US Airways’ Single Most Egregious Policy?

The integration between American and US Airways is well underway. The two frequent flyer programs have been merged, the two airlines are now on a single operating certificate, and as of October 17, 2015, the two airlines will also be on a single reservations system.

Reservations-Integration

That’s really the most exciting development as a customer, since it means the policies between the two airlines will finally be aligned.

I’m not some rabid US Airways hater. I think they’ve had a unique place in the market for years. They’ve been a simple, timely, no-frills airline. And a lot of their frequent flyers love them, because upgrades were near guaranteed.

As an American flyer, I’ve found some of their policies to be frustrating, to say the least. For example, while American offers Executive Platinum members free same day confirmed changes, US Airways doesn’t even offer such an option, even for a fee. The only thing you can do is move up to an earlier flight, and that has to be done at the airport. I learned that the hard way, realizing it while I was hoping to make a same day change, not having realized their policy differed.

US-Airways-Move-Up

But I’d say their standby policy is only their second most elite-unfriendly policy. The most ridiculous policy has to be their ChoiceSeats program. What are ChoiceSeats?

ChoiceSeats are mostly window and aisle seats towards the front of Coach (and may include exit row seats*). ChoiceSeats have the same leg room as other seats, but are closer to the front of the plane – so you’re among the first to get on when you board (with Zone 2) and among the first to leave when you land. *Dividend Miles Chairman’s, Platinum, Gold and Silver preferred customers will continue to receive exit row seats free of charge.

So as an Executive Platinum member I can assign myself an exit row seat for free, but if I want most seats towards the front of the cabin I have to pay for them. Take the below flight between Phoenix and Tampa, where they want $78 to assign just a “normal” seat towards the front of the plane:

US-Airays-Choice

Now fortunately there are exit row seats available, which I can assign for free. Though that doesn’t make it any less egregious that they want to charge $78 to assign a middle seat in front of the exit row, or even to assign an aisle seat behind the exit row.

It’s punishment enough that US Airways doesn’t have Main Cabin Extra yet, which I’d get for free on American. But to charge a top tier elite just to assign a normal seat? Ridiculous!

I guess that’s another thing to look forward to as of October 17, as I assume the ridiculous ChoiceSeats policy will go away then.

Do you agree this is a ridiculous policy, or does anyone “get it?”

Comments

  1. i have a quick question about upgrading on US metal. since the merger, when flying US as an AA elite, i’ve upgraded on check-in but it’s been a rather covert process, as there’s no indication you *can* upgrade; rather, when you select to change seats the F cabin is open to you.

    however since the FF accounts were merged back in march or so, it now shows “complimentary upgrade not offered” on my PNR. i haven’t flown US yet (flight is next week) but do you know if the same tactic works?

  2. They don’t charge for the preferred seats, which I believe are the first two rows in orange, in front of the choice section. I’ve never had to actually buy in the choice section because if you book early enough, there are always free preferred seats available.

  3. You know what’s ridiculous? They have not put in MCE on a single US Airways plane. They could have done most of the fleet in six months if they really wanted to. This makes me very, very worried about the future of MCE.

  4. Lucky
    I just found out the other day that American and USAirways do not allow a refund in the first 24 hours after booking and paying for the flight. They of course do not allow the hold option if the flight is booked within seven days of departure as well. I thought it was mandated that all flights had to be able to be refunded within 24 hours of booking and paying.

  5. @ Ross The regulation only applies for flights booked more than 7 days before departure, which is probably why AA doesn’t allow holds within that window.

  6. I don’t understand
    as an AA Platinum I have gotten bulkhead aisle seats and elsewhere free on US Airways and Alaska
    What am I not understanding? 🙁
    But if whatever the negative is and its going away this fall good!

  7. I agree completely. I had IROP on AA and they moved to US so I could make it to desitination the same day. Only issue was only seats left that weren’t middles seats were ChoiceSeats. I was shocked that they wouldn’t let me book it without paying.

  8. I flew with US last week and was able to book seats in row 6 on an A321 PHL to CLT, same on the way back. The row was listed as reserved for elites and was no additional cost. I know there are some seats that still cost money, which i agree is crazy, but maybe it has to do with those seats being sold out on this flight?

    I booked a good month or more in advance.

    I was originally a US elite and was included into AA elite program during the merger. Since everything is merged now I don’t think this would be the reason for the ability to get these seats.

  9. I’ve been an AA EXP for 4 years in a row now but I’ll likely lose it this year because I’ve just stopped flying US Airways. The difference between the two airlines is incredibly frustrating. At least if I have to pay Delta or United for a seat I know its because I didn’t fly 100k miles with them the year before.

  10. As an AA Gold, I’m not complaining about how US treats premier seats. Right now I can get an exit row an exit row or bulkhead for free but for flights after 10/17, they’ve already changed those rows to MCE which of course costs me money as a Gold.

    I’ve actually been intentionally booking to US flights for my transcons this summer in order to take a free exit row seat over having to pay for MCE so I’ll miss the US seating system once it is gone.

  11. So 4B is a preferred seat and available for free, as well as all the exit row seats – which is what I would choose anyway. The other preferred seats have already been booked by other elites. The options you have seem pretty equivalent to the choice seats; not sure what the gripe is. I do agree that their preferred seat vs choice seat designations are arbitrary, though. Personally, I’m looking forward to the addition of MCE seats on US planes; that can’t happen soon enough.

  12. Ye reap what ye sow. Bloggers have been touting AAdvantage legacy programme as compared to the new revenue based programs at DL and UA. But as you will soon see, the US-buyout of AA is just another step in the race to the bottom. You’ll be paying some extra fees now, losing some perks, and within 18mos you will also see the mileage-based earnings go bye-bye. Enjoy while it lasts.

  13. I was just venting about the Move-up fee today!

    I am trying to fly from BOS-SAN and have a later flight. My plans changed and I went to the airport to see about getting on an earlier flight. I asked about flying stand-by and they told me about the $75 fee which is just stupid. It is all about the money grab!

  14. Indeed, you can fly first class for free. But aisle and window seats without extra legroom towards the front of the economy are too good for the airline to ‘give away’ to their most valuable customers.

    http://viewfromthewing.boardingarea.com/2014/03/26/us-airways-ization-american-whats-next/

    I find it especially egregious because they have long known about this issue, that it’s poor treatment of American Executive Platinums who aren’t used to it, at a time they’re trying to introduce US Airways equipment and crew and get customers happily flying each carrier. THEY COULD HAVE EASILY FIXED THIS but chose not to do so.

  15. The post is fine, so far as it goes, and is easily understood by pros like Gary.

    Others might have benefited from having US’s three-tiered system explained, namely, the differences between Choice, Preferred, and Regular. As any sort of elite, you only pay for Choice and, unfortunately, that tends to be what’s left if you book last-minute.

    At least all this sort of nonsense will vaporize Oct. 17.

  16. On a $2800 day before Charlotte to LAX round-trip in 2011 the only seats available in the front of the plane were paid choice seats. I called to try and get one with the fee waived. No go.

  17. IME anyone can pick the exit rows and preferred seats without paying within 24 hrs of departure but the choice seats aren’t ever free.

  18. This has bugged me to no end! It’s annoying enough that they don’t have main cabin extra seats but as an AA plat that’s already re-upped status for next year I have to sit halfway back in the plane unless I pay! I avoid US Air flights if I can!

  19. @ Deb porter — Main Cabin Extra is American’s extra legroom seating in economy. It’s usually located in the first several rows of the cabin.

  20. @ John — Right, though can’t say I’m all that interested in voluntarily choosing a middle seat.

  21. @ Ross — The rule is that up until seven days before departure they have to either allow a 24 hour hold or 24 hour refund policy. Within seven days there’s no government mandated policy.

  22. As someone who has booked US Air flights very regularly for years, AA is frustrating in many ways too. I book business flights so I always need documentation for each flight booked, changed, or canceled. When booking/changing/canceling a US Air flight, I always received an email confirmation of the booking/change/cancellation within a few minutes. Not so with AA. Most of the time their confirmations never show up (yes I entered my email correctly, yes I checked my junk folder, NOTHING), and when I change a flight, they send me an email with so little detail that I have to do research just to figure out which flight it’s in reference to (I book a lot of flights). These things get very frustrating when you book as many flights as I do, and especially when you have to do the accounting of the flights the following month, and have to do extra work to track down documentation that should have simply been emailed to you as soon as the flight was booked/changed/canceled. And especially when you call AA to ask where your confirmations are for particular flights, are told that they can’t email them to you based on your calling and giving them the pertinent info, that you have to email their customer relations department, which, when you do, takes over a week to write you back, not to send the damned confirmations, but to tell you to enter the ticket numbers on a certain page of their site, to get the confirmations. Which for some reason couldn’t have just been sent to you in the first place, or failing that, you couldn’t have been told when you called that you could get them that way. I hate both these airlines, but AA is clearly much worse in the documentation department.

  23. Unrelated note, US Air’s “preferred” seats are a LIE!!! Don’t choose them. One of my bosses, for whom I book flights, is a Platinum US Air member, so when I book for him the “preferred” seats are offered for free.

    What they don’t tell you, what I’ve only been fortunate enough to find out via seatguru.com, is that these are seats that no one in their right mind would actually prefer. They are seats with limited legroom, limited recline, and/or otherwise undesirable qualities. I guess US Air counts on people just assuming that they must be good seats since they’re labelled “preferred.” This practice is shamelessly deceitful, and bad business to pull these tricks on customers who have given you so much business.

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