choose from. First Class. Business Class and Coach. Yep, that’s Coach. Not Economy. Not Main Cabin. Not Core. Just plain old Coach. And do you know what? Everyone was fine with that. No one was complaining that the names were inappropriate. You knew what class you were in and everyone was happy.

Flash forward to today and there are numerous names differentiating the seat choices offered by each airline. None of the names are the same and names that happen to be similar can still mean very different seat types. American Airlines leads the pack with eight different types of categories. United follows closely behind with seven and Delta has six. Southwest Airlines is the easiest to understand, as they only have one class of seat, and they don’t even bother to give it a name 🙂

Here’s my attempt to make sense of all of these names, from top to bottom…

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Maybe American Airlines Isn’t As Bad As I Thought (Hmm…On Second Thought, Yeah, It Still Is)

Over the course of several years, I’d convinced myself that American wasn’t that great of an airline to fly on. This isn’t taking the destruction devaluation of the Advantage frequent flyer program into account; it was just the experience we had when flying with them. Their gate agents tended to range from indifferent to downright surly. Take the flight where the gate agent insisted that Sharon’s bag was too big for the overhead and the other flight where the exact same thing happened again.

All of these experiences led to American placing 5th on our list of best U.S. Airlines only beating out the ultra low cost carriers (and United, which we flat out refuse to fly). Honestly, our experiences on Frontier were better than our flights on American. At least their cabin crews acted like they actually wanted to be there.

I was admittedly trying to avoid flying on American wherever I could, but in some situations, I just couldn’t avoid them due to cost or schedule. Then something happened.

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We Flew Like Frequent Flyers (Which We’re Not) On American For One Flight. What’s Different?

When Sharon and I fly, we’re usually sitting somewhere in the back half of the airplane because I’m too cheap to pay for a better seat and we have no status to allow us to get the better seat assignments. There was the one exception this year when I paid way too many miles for a last-minute seat on a Delta flight and ended up getting upgraded to a Comfort Plus seat, but that was just a lucky break. However there was one flight this year where I knew we were going to get a better seat, unless it was taken away from us. The flight home from New York on the Monday after Thanksgiving on American Airlines.

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