Andie MacDowell was flying American Airlines Los Angeles to Charlotte to Charleston, South Carolina on a first class ticket on Friday with a pet in cabin. She was downgraded to coach for the short Charlotte – Charleston segment.
She was downgraded because she had a pet in cabin but had reserved a bulkhead seat for her Charlotte to Charleston flight. A pet in cabin has to go underneath the seat in front of you, but that’s not possible with a bulkhead seat.
She got her boarding passes in Los Angeles, tried to switch out of the bulkhead, but was told she’d need to address it at the gate in Charlotte.
When flying with a pet it’s advisable to have an advance reservation, because the number of pets is limited — not just by aircraft but also by cabin. And it’s necessary to have a seat assignment that’s allowable with a pet. MacDowell, or whomever booked the ticket for her, screwed up by not securing a workable seat assignment.
MacDowell was mad at:
- Being downgraded
- The way she was treated by the gate agent
She felt like she should have been able to just ask a passenger to switch seats with her once onboard the aircraft. But the gate agent wouldn’t let her board with a pet and a bulkhead seat assignment. She needed a seat with underseat storage if she was going to fly with a pet, and that was only available in coach.
The internet didn’t like this one bit.
She asked for it to stop….
Yet a quick review of her twitter account showed her continuing to retweet everyone that tagged her taking her side in this.
The drama, of course, was over a 168 mile flight. She flew first class from Los Angeles to Charlotte. And she made it to her destination on time, it seems, with her pet.
Having traveled with my now nearly 14 year old Yorkshire Terrier on several occasions, I have to side with American on this. You need an underseat storage area to travel with a pet. She reserved seat 1A, probably because it was the only first class seat available on the flight. The gate agent couldn’t board her with a pet and that seat assignment. The correct thing in that case, as a passenger, would be to take the voluntary downgrade. Alternatively, of course, she could have waited for the next Charlotte – Charleston flight with an available non-bulkhead seat in first. But that seems silly.
My dog would rather be on the couch at home than under an airplane seat
At the DFW D Terminal Pet Relief Area
The only conceivable ground MacDowell has here is if she did make her pet in cabin reservation in advance, and American didn’t flag the issue of her seat assignment. Even then,
- This was a 168 mile flight. Perhaps not worth the drama.
- MacDowell has certainly flown before and is likely to know that seat 1A will be a bulkhead window. She might have wondered where she would put the dog if selecting that seat.
- Almost no one would take 1A if anything else was available, so it’s likely she just took the only first class seat available on the plane (or her assistant did). If the person booking the ticket had flagged the problem, I bet she’d have agreed to voluntarily downgrade to coach for the short flight if this was the most convenient flight option otherwise. My guess is the blame here lies with the assistant making the booking.
Right or wrong though this doesn’t help American in its battle to win Los Angeles.
Take note though, that American is quite pet friendly! American even has a Celebrity Pet Program where they will sell a seat for a pet, though it requires that the pet itself be a celebrity.
We occasionally allow “celebrity” pets to travel in the cabin under different rules. We used to transport the dog from Frasier quite often, for example, and we have handled other celebrity animals from time to time over the years. They are not covered by standard pet travel fees. But as noted, these seats were paid for.”
American also outfitted their Airbus 321Ts flying New York JFK – Los Angeles and San Francisco with a special place for pet in cabin transport in first class. The suites don’t have an underseat stowage area that meets the requirements of takeoff and landing. So there’s a compartment in front of the first row that’s specially ventilated.