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Choosing Airplane Seats Prior to Travel *vs* At Check-In

The last two times we've flown with Lufthansa we've chosen our seats when we booked/paid for the tickets, only to find that when we checked in at the ticket counter our seat reservations had been thrown out and we had to get completely new seats again.

This was a problem last time as there were two adults, one child flying and we ended up not being able to sit together.

Why does this happen? Is there any way to get the seats we initially reserved? We think we're doing great by getting our tickets early, picking our seats, only to have to start from scratch at the airport.

Posted by
9079 posts

There's really nothing you can do about it. The airlines have the right to move passengers around as they see fit. When you choose your seat you're making a "request"'s not guaranteed.

Posted by
1317 posts

It happens because the airlines reserve the right to inconvenience you for any reason or non-reason, while expecting you to adhere to a rigid set of nonsensical rules.

Put another way: because they can.

Sometimes there may be actual reasons, such as substituting a different plane, needing to move someone who isn't qualified out of an exit row, etc.

There's not really any way to avoid it, other than maybe a few airlines which have experimented with letting you pay for the priviledge. So far, for the most part, I've managed to keep the seats I've selected by choosing early and checking frequently. If you can take advantage of online check-in, I'd do that as well, which would give you an extra chance 24 hours before the flight to verify your seat assignments.

Posted by
9079 posts

Even checking-in online doesn't guarantee that you will keep your seats. In the past I've been called to the gate desk and issued a new boarding pass with a different seat assignment. Fly often enough and it happens to most everyone eventually.

Posted by
284 posts

And the time American Airlines gave my exit row seat to another passenger without letting me know until they would not let me board the connecting flight at Lambert Airport in St. Louis, Mo.

I checked-in earlier that day in Honolulu and received the boarding pass.

After getting another middle seat, I boarded the plane and noticed it was a person who had some pull because they were sitting next to their buddy in the exit row.

Elite status did not prevent this from occuring.

And the gall of American Airlines to call me to ask why I have pretty much stopped flying them after racking up over 250K miles during the course of one year.


Posted by
180 posts

wow, I've only had this happen to me once and they asked me if it was ok and explained why they changed my seat first (a family wanted to sit together). They moved me to another aisle seat.

Posted by
481 posts

So then, should I just plan on being at the ticket counter 'extra-extra' early before all the good seats are gone?

Posted by
9079 posts

As I posted above, even arriving extra early doesn't guarantee anything. At the gate they call you to the desk and issue you a new boarding pass with new seat assignment. There's really nothing you can are at the mercy of the seat assignment gods...their power is almighty!

Posted by
12154 posts

Book your seats when you ticket (I'm still trying to decide what I'll do if there is a fee to reserve a seat).

Check in online at the first opportunity.

Rather than just check-in, choose change seats to see what's available. You may find seats you prefer to what was issued when you booked or you may keep the same ones - at least have a look.

Once I've checked in online, it's rare, but not unheard of, for my seat to change.

Don't wait until you get to the airport to check-in.

Posted by
11503 posts

I think Liz made a good statement. The airlines do whatever they want and we have no rights. How many other industries can get away with that kind of client SERVICE!

Posted by
1357 posts

Another option would be asking someone on the plane to switch seats so you could all sit together. It depends on where your seats are and how small your child is. If you have a seat in the middle, you're probably not going to find someone who will switch. If you've got a window or an aisle, you might. If you have a small child, under age 5, you'll probably be able to ask whoever's next to your child to switch.

We fly standby and rarely get seats all together (2 adults and 2 kids). However, with young kids, the flight attendants help us find at least 2 seats together, and usually someone will move so one of us can sit with the older one, too. I've found that when given the option of sitting next to a small child on a long flight or moving to another seat, people usually chose to move. So a big thank you from me to the people who do that so my 3 year old isn't sitting by herself.

But not sitting together isn't the worst option, either. When we just had one child, one of us would sit with him, and the other would sit by themselves in the seat we were given. We've found it's actually nice to have a seat by ourselves for a bit, I can actually watch the movie or read for a while, and we'll switch every 2 hours or so.

We were split up 2 and 2 flying back from Germany this summer. When the flight attendant realized this halfway through the flight, he said we should have spoken up, he could have gotten us seats together. I told him we were coming off of a 2 week vacation together, being split up wasn't so bad for a while.