United Airlines Uses Cars To Explain Why Passengers Can’t Sit In Empty Economy Plus Seats

United Airlines has won the internet. Yesterday, when a passenger complained via Twitter about his seat, United’s customer service reps came up with just the best response. Here’s what happened.

United Airlines does not take criticism lying down. Photo: United Airlines


What happened?

United Airlines has used the power of social media to express a good point well made. The Points Guy reports that a customer by the name of Krunal Patel was aboard a United Airlines domestic flight when he contacted them via Twitter in order to complain about his seating arrangements.

Patel was evidently unhappy about the fact that he wasn’t simply able to move to an unoccupied row for free. Of course, it is not uncommon for airlines to offer free upgrades on flights that aren’t fully occupied, but that’s at their own discretion and not because someone’s having a moan.

United Airlines was adamant that the decision taken was a fair one, and explained to Patel precisely why he had been denied free access to these seats.

Unperturbed by this explanation, Patel continued to badger United Airlines for an upgrade, pointing out that the seats weren’t been used, and indeed wouldn’t and couldn’t be used.

But this didn’t persuade United Airlines, who went on to explain that the passengers who had paid for Economy Plus were benefiting from the empty space. In fact, the airline went a step further, using an interesting car analogy to firmly illustrate the situation.

While the discussion has garnered a fair bit of attention on social media, this issue perhaps illustrates how separating economy class into different levels of service has caused some controversy.

Class divide

Having seats of different levels within the same cabin can naturally be confusing for passengers. While there is a clear demarcation between economy and business, the different levels of economy service are, arguably, not as apparent. This can mean that some passengers believe that they should be able to move between them unimpeded.

United economy plus
United’s Economy Plus is for paying passengers only. Photo: United

However, it’s also understandable that a carrier such as United Airlines would require people to pay for premium coach seats, and wouldn’t just allow a passenger to upgrade for free because seats are empty. This would obviously send out completely the wrong message on several levels, so the position of the airline is perfectly reasonable.

In fact, it could be argued that the somewhat confrontational attitude of the passenger, in this case, was unnecessary. But, even if he had been more courteous, the outcome would likely have still been the same.

Grey area

However, airlines do also create something of a grey area by enabling loyal customers to upgrade for free on some flights. This is one of the perks of frequent flyer programs, which enable those purchasing economy tickets to upgrade when open seats are available. Of course, airlines have every right to do this in order to reward those that fly regularly, but it can seem unfair to other passengers being treated differently on the same flight, or in the same situation.

united 787
While an upgrade can be nice, it should never be assumed. Photo: United

Nonetheless, it seems that this particular customer had purchased an economy ticket, hoping to be upgraded, not seemingly realizing that this is far from guaranteed.

Do you sympathize with the airline or the passenger in this situation? Let us know in the comments.