Just to be fair and balanced….

Before I start praising United for how awesome they were yesterday, I wanted to mention what happened to me this morning (March 1) on UA7679 from JFK to IAD. There were five other FlyerTalkers on this flight (all 1K and Global Services), and while I originally wasn’t going to upgrade, the fact that there were four FlyerTalkers in first class and two open seats in first class on the E170 was enough reason for me to upgrade.

In the Red Carpet Club I added myself to the waitlist, and I was number one. As we were getting ready to leave the Red Carpet Club for our 9:30AM departure, we all got EasyUpdates saying the flight was delayed until 10AM. We asked the Red Carpet Club agent to confirm, and she said the flight was still on-time. She even phoned the gate to ask about the departure time, and they said 9:30AM as well. We decided to go to the gate, and lo and behold the departure time is 10AM. Gotta love how customers have more information than the gate agent working the flight, apparently.

Anyway, they were rebooking passengers from the earlier flight (which was a one cabin aircraft) to our flight since it was delayed by over an hour and there were several passengers with international connections. We eventually start boarding and as I walk to the podium I ask the agent to check on the status of my upgrade. She said it didn’t clear, but I didn’t care too much.

We get aboard and I’m in the bulkhead row of the E170 (row three), while there are four FlyerTalkers in first class, along with two other people. One of the other people is obviously a United employee, given that he was standing behind the counter, had three carry-ons, and was helping people “gate check” bags. He sits down for a while and talks to the seatmate as well, so he wasn’t just working the flight.

I started talking to the other FlyerTalkers about the situation since we all agreed something wasn’t right, but we were relatively discreet about it given that they were seated right in front of me. We agreed I would write a letter to United about the situation but wouldn’t push it further at JFK since our flight was already delayed.

As boarding finishes up the guy that we suspect is a non-rev points to me and motions for me to take his seat in first class, I assume because he overheard our conversation. He gets off the plane, and moments later the gate agent comes aboard with my new boarding pass. The guy never reboarded.

While I won’t report this to UA, I suspect foul play.

By the way, I find it interesting that they serve hot towels on a United Express non-meal flight but don’t do so on most United mainline flights, even when there’s a meal.

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. Lucky –

    I don’t understand what happened? Was this guy an employee? Was he commuting? Did the gate agent hold back a seat just for him, you think? And did he not get back on because he didn’t want the heat on him?

    Just trying to sort out what was going on.

    Eric

  2. Ben,
    Great post! It will be interesting to read the feedback! Thanks again for an awesome time!

  3. Yes Eric, the guy was an employee. I have no clue whether he was commuting, deadheading, traveling for fun, etc. Either way, he wasn’t a pilot (based on his bags), so I assume he was a ground agent of some sort or worked in another department.

    I’m thinking the gate agent upgraded him instead of me (the whole “taking care of our own” mentality), and thereby didn’t go by the upgrade priority list.

    I’m not sure why he didn’t get back on the plane. The flight was sold out, but I figured we would have at least swapped seats, but instead they put someone else in my old seat.

    My guess would be that this was a JFK ground agent that was flying non-rev and the agents confirmed him for the flight earlier than they should have, given that they didn’t know that the earlier flight would be delayed. Then when this guy realized I’d probably be writing to United he went to talk to the GA, and the GA probably said he was out of luck since he was a non-rev. That’s just a guess.

    The only thing I know with (near) certainty is that he should *not* have been in first class until all upgrades were cleared (per United policy).

  4. Regarding the hot towels, maybe you looked like you needed to clean up after a long travel weekend? 😉

  5. Are you sure it wasn’t me? Just kidding!

    Funny thing is, he came storming off all pissed like, then he was on my flight to IAD, and kept giving ME dirty looks. So now I know why… 😛 It all makes sense now!

  6. Oliver, I can assure you that I did! How nice if her to notice.

    Very interesting, Abdul. Did you overhear what he told the GA? I guess since you were standing with us near the gate he knew you were part of the group, heh.

  7. Well both Gate Agents were inside the jetway at the time so im sure he told them while he passed them. He just stormed away and continued to pace around the gate area after that.

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