This morning I wrote about a flight as an example of ‘upgrade shenanigans’ but the facts suggest something else, more unusual.
American has seemed to have gate upgrade shenanigans more frequently than in the past, and I’ve seen several passenger reports of planes going out with empty premium cabin seats with passengers remaining on the upgrade list contra policy either because gate agents didn’t bother or didn’t believe they had time to process the upgrade list properly and still get aircraft doors closed when expected.
However in any given incident it’s difficult for the passenger to know what’s going on or have all of the available data — especially when gate agents aren’t forthcoming with information.
In the case of a Los Angeles – London flight this weekend where several business class seats were left empty with customers on the waitlist, American tells me that the issue with the Boeing 777-200 was “weight and balance… not the gate agents skipping over upgrades.”
Upgrades are important to customers. They are a promised benefit of the AAdvantage redemption program (miles and copay for upgrades) and of the AAdvantage elite program (eVIP systemwide upgrades).
Knowing this, it seems to me that communication to customers could be better here. But an airline certainly shouldn’t play games with weight and balance calculation.
- Would another passenger or six moved up from coach to business class cause actual issues on a Boeing 777 Los Angeles – London flight? Very unlikely.
- However there are bright line measures for a reason. What you don’t want an airline doing is asking by how much can we push the envelope each time and each flight, until they get it wrong.
According to an American spokesperson,
It was a very light load in the back too, in addition to cargo, which caused the weight restriction. I can see from the notes the LAX team did call our operations center, to see if those seats could be unblocked. Unfortunately, loads was unable to unblock those once the calculations were made.
I asked about another flight this weekend where a similar issue occurred — Los Angeles Hong Kong where a passenger reports several business seats going out empty with customer upgrades not processed (also out of Los Angeles). I’m told that Beoing 777-300ER was weight and balance restricted as well.
In fact Los Angeles – Hong Kong was weight restricted two days in a row. I’m told that “[i]t looks better this evening.”
Usually I see weight and balance on widebody jets (versus, say, a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A320) on short flights where they aren’t loading full fuel. Seeing this happen out of the same airport on long haul flights going opposite directions seems unusual and noteworthy!
I still want American to process upgrades correctly at the gate however I asked whether rogue gate agents weren’t processing upgrades at all and flights where I saw this reported over the weekend turn out not to be examples of this.