That’s probably not totally true, but hear me out. Common wisdom on FlyerTalk, at least in the United forum, is that seatmaps are in no way an accurate indicator of the actual availability on flights. Some posters take this to an extreme and basically say that the seatmap is irrelevant, while the fare class availability is valuable.
Well, I kind of disagree. Yes, in some cases the seatmap is worthless. This is commonly the case on flights where a lot of tickets are booked as codeshare flights or through consolidators, and seats aren’t assigned until the day before the flight or the day of. For example, Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City or Washington Dulles to New York JFK are common routes where the seatmap means nothing. I’ve seen flights zeroed out on IAD-JFK that have only about a dozen people on the seatmap the day before departure, due mainly to the fact that most people booked their tickets with other airlines and didn’t bother selecting seats.
But, let’s look at the other side of it. I’m on a flight tomorrow that’s “C8,” which means that they’re willing to sell eight more business class seats. Great, I stand a good chance at the upgrade, right? Well, probably not. The seatmap reveals that only one seat in business class is unassigned. That means they’re willing to oversell business class by seven (if eight people would in theory pay for it in the next 24 hours, which isn’t happening), because there’s room in first class. Still, that doesn’t really matter for me, since they won’t operationally upgrade passengers from business class to first class, just to make room for upgraders from coach to business, unless coach is oversold.
So, in this case the seatmap is more relevant than the fare class availability, as it often is.
(I apologize to those of you that expected a post about something other than my upgrade tomorrow, or lack thereof) 😉