Some passengers book one business class seat or use an upgrade and trade use of the seat, splitting time between coach and business class. Is this right? Fair? Is it wrong?
Have You Seen This Before?
On a long-haul flight from Newark to Tokyo, I found a family sharing a single business class seat with three different passengers from the same family each taking a turn (plus a baby). A gentleman took his seat in front of me ahead of the 13.5-hour journey. He immediately went to sleep and then got up about four hours into the flight, requested his pre-ordered meal (which they failed to execute because business class catering remains a challenge) and he ate what he was served.
He then reset his seat, walked through the curtain behind us to coach and (presumably) his mother-in-law found the seat, set it up as a bed and slept for another four hours or so. She left the seat to be replaced by her daughter, the gentleman’s partner. Each passenger held the seat for near equal time, the child there just for the first stretch.
Is It Ethical?
Personally, my family wouldn’t do this. If we can’t or don’t want to spend the money or points for business class seats for all of us (including my daughter) then we fly in coach or don’t take the trip. We have encountered this before coming back from South America on coach tickets when one upgrade request cleared but not the other for my wife and our (then) lap infant daughter. We sat in the back and gave the upgrade away to the next in line.
That being said, it reminds me of the Hidden-City ticket debate from a few months ago. On one hand, it’s that family’s seat to use. Other passengers and commenters have told me that because they are 6’5” tall, they should get main cabin extra seats or upgrades over my daughter because her feet don’t yet touch the floor. I wholeheartedly disagree. It’s my seat to use how I like even if that means Yao Ming rides with his knees up against a seat while my daughter’s dangle off the edge.
Then again, I am pretty sure it violates the contract of carriage and certainly the intent of the airline. United (and any other carrier) has the right to enforce their rules as they see fit. Sharing a seat amongst three (and a half) passengers is likely a violation and the originally ticketed party should have stayed in the seat for the duration.
As a Fellow Passenger, It Doesn’t Change My Experience
The male passenger wanted to hold his lap infant for takeoff. The FA got permission from the purser to allow it. Kids can be funny on airplanes and anything that keeps them calm, I fully support. Even with the revolving door that was 17L, it wasn’t really my problem. They weren’t noisy and my experience wasn’t impacted other than when the man made quite an emotional display regarding his meal. Then again, I decided to write a post on the matter so who am I to judge?
If it doesn’t impact me personally, should I care? Would you care?
Does it Matter if it Was an Upgrade vs. Paid vs. Redemption?
While I am raising the topic I remain undecided about the following. Does it make a difference to our readership the way the seat was acquired? Does it matter whether the seat was an upgrade (maybe they tried to clear three seats but only one made it), an award booking (subject to availability) or paid for with cash?
I don’t know that it changes anything for me, but some Facebook groups differentiate the manner by which they came about the seat regarding the rights and privileges of those passengers.