Last night I blogged about my seat assignment on a Newark-Brussels Continental flight that "magically" changed from 17D (an aisle in the second row of economy class with in-seat power) to 35E (a middle seat near the back of the aircraft with no emPower port). Now that I’ve landed in Brussels and have some time before my connection to Frankfurt, I thought I would provide some more details.
I checked in for my flight online about 24 hour prior to departure and my seat assignment, which had been reserved for several months, still indicated 17D. I arrived at EWR about an hour and a half before my flight yesterday and tried to print my boarding pass using one of the self-service kiosks. An error message showed up and a CO rep had to print out my boarding pass manually. After handing me a BP for 35E, I asked her why my seat was changed. She claimed she did not know and asked me to sort it out at the gate. I asked her to take a look for alternate seats and she claimed there were none (this was at Platinum check-in). Security lines were long so I proceed through security and made my way to the BRU gate where two agents were chatting.
After calmly and politely explaining the problem, all I got in response were two shrugs and a weak, "Maybe there was an equipment change?" There wasn’t. I asked if they could take a look into my reservation and see why the seat was changed, but was rebuffed, with a sardonic quip that, "seat assignments are not guaranteed." Well, maybe they are not, but this was not the type of apathy I expected, especially directed toward a Platinum. I wasn’t looking for an upgrade in this case, but this happened on a LAX-LHR UA flight once and I was offered a seat in first (after being moved to a middle seat in the last row of business class).
Next I proceeded to the customer service counter. Same apathy, same rudeness, same "seat assignments are not guaranteed" mantra. I stopped by the FRA gate to check if there was any space (it was oversold by 14 and they were soliciting volunteers) and got the same treatment. Is this the customer service we have to look forward to once the merger is complete?
I finally returned to the Brussels gate to check once more if any seats had opened up. Boarding was now in the final stages and a supervisor (wearing a red coat) yelled at me to board the plane. I asked him why my seat was moved and he was even more indifferent than the previous people I had dealt with, telling me that there wasn’t time (it was still 20 minutes prior to departure on a flight that ended up being delayed almost two hours), but I refused to back down.
With a loud sigh, he grabbed my boarding pass and moved me one row back to an aisle seat. Enough was enough: I saw that further protesting would do no good. I thanked him and boarded.
As I mentioned, customs paperwork delayed the flight by almost two hours so I had a chance to visit 17D during the ground delay–I was just curious who took the seat.
Lo and behold, it was a uniformed Continental mechanic, with his buddy one row in front of him! I introduced myself and asked if he might know why I was booted back to row 36. His colleague interjected, "Oh, we’re Continental mechanics who have to work all day tomorrow and since there were no BusinessFirst seats left, we got these."
Ah. It made sense now. I thanked them for their explanation and asked why wouldn’t the gate agents just tell me the truth. They shrugged and said, "They never tell the customers that."
The irony is that I had work the next day as well–and work on the flight to do that required a laptop plug-in.
Way to take care of your customers, Continental…