When Your Upgrade Doesn’t Clear, Don’t Do This.

My American Airlines upgrade failed to clear yesterday afternoon. I was second on the upgrade list with one open seat. I made my way back to 8B on the MD80 for the two hour flight in Main Cabin Extra, which was fine.

I expected to clear the upgrade on a noon flight on a route which isn’t super business travel heavy for American. But the upside was a light business flight meant few gogo internet users. Even though it was an old install, my internet worked great.

When your upgrade doesn’t clear, you sit in back. That’s just how it works. You do not decide to take matters into your own hands.

Two male passengers on a Hainan Airlines flight from Taiyuan to Chongqing “assaulted four crew members and an air marshal after they were denied an upgrade”

The aircraft, which was taxiing to the runway, returned to the gate to offload the passengers and took a couple hour delay.

Apparently the self-upgraders were offered a paid buy up to business class. Hainan Airlines, however, doesn’t operate a cashless cabin. They had no way to take credit cards. (Perhaps a true ‘cash buy up’ is the same thing as a ‘bribe’.) The men didn’t have enough cash.

When the air hostess asked the men to leave business class again, the men reportedly assaulted her.
She asked for help from the captain and an air marshal, who were both assaulted as well according to the report.
The air marshal is said to have had a nose bleed as a result of the scuffle.

A mere 3 days earlier a China Southern passenger was tied to his seat before being removed from a flight after throwing money on the floor and shouting “Someone is trying to get me, I want to go into the sky, I opened the sky eye” and trying to rush the cockpit.

Last year a Chinese man was caught multiple times on a United flight departing Shanghai trying to seat himself in business class, stole champagne from up front and drank it walking through the aisles. A veritable Chinese Justin Ross Lee. (At least he didn’t pop the aircraft’s slide looking for the lavatory.)

In this case, Hainan Airlines has taken the step not just of banning the two self-upgraders from their own flights, but has even applied to the Chinese government to ban them from travel.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I had a business class seat on TACA (airlines) from EZE to Lima a couple of months ago where a women brought her cat aboard. Yes, she took her cat “out of the bag” because said cat was nervous. Cat got free and roamed the plane freely. Pilot went to the cat owner and asked her to put the cat away. The person sitting next to her was allergic and moved to another seat. Cat owner then went to coach and brought her 2 friends forward. Cat owner went to galley and served friends alcohol (mixed drinks and wine). Party started and all 3 passengers started laughing and singing in Spanish. I asked flight attendant how this was happening? He asked the 2 visitors to return to their coach seats. They ignored him. Another passenger asked him to have loud visitors moved and flight attendant said there was nothing he could do. This was one of the strangest flights I ever had. The TACA crew exhibited no willingness to enforce inflight safety rules. Cat owning passenger benefited. All other passengers were inconvenienced.

  2. Flew AA CLT-PHX 6/17 10:15pm departure. Am EP and was 1st on upgrade list which I’ve learned still gives me a 50/50 chacnce to clear this upgrade. Much to everyone’s surprise, 13 of us cleared the upgrade plus the seat next to me was empty (odd as others still showed on the upgrade list). Either a mass of flyers missed the connection last night or AA is now holding back upgrades???? Gary – any insights?

  3. For an hour and a half flight this is pathetic. And they screwed over everybody else on the plain because they would have been at the destination before they even took off after unloading the clowns. But what do they care, the world revolves around them, right? A lot of people in the US have this same mentality, but not at extremes like the Chinese.

  4. Gary American really does not care, I was also #2 from last Vegas to Miami and seat 4A was empty and was not occupied during the 5 hour flight. I was seated in 5C so I had a direct view. When plane landed I asked the person in 4B and he said that nobody occupied 4A. I have complained in writing and no answer. What’s the use of being platinum if you get that sort of slap in the face. AA # VEM2292 maybe now I get a response

  5. When upgrades disappear even for high level elites, what then? It is slowly happening for sure.

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