Monitor seat assignments. Monitor them often. A recent seating snafu involving a family of seven provides a perfect case study.
A British family spent some time in the USA and had booked their return flight from Denver to London and paid extra for EconomyPlus seating. Upon check-in however, they found their seats had been changed and they were now scattered around the aircraft…including their two-year-old seated alone.
The flight was full and United was unable to get them seated together, though United apparently was able to find seating for two pairs and and a trio. Refusing to board the aircraft without all seven seated together, the family opted to remain in Denver.
Small problem. The DEN-LHR flight the following day was also full and the family did not want to add a connection. And the next day. So the family had three wait two days to get home (during that time, United provided hotel and meal vouchers).
Speaking to the Daily Mirror, a British tabloid, the family described the situation and suggested that United staff were unconcerned about leaving a two-year-old and three-year-old surrounded by total strangers on the flight. I find that very hard to believe.
I reached out to United for comment and received this back:
Adjustments made to our customers’ reservation caused an unintentional change to their seat assignments. Due to a lack of seven available seats together on the flight from Denver to London, our customer service agents offered alternative flight arrangements. We re-booked these customers on the first available flight that offered seats together and provided hotel and meal vouchers.
We continue to remain in contact with our customers to resolve this issue.
What Really Happened…And How To Protect Against It
It seems there was a spelling error on the ticket for one of the passengers. That required a correction during check-in at London Heathrow. When the ticket was re-issued with the correct name, all seat assignments were lost since all seven tickets were on the same reservation.
I’m not for one instance casting blame on the family here. But these loss of seat assignments routinely happen when tickets are re-issued. Had the family monitored their seat assignments…or at least known to do so, this problem would likely never to have occurred.
Seat assignments are annoying things. For a variety of reasons, they don’t always stick. You can avoid disappointment by being aware of this and closely monitoring your seat assignments. If you see your seat assignments drop out, re-assign them immediately or call the airline to do so.
It is absolutely an arduous step, but unfortunately necessary one.
Whether it should be necessary or not is not the question. It is. This sad story demonstrates precisely why. Save yourself an even great hassle later by checking your seat assignments often, especially when you cannot accept being separated onboard.