A woman angrily took to social media claiming that United Airlines downgraded her fiancé from “first class to coach” so that a member of the flight crew could have his seat. She is understandably upset, but let’s better understand what happened.
Woman Upset That Fiancé Was Downgraded On United For Flight Attendant, But There’s More To The Story
Danielle Schwab was traveling from London (LHR) to Chicago (ORD) on United Airlines in Polaris Business Class with her fiancé. Onboard, he was downgraded on the premise that his premium cabin seat was needed for a member of the flight crew, which they later found out was a flight attendant.
Schwab lamented that she had “booked fair and square” and found it unacceptable that her fiancé was “moved to coach” so “part of the crew” could “sit in first class instead.”
“This is not fair. This is not customer service. I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous.”
#unitedairlines #dobetter #unitedairlinestiktok #fyp
If you listen to her above, she comes across as quite reasonable…I certainly would be angry too.
But there’s more to the story than United simply booting out a passenger so that a crew member could have his seat. And her fiancé was not moved to economy class, but premium economy class, which is quite a step up on United (not that it really makes the downgrade much better).
A United spokesperson explained:
“To provide the required room for crew members to rest during the flight, we had to reassign two customers who were originally ticketed in Polaris to Premium Plus seats instead. We understand this is frustrating for our customers, and we refunded the price difference for the seats and offered each customer a $1,500 certificate for future travel.”
I realize that $1,500 and a refund for the difference in cost is often not a deal the downgraded passenger would have made voluntarily. But she was on a Boeing 767-300 jet (you can tell by the horrible fluorescent light in her video above). These planes do not have a crew rest area, like on other jets. Typically, seat 1A is reserved for pilot rest and flight attendants have a block of seats in the rear of the plane that have enhanced recline and a footrest.
But in a follow-up video, we learn that the flight attendant rest seats in the rear of the plane were somehow unavailable or broken, meaning that a pair of business class seats were needed for the crew (again, due to a contractual requirement).
Part 2!! #unitedairlines #unitedairlinestiktok #dobetter #fyp
This clip gives us another clue as to why this man may have been downgraded. Notice when she holds up her boarding pass she is traveling on a basic economy ticket. It isn’t clear to me how she was able to upgrade her London to Chicago flight (maybe it was a separate ticket), but United will typically bump passengers with the lowest MileagePlus status on the cheapest tickets first. If these folks were traveling without status on basic economy tickets, there is a decent chance he was chosen on that basis.
On the other hands, as I found out once on a flight to Brussels, sometimes specific seats are needed and the status of the passenger does not matter.
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Certainly the optics of downgrading a paid passenger so a flight attendant can occupy a business class seat are not great. Here, however, it seems like United handled the situation well. Even in Chicago, while the resolution may not have been to the satisfaction of the couple, I’m somewhat impressed they were met at the door of the aircraft and escorted through passport control and customs.
Downgrades are a never fun and thankfully are rare, but contractual obligations require this sort of thing. I’m not sure United could have done it any better here onboard…I received nothing when I was downgraded…
But the couple may be due some additional cash compensation, per UK261 (the post-Brexit version of EU261, which requires cash compensation in the case of last-minute downgrades). It is not clear how much United refunded them.
An entitled left wing white woman. She would fit in perfect In the comments section.
Okay keyboard warrior lol
Why? Is that what entitled, racist, hate-filled white men are looking for these days?
Certain people in society have earned the right to be entitled.
Rightfully entitled, due to the fact that she paid for a first class seat. Had she been a person of color, she still would have been rightfully entitled to the seat she paid for. That’s how commerce works.
It’s not the passenger’s fault UA didn’t have appropriate crew rest space. Old dilapidated aircraft is the responsibility of the airline.
Yes!!! This comment right here. It’s United fault for not fixing the crew seats in the back. Not the passengers who ponies up the big bucks for polaris.
Quoted from another article: “Mikey said they were given a “glorified fast pass” through the customs and immigration process line, but it seemed less like a perk as they had a four-hour layover waiting for them on the other side.” So she complained about extra time in the Polaris Lounge?
They were in United Club (C5 from the looks of it) since guests are not allowed in Polaris Lounge. That’s actually a good point – letting them into the Polaris Lounge would have been a much nicer customer service gesture.
A full refund, plus additional compensation for the stress caused, is the only appropriate resolution. Any other resolution is insufficient and unacceptable.
” contractual obligations require this sort of thing”.
So the type of FA rest seat is not an FAA requirement.
The airline has a contractual obligation to the FA via the union.
The airline also has a contractual obligation to the passenger to whom they sold the seat up front.
Would it have been so out of the question for the FA to rest in the “quite a step up” premium economy seat this one time?
Once again the entitled staff come ahead of the paying customer on United. Remember when non-rev LUA pilots were contractually entitled F seats ahead of paying customers? Why should United’s contractual agreement with its staff come ahead of any contractual agreement with the paying customers? Great business model (not).
Because you only get to be the best and biggest airline in the galaxy by catering to Sara Nelson thugs’ whims before any paying customer, and that includes kicking them out of J.
I don’t consider refund of price difference plus travel credit to be fair. Passenger is being involuntarily charged for premium economy which they did not agree to. Should be full refund with the option of premium economy on the same flight or business on a later flight with hotel and meals or business on a connecting flight
I agree with you. Was the pax given an option to go back to economy and get a larger refund? I doubt it. Should have been a full refund plus the max they’d do for a voluntary bump. UA knew well beforehand that they’d need the seats, these shouldn’t have even sold or been available to an upgrade queue
It is so nice to read an article that doesn’t involve fist fights between PAX and crew or other PAX. Dare I say we might be returning to normalcy when it comes to travel behavior? Nah…Just saw the article about the brawl at the baggage claim area at ORD. This was a “no win” situation because of competing requirements. If UA had cancelled the entire flight becuase they didn’t have working seats for FA crew rest, image that result on the rest of the folks on the flight. At the same time, we don’t know what communications occurred between UA and the PAXs before the boarded the flight. I’d be shocked if they waited until the PAXs were onboard and then tapped the lady’s fiancé to say, “whoops, we drew the short straw for you.” If that was the case, then UA really screwed the whole customer relations actions. If they had quietly queried PAX in F to see if they wanted a “deal” , maybe found someone that was in biz on the outbound but economy or economy plus for the return, they might have made a deal with that PAX and avoided the whole PR mess. Or if they only had this guy to downgrade, they should have taken them aside, esplained the situation, tell them they will be compensated with X, Y, and Z, bring them a FC meal back to the gentleman’s seat, etc. I realize that loading up a big ass aircraft for a long overseas flight takes a lot of effort by the gate agents, but this seems like a missed opportunity.
“ premium economy class, which is quite a step up on United” Is that a joke? United is disgraceful no matter what class you fly but there is absolutely nothing on Premium Economy that appeals to me. If I buy business class, that is what I expect to get. Resting FAs? How tired were they? Seriously, find new FAs for the next flight. This is what I said yesterday that customer service is no longer part of the dictionary here.
I’m not downplaying how unfortunately this situation turned out, but merely pointing out there is a huge delta between economy and premium economy class in terms of the seat and meal (unlike on Delta, premium economy receives a version of the business class meal on porcelain, not the coach meal). The claim that the fiancé was moved to economy class is not wholly accurate.
I may find it ridiculous too that FAs need to rest on an 8-hour daytime flight…BUT that is what the union negotiated and contractually UA must abide by it.
Maybe you can be honest once and let us know how you are getting compensated by United or its affiliates and how much because everyone is a travel expert now a days. United is a dumb racist airline ( Yes even if one employee behaves like that, it gets attributed to the company). Sorry your analysis here doesn’t make much sense.
No compensation. Never. Ever.
To clarify, was the fiancé in a paid business class seat or was it some sort of upgrade. This wasn’t clear from the article. The boarding pass in the picture is for a second leg (ORD to LAX).
If the former, I would also be very unhappy with United. They had a contact with the passenger by selling them the business class ticket.
We don’t have that information, though I suspect this was a buy-up at check-in if they were traveling on a basic economy ticket.
Your info is outdated. Delta Premium Select now also gets a variant of Delta One meals. The only remaining difference from pre pandemic is that plates have not returned
The reports I have seen make it look like a very economy class meal. Do you have any pictures?
I just flew in DPS on Delta and it is several steps up from main cabin. You do get a pre-departure beverage, you get beverage service in real glassware, with a snack, and really silverware. With the first meal service you do get something that is slightly different than what they get in main cabin but you still don’t have meals served on real plates. The snacks that are offered through out the flight are different than what they get in main cabin however the pre-arrival meal on Delta is 100% the same meal that is found in main cabin and instead of drinks being service in real glass they are served in plastic cups and instead of real silverware you get the same bamboo silverware they get in main cabin.
As someone who flies with both Delta and United I will say United’s Premium Select is no different than coach in terms of service whereas Delta on the front end offers a slightly upgraded service that slowly slides down into the same service you get in main cabin as the flight progresses.
Both airlines have tons of room to improve their premium economy service.
Main courses are the same. Yes, the plating looks like its economy. This changed late last year IIRC
What is so hard about using ceramics in DPS?
@Matthew Idk I ask the same question lol
“Contractual obligations require this type of thing”
What we have here is United not honoring their contractual obligations to their passenger and prioritizing contractual obligations to their flight attendants. It’s unfortunate passengers get railroaded. Why does United have to abide by their union contract with flight attendants but not passengers. The whole thing about contract of carriage is irrelevant as when they knowingly sell a product as x they have to provide x.
Obviously the contract with the FAs is a bigger deal than the contract with this single passenger.
Appropriately compensating the passenger and fulfilling the FA contract are not necessarily mutually exclusive propositions, but I don’t get the confusion as to why the airline would prioritize it’s contract with a union representing twenty thousand employees that it needs every day over the contract it has with one passenger who seldom flies with United.
Read the back of the ticket… you are NOT guaranteed a particular seat on the flight.
Shut up, Karen. Be happy you got back to Chicago.
This clown doesn’t even realize the difference between first class and business class. Tells you all you need to know about their knowledge level.
It’s a reasonable mistake for a non-seasoned traveler.
Matt, my all-time favorite story is my wife had only flown 3 times in her life and she was put into business class and later pushed up to first. She complained “I thought I was in business class! Is 1st class as good as business?” and the FA said she could try it out and see.
I asked her if she enjoyed it and she replied “The crew kept bothering me and wouldn’t leave me alone constantly pestering me if I wanted something!” I pointed out to her she could have asked for caviar and she cried “Why didn’t you tell me?” She did appear well rested when I picked her up at the airport though.
I had a similar experience with my wife– flying transatlantic one Christmas Eve we were booked in adjacent business class seats. When we scanned our boarding passes the scanner made the “bad” noise and the gate agent explained that they had to change our seats and that she had new boarding passes for us.
She handed my wife the passes, and said Merry Christmas. The passes were for seats 2A and 3A, and my wife started to complain “We aren’t even in the same aisle any more!” I knew immediately that we had been upgraded to first class and told her to settle down and get in those seats!
I am with the other commenter- if the usual FA crew rest seats are like what I’ve seen, the equivalent would have been the Premium Plus seats not lay flat business class. The pax should have retained their seats and the crew could have rested in the Premium Plus seats. Regardless as to how the pax ended up in the seats, whether via miles, cash upgrade or plus points upgrade or paid cash, its poor business to do that to a customer.
And I hate Premium Plus- you can’t sleep any better because the seats still don’t recline enough, the food isn’t that much better (eat in the Polaris lounge before boarding bc even business class food is poor on UA lately) and you still have to use the regular lavs in the back. It’s ludicrous what UA charges for those seats. You don’t even have the possibility of poor man’s first class which you’d get in economy class (where you get 2-3 seats empty to lay down properly) bc the armrests are fixed in Premium Plus. Ugh.
It’s a good point, and probably has to do with a contract that preceded the introduction of Premium Plus.
So many complete idiots here.
You buy a ticket in business class from A to B. The contract you have with the airline is to deliver you there. There is no guarantee that it’ll be in business class. Of course, they’ll try, but the contract is to get you there, not a guarantee that it’ll be in any seat or cabin. That’s the long and short of it. It’s not complicated.
Stop giving clicks to self-promoting idiots who are craving attention. There’s no need to provide this moron’s name or tiktok link – you only encourage this kind of stupidity. Please stop hurting the world.
So “contractual” obligations means FAs cannot be in broken seats.
And passengers can?
Not seeing how this is well handled. Unless Matthew has a connection with AFA-CWA
LOL. You should hear what the AFA-CWA says about me when I write stuff like this:
Couldn’t they have taken the fiance’s old Polaris BP and her BP and both gone to the Polaris lounge at ORD? Or would they have taken the Polaris BP when he got downgraded?
One small item to note- This woman was dismissive of the United reps offer to waive an overweight bag fee on the connection I presume as the bag was not overweight at their origin- my experience has been that intl business bag allowance is 70 lbs, and would have been 50ibs for the connection, so that bag would not have been over the allowance at LHR, but over for the connection , so the agent would have offered value to them.
If I were the UA GA or the passenger in question, I’d have asked to be rebooked on next UA flight with confirmed business class seats for two and an airport hotel night. Being split up compounds the problem for passengers.
She lost me the minute she’s starts a video of herself on board, going to social media and the court of public opinion.
Actually, she didn’t lose you at all. The only reason you are here commenting on the situation is because she took it to the public. United absolutely deserves public shaming for stunts like this, and the fact that her experience is making news shows that her use of social media to document the issue has been effective.
Why couldn’t the flight attendant be seated in the seat the man was reassigned to sit in? If done so, there would have been no conflict.
Another potential issue is how the “refund” gets calculated. Example: purchase a ticket from IAD to LAX in Business for $1,500. Choices at that time were coach $250 or Business for $1.500.
Day of departure you get involuntary downgrade to coach. United want to refund $400 because coach price on day of departure was $1,100. Completely ridiculous. No recourse in USA because Congress won’t write any rules.
All the more reason for someone to not buy business class tickets outright rather than upgrading unless the deal is exceptionally good beforehand. That way if the passenger is downgraded, they get back the upgrade fees they paid.
I’ve seen a situation where the economy class full fare was actually higher than the discounted business class fare, so the downgrade was technically considered an upgrade.
That’s a key point in my mind too. How much money was actually refunded? Everyone knows that the last business class seat on a transatlantic flight sells for a high price, and in my opinion, that is the price the passenger should be credited at.
In my opinion the correct way to handle this is offer two options: A genuinely good cash option that acknowledges the value of a business class seat in a sold out cabin, or an alternate flight in a business class cabin with delay expenses covered. The passenger gets to choose.
I honestly think the FA should feel bad knowing they booted someone who by all accounts was actually excited to try the product. I know they don’t actually care what the customers think, but that’s a real shame.
@Jerry, I’m sure it ruined the flight attendant’s whole week. HAAAA!!!
261 does apply to outbound flights by non-EU/UK carriers, so he would be entitled to a 75% refund of the total price paid.
I wonder if United offered the premium economy seat but cash to the FA instead if everyone would have been happier
I woips not care one bit about being escorted through customs. If the plane had not yet boarded when I was downgraded, I’d tell them to rebook me on the next flight with an available business class seat. If the plane had already taken off, I would absolutely demand a full refund, plus significant additional compensation for making me suffer for 8 hours in economy. If United failed to offer that, I would sue them.
My issue would be the poor planning on United’s behalf. Presumably, the contractual requirement existed at the time of booking, so why not automatically block a sufficient number of seats for FAs and not overbook C on that aircraft type?
It’s really not that complicated, pay for the seat and you will almost be the last person bumped. Use points etc for an upgrade or buy a check in offer and you could be bumped. Secret, pay full price and you will be the last one bumped. Also, its business class not first class, but saying first class certainly makes you sound like a victim doesnt it.
You realize the sale/purchase of a ticket is contractual too, right?
Being in a fiancé position, I could turn the headline around and speculate she was upset because “SHE couldn’t rest with him in his business class seat.”
Sure sounds like a lack of sufficient planning on the part of United. Once again the customer suffers. Where’s that passenger Bill of Rights?
Thank you for the clarification
Maybe UA should comp 1 year of Global Services status for this incident. Matthew, What do you think?
@Hugh Jass — Who cares? It’s shit service. Sorry you’re into settling for less. Makes me wonder about the rest of your life.
I think he got the better deal. Could you imagine having to sit with HER all those hours?
Look at the face of the fiancé.
As long as he got dessert with his meal in Economy Plus, what’s your problem!!
maybe someone with more motivation that I have at this time can use the name and 6-letter confirmation code on the ticket that she so proudly displays to see if they can pull up the rest of the itinerary for the LHR-ORD portion?