05-13-2014 01:12 PM
I just wanted to give a head's up to those parents traveling with a baby. Our experience was shocking, and others need to know. Details below, but the summary is: United Airlines will take away your baby's reserved seat without warning or notice if they want to sell another ticket.
My wife, 9-month-old child, and I recently had a troubling experience with United Airlines. We were flying back from SBA to BWI via a connection at SFO. We purchased Economy Plus tickets for all three of us. We successfully checked in online to our trip 24 hours before, making special care to point out that we had a <2 year old with us. We specifically bought a seat for our child so we could put her in a carrier as it is the safest way for an infant to travel. We checked in our luggage at the Santa Barbara airport, and made the short trip to SFO. However, when trying to board our flight at SFO, my wife’s boarding pass would not work. She was not allowed to get on the plane, as they could not find her on the flight. So with baby still attached to her, she had to deal with this extra emotional distress. It turns out that United had completely deleted her from the flight thinking she was our baby. I do not understand how this is possible, as we had checked-in and had valid boarding passes in hand. Nonetheless, our Economy Plus seat had been re-sold and was no longer available. She was forced to get a ticket in a middle seat in Economy just so we could still be on the same flight (as this is the only UA flight from SFO to BWI). So we had to split up our family on this 5+ hour flight. I took my wife’s seat at the back of the plane so that she could stay with our child.
So be warned- even if you have bought a seat for your <2 year old, United Airlines might decide on your behalf that they want you to have your baby on your lap for your 5+ hour journey.
I'm still waiting to hear United Airline's response to this.
05-13-2014 08:44 PM
06-03-2014 11:19 AM
Finally heard back from United Airlines. They essentially do not have a good explanation. They are saying that since the aircraft was changed weeks before the trip, this led to a technical glitch in which a seat was not actually assigned. This does not explain how we could still get boarding passes with valid seat assignments yet not actually have a seat assigned. Especially since we had noticed the aircraft changes weeks before our trip, and had gone back into the United Airline system to make sure we were all still sitting together with seat assignments.
To quote United Airlines Rep's response:
"We do our best to accommodate individual seat requests. Seat assignments are not guaranteed. Unforeseen operational changes, such as aircraft substitutions, can occur at any time due to maintenance and unexpected schedule adjustments. When customers are transferred to a different aircraft, the system attempts to reassign seats as close to the original seats as possible.
As we do not guarantee seat assignments, we do no offer compensation for families or friends that experience seat alterations. We do our best to reseat you, although this is not always possible."
The only compensation they offered for our troubles was 1,500 United Miles per person.
So, the bottom line: Checking in and getting a boarding pass on United Airlines does not actually mean you have a seat on every leg of your trip. Especially if your aircraft was changed at any time after you booked your seat. But don't worry, you'll be able to get 1,500 United Miles to make it all OK.
I'm going to avoid traveling on United Airlines from now on.