An American Airlines passenger helped herself to a first class seat but was asked to move back to economy. Then another passenger was upgraded to the seat.
A woman recorded herself interacting with a manager from American Airlines on the jetbridge outside her flight as she was asked to speak with him off the aircraft. Watch the video below, details to follow.
The claim was that she took a seat that was still for sale at a discount at check-in but went unsold. As the seat was empty, she moved to that seat before being asked to return to her seat in economy at 14A. Another passenger, purportedly “white” was then given the seat in first class. Flight attendants alerted the pilot to a disruption, the door to the plane was reopened where the woman in the video was asked to speak to the manager on the jetbridge.
She recorded the interaction which was helpful because it is all clearly explained and the staff did what they were supposed to do. It’s important to note that as she was not asked to retrieve her bag and the door had not been closed again, this was just to explain the process and not to remove her from the aircraft. In fact, the manager then asked if she would like to continue the flight at which point she said she was “uncomfortable” and did not want to continue the journey on that aircraft.
Why Wasn’t She Allowed To Take The Seat When Others Were?
There are a number of reasons passengers are not allowed to switch seats once onboard. One of them is weight and balance. Without getting into the details, for take-off, the aircraft can be at risk of a tail strike if the aircraft is too heavily weighted in one area of the plane over another. Another reason guests are not allowed to switch seats is that the airline charges for certain seats on a plane. If a passenger paid for an economy plus seat, and another passenger simply sits in an empty one, that’s not fair to the passenger who paid. Also, if they move to an exit row, they may not have been there for the briefing and haven’t consented to the responsibilities therein.
But Why Did Someone Else Get The Seat For Free?
As the manager pointed out, airlines have elite status and prioritize upgrades according to that list. The passenger claimed that she took more than 25 flights so far this year which likely would have qualified her for status on a number of carriers, including American (depending on how much she spent on those flights.)
That said, the prioritization of that list will put those flying the most at the top of the list in descending order. If she had the highest status, she would have been given the seat issued by the manager at the gate and could have been moved onboard much as the other passenger was. This has happened to me several times. However, the fact that she didn’t know what “status” was in regards to the airline suggests that she is not a member of their frequent flyer program, and thus, even if she had flown 100 flights, only members are eligible for upgrades.
Claiming That ‘White People’ Were Upgraded Ahead Of Her
In the latter portion of the video she makes a claim out of misunderstanding. Without knowing about elite status and the upgrade list (which the manager tried to explain but is talked over) the picture painted seems unfair, and possibly racist, or classist (“that’s what you get for profiling again.”)
Reality paints a different picture. The person upgraded was on the upgrade list and was next in line. It was their seat to in accordance with the rules and procedures of American Airlines. Had the passenger been next on the upgrade list, they still would have been wrong for taking the seat before a new boarding pass was issued, but there was no racial determination made as to who gets the seat.
A black passenger without an understanding of the upgrade list, elite status, and airline loyalty programs helped herself to a vacant first class seat. She was sent back to economy, and then a white passenger who qualified for the upgrade was given the seat. The woman who upgraded herself was addressed by management who attempted to explain the process, but the original poster/passenger failed to accept the explanation and elected not to continue the flight.
What do you think?
Image credit: American Voices/Daily Caller