Home Airlines United Changed Our Seats With No Chance Of Sitting Together

United Changed Our Seats With No Chance Of Sitting Together

by joeheg

Equipment swaps happen all the time and if you travel enough you’ll encounter one. Sometimes it’s a bad one, like when you planned a flight specifically to sit in an airline’s newest version of a lie-flat suite, and end up on a plane that’s 20 years old. There are other times when the swap is in your favor, like when you were previously sitting in an economy seat but because the new plane has more first-class seats, you’re upgrade clears.

And then there’s what happened to us on a United flight.

When I booked this trip from Newark to Orlando I wrote how I found it strange that United would use a 757-200 with Polaris seats on a 2-hour flight.

I booked seats 24 D & F, hoping that we’d end up with an empty middle seat.

Two days before the flight, Sharon received a text message from United.

We had to change the aircraft type or seating configuration for your flight to Orlando. Because of the switch, you have a new seat assignment. We’ve done our best to keep your original preference and you can check for a new seat using the link below.

Her seat was changed from 24D to 24C, which was still an aisle seat. What’s interesting was that’s the only way she was notified. No email. No push message from the app.

More interesting is that my seat also changed and I received no notifications. My seat was moved from 24F to 23F. We were now sitting 1 row apart, on opposite sides of the aisle. I went to see if we could find two seats together but the flight was almost full. All that was left were a few solo middle seats in Economy Plus or the last row. (Not that it would matter to United that I’d want to sit in the same row as my wife when we’re on the same PNR)

I found it interesting that the seat right next to Sharon, 24E, was missing from the seating map. I tried to figure out why but there was no info on why this seat was missing.

We kept our reassigned seats and boarded the plane. When I got to my row, there was someone in my seat. He didn’t know about a new seat and was now seated in the opposite aisle. The person in that seat was sitting one row from his assigned seat next to his travel partner. Both of them wanted to sit with their group.

The flight attendant helped sort things out and we did a three-way swap where I ended up seated in 23A, one row in front of Sharon, on the window.

When I looked over the back of the seat, the mystery of why the 24E seat was blocked on the seat map was solved.

Apparently, the middle seat was broken. While I thought our seats were moved due to a change in planes, I’m curious if this is what caused United to move passengers around. If we received an alert on Friday, would they leave a broken seat until Sunday? How long does it take to get a seat fixed?

It will only cost them if the flights operated by that plane are 100% full and it makes financial sense to fly with a broken seat until the plane is due to come in for scheduled repairs instead of taking it out of service for a busted chair.

My advice is to keep checking your reservations. Both to make sure that your flights are still happening as well as to check that you haven’t lost your seat assignments.

I’m not mad with United about this. The only gripe is why they couldn’t have given me the row with the empty middle seat 🙂

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary


AinthePNW March 20, 2023 - 7:50 pm

Or better yet, try flying Alaska Airlines. As their “top tier” they separated me traveling with a 2-month infant from my spouse and group. I got upgraded to a middle seat “premium class” seat (while being skipped over for a first class upgrade). After complaining, they moved others in our linked reservation from PC to row 27/28 (also had AS elite status). Then they blamed us for the switch a roo.

My point is that things much worse than what happened to you occur on a daily basis even to 1ks, etc.

Billy Bob March 20, 2023 - 8:04 pm

Exact same thing happened to us on an upcoming flight: used 90000 Skypesos to fly Air France into Paris from our Asian base. We were seated together in the middle on their 1-2-1 business class 777 seating but a product change meant that we’re going to be on one of their old 2-3-2 business class configurations. We were initially seated far apart, in the last row, and the best I could do on Delta’s site was us sitting across the aisle from each other. We received absolutely no notification from either Air France or Delta. A call to our nearest Air France customer service place here in Asia produced nothing, as did a call (with a hour+ wait on hold) to Delta. Nonetheless, the plan was to dump all Skypesos and never fly Delta again, and we’re sticking with it.

NedsKid March 20, 2023 - 8:25 pm

I have the answer!

The seat was not broken… it is in-op through the end of April. Airlines (except for small aircraft under a certain weight) use a standard average weight per passenger in their weight and balance calculations, in lieu of weighing every single passenger and their carry-ons.

The FAA, to account for the changing average American physique, raised the weights. There are summer and winter weights (Nov 1 and Apr 30 are the swap-over dates).

Females went up by 34 pounds (weight includes carry-on) from 145 to 179lbs summer and 150 to 184lbs winter (higher to account for a coat).
Males by 15 lbs from 185 to 200 and 190 to 205 for the winter.

Some aircraft, such as United’s B757s, cannot take a full load of adults in the winter now especially on routes very heavy on checked bags (those are put in as an average of I believe 35 lbs each, heavies either actual weight or 50 lbs). Thus, their solution is to block between 3 and 6 middle seats for the winter.

United has two configurations of the 757-200… one with 153 in coach and one with 160. The blocked seats differ… one has 3, one has 6. Yours probably got swapped from one to the other.

Christian March 20, 2023 - 9:47 pm

Both JAL and EVA have changed seats on my wife and I in the last year. EVA was in business class and JAL was in first class. In both cases I had specifically reserved window seats for both of us but even with no equipment swap we were involuntarily relocated to middle seats. First world problems but boy, it really did suck to lose the seats I had gone to lengths to reserve. No window for you!

Bob March 21, 2023 - 8:08 am

First this is always a risk when the play the open middle seat game. An airlines systems try to put you in a similar seat, being on the same PNR is irrelevant if you weren’t seated next to each other to begin with, so that’s user error. Second, the seat wasn’t broken, it’s blocked for weight and balance issues during winter Ops which is a known entity and has been written about on countless blogs and forums for the past 6 months. You might want to do a quick google search and edit this post.

joeheg March 21, 2023 - 10:12 pm

I wasn’t complaining about what United did as I even was willing to move seats to accommodate two other groups. As far as “countless blogs covering” the seat being broken/blocked, I didn’t Google “United 757 blocked seats winter weight balance.” As another commenter wrote, our seat changes were due to United switching from one plane with 3 blocked seats to a different layout with 6 blocked seats.


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