As I blogged about, I got a bump on Sunday night off the Los Angeles to Washington Dulles United redeye, netting me $400 in travel credits. Unfortunately I had a total “by the book” agent, so she rebooked in my original fare class on flights the following day (typically, you get rebooked in full fare coach when you bump, getting you a higher upgrade priority on the next flight).
United has spoiled the hell out of me for the past few years. Last year I flew in coach maybe one or two times, out of over 200 segments, so unfortunately I almost take premium cabins for granted.
I showed up at the airport Monday morning for my Los Angeles to Washington Dulles flight, only to find 75 people on the upgrade list. As a 1K I was number 18 on the list and there were 14 seats remaining. Crap! United’s 777s have a “2-5-2” configuration, meaning there’s a set of five seats in the center of the aircraft. I was assigned a seat in the very middle, making the lack of an upgrade even more painful.
The gate agent was really nice, and while there were no aisle or window seats, I asked her to hang onto my boarding pass so that when she does clear upgrades, she could assign me one of the seats that’s being emptied (which is always a good strategy to take when you have a middle seat, in my opinion). Sure enough, I eventually got assigned an Economy Plus aisle seat, though I continued to see my shot at an upgrade dwindle. Eventually I was number 14 with 10 seats remaining, and the trend continued. Since this was a three cabin plane, fortunately there were a couple of empty first class seats, so people were upgraded to those from business, making more room in business class.
Boarding was well underway though I wasn’t quite ready to give up. About 30 minutes before departure there were five seats remaining and I was number six on the list. Rar! As I always say, the worst position on the upgrade list is to be number one when the cabin checks in full.
I approached the gate agent and asked whether it would make sense to stick around any longer (maybe someone slept in, had a flat tire, or was annoying the TSA at the checkpoint). With a smirk the agent said “no,” only to two seconds later print me out a new boarding pass and say “you can board now.” Woohoo, seat 11E, which is a middle seat bulkhead in business class. Never before have I been so happy to have a middle seat! Sure enough, I was the last person to clear the upgrade.
The next flight was from Washington Dulles to Tampa. While this is usually a pretty easy upgrade, the fact that first class was already sold out when I got rebooked on the flight meant I had to count on someone canceling their ticket or misconnecting. On the gate monitor I was number one of 23 on the upgrade list, and an hour before departure one first class seat was remaining (and that only accounts for people that have checked in). I figured I was hosed, since in those 15 minutes surely the last first class passenger would check-in, though I lucked out. 30 minutes before departure my name was called and I was given a nice first class aisle seat, only to have the agent announce a second later that “first class was checked in full.”
So this weekend I lucked out, and my upgrade percentage remains untarnished for the year. Guessing I won’t stay lucky for so long.