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Why are my airline seat assignments gone?

I'd like to know why this seems to be happening to me more often these days. I book my flight, choose my seats. When the online check in window opens 24 hours in advance, my reserved seats are gone. I've been booking flights for years no problem, but this has now happened on the last 2 trips to Europe. I am wondering if this is b/c the last two flights were booked with Auto Europe with their agent...vs booking the flight myself on the airline website? Julia

Posted by
6772 posts

Even if you booked with a third party, you should still confirm those seats on the airline's own site by looking up your confirmation code. It's hard to tell why they didn't transfer over (it has never happened to me, but then again, I've also not been able to book seats earlier than 24 hours ahead of time because I choose not to pay for advanced seat assignments). If you get a written confirmation that shows the exact seats you selected, then it's really unclear why they would be "gone"...the only thing I can think of is if there was a change of planes to a different type/seat configuration from the time of the original booking.

Posted by
19474 posts

There has been speculation that if a Platinum frequent flyer wants your seat, he may get it. And perhaps not booking directly with the airline puts you farther down the list for seat retention. I do not know.

Earlier this month my seat assignment on a domestic flight (booked with the airline) disappeared after I had checked in for the flight. They gave me a new seat at the gate, but someone was already sitting in that one. I'm not sure what started the entire chain of musical seats, but one of the people involved mentioned having an allergy, so I'm guessing there was a cat or dog flying in the cabin very near his original seat. It was fine in the end, but if I'd had a carry-on bag that needed to be stored overhead, it would have been an issue. I could also have ended up at the very back of the plane, which might have put a tight connection at risk.

Posted by
2916 posts

Earlier this month my seat assignment on a domestic flight (booked with the airline) disappeared after I had checked in for the flight.

That's better than the woman who recently had her seat assignment on United disappear after she was buckled into her seat.

Posted by
996 posts

I'm not familiar with Auto Europe, but I do know that you lose some control of your reservation if made via a third party.

Having said that, if you already selected your seats they should still be there. I don't know what airlines you are using, but most of them have apps to let you check for any changes if you log into the app and put in your airline confirmation code (those six letters/numbers that are unique to your reservation). I book directly with Delta and American, and I still check my flights at least once a week to see if there have been time changes/equipment swaps that impact my seats.

Posted by
4734 posts

We've had it happen twice the last couple of years, and we always book with the airline. (Or at least, always since our first [and only] time booking through Orbitz.)

Posted by
16 posts

Okay...I guess it seems I need to "babysit" that reservation a little more closely. It had happened on Lufthansa and Alitalia flights booked with auto Europe. In future, I'll download the airlines app and monitor the reservations. Thanks!

Posted by
1217 posts

It can also be a case of 'equipment swap' as the airline calls it. The same types of planes can have slight differences in seating distribution depending on where the airline is in a plane refurbishment cycle, and you can have something that's the old configuration swapped for the new configuration (or vice versa) because of other scheduling or maintenance issues.

Posted by
931 posts

I just had that happen with Lufthansa and United. I booked flights for 3 of us for May 2018 back in October and chose seats. When I looked at the reservation again in December we still had seats but were sitting in 3 different rows that I had not chosen. For a long flight (Chicago to Frankfurt round trip). I called the airlines and both changed our seat reservations so all 3 of us were together in the same row with a 3/aisle/3/aisle/3 seat configuration. I asked for confirmation to be sent to my e-mail which they promptly were.

It also happened to my sister and I last June on our way home from Heathrow. When we checked in we were about 5 rows further back than I had chosen when I booked the flights. They had put us together though in a 2 seat spot so we didn't complain.

Posted by
7 posts

As a former airline employee, I have a few comments.
I always recommend booking directly with the airline. You can compare airline fares with travel search engines or online travel agencies, but always book directly with the airline. Should there be a flight interruption and you book either Auto Europe, Orbitz, etc., then they may be in control of your ticket and you will have to work with them.

As far as your seat reservation, if there was an aircraft change then the configuration could change and your seat may be reassigned. There can also be some negligence by booking agents or by the airline.
Sometimes seats are inadvertently unblocked and by the time the mistake is discovered, the seat is reassigned. Unfortunately the contract of carriage does not guarantee a specific seat assignment.

Posted by
250 posts

This happened to me on Delta last year, they ended up changing aircraft 2-3 months before our trip and unbeknownst to us, that cancelled our seats! Luckily I just happened to check our reservation shortly there after and was able to snag seats that weren’t totally at the back of the plane. Perhaps an email would have been nice, not just letting me know the flight number changed, but that meant we needed to rebook seats as well.

Posted by
532 posts

Flying Alitalia, we had booked 3 seats - but chose not to sit together. Son is tall- needs aisle at least. dad wants aisle and I want window. Go to checkin and the agent had reticketed us all seated in same row. When we questioned it, he said " but you are a family, don't you want to sit together" He was meet with a Greek chorus of NO. LOL. My dad told him " we've had 3 arguments so far and we havent even left the airport" . He reassigned us as we had wanted. But it was a good laugh. ( and a great trip)

Posted by
3551 posts

This has happened to me multiple times for my economy seats I booked and paid on United Air website. It seems to me they should inform the passenger of this, it is called customer service.

Posted by
158 posts

I agree that an email would be nice when they cancel your seat assignments. We have the same story as Kathi for a trip a few years ago. Luckily, I also check on the reservation periodically, so I was able to still get different, not as good, seats together. And, I just checked today, and we still have seat assignments for our upcoming May trip:)

On a trip to Costa Rica, we choose two aisle seats across from each other. When I got on the plane, a man was already sitting in my seat. He told me that the flight attendant had told him it was okay that he change seats with me. I ended up sitting next to my husband and a woman with an incredible story about her journey to Costa Rica, and he sat with his wife and children, so it was for the best:)

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you Francesco, for adding your industry insight on this. I never check my seat assignments...which is probably why I've been surprised the last 2 times. And seating is important to me because I'm a really fearful flyer. I would never want to be separated from my husband...and there is less perceived turbulence near the middle of the plane! And it occurs to me that the latest fee..paying to choose your seat...brings up another question. If you PAY a fee for seat selection, what is the airline's resposibility in the event of an equipment change?

Posted by
3477 posts

They place you in an "equivalent" seat to the one you paid for. Well, at least equivalent according to their thought process. It may be no where near where you originally reserved, but it will be a seat that costs the same. On most airlines, no matter what happens, there is no refund of the seat reservation fee. You can ask, and you might get lucky, but probably not.

Posted by
12558 posts

When we had an equipment change on British Airways, from 747 to 777, my payment for seat selection carried over to the new plane. That is, I was notified of a change and was able to go into Manage My Bookimg and move us from the seats they assigned to ones we wanted.

Then the plane changed back to a 747 and I was able to get our original seats back. This was in Business class (we fly with miles) but I assume it would have been the same in other cabins.

Of course your airline could have a different policy.

Posted by
524 posts

On one occasion husband and I had tickets for Premium Eco. on BA. I paid to select seats, a few months out I noticed we had new seat assignments on our return flight, it was due to different version of the 747. I checked on the new seats and they were still PE and we were still seated together. I just shrugged and decided that it was ok. When checking in for the return flight, we were upgraded to business class! We were quite please, even though there are a lot of negative comments about BA business.

For our upcoming trip, I booked a flight operated by AA via BA site. I purchased Premium Eco. I truly did not want AA flights to begin with, but they were cheaper and I thought why not try their PE seats. I checked on our reservation and noticed the original flight was canceled and we were rebooked on a flight that did not have Premium Eco. I called BA and had my reservation switched to BA operated flights. I am still a little peeved I did not get an email. I can only assume it was because I booked a AA flight through BA.

Posted by
3176 posts

Okay...I guess it seems I need to "babysit" that reservation a little
more closely. It had happened on Lufthansa and Alitalia flights booked
with auto Europe. In future, I'll download the airlines app and
monitor the reservations.

Better still, in the future, buy your airline tickets online DIRECTLY with the airline. I agree with Acraven's speculation above about a platinum passenger.

I'm also wondering if the type of aircraft were switched.

Curious, what did Auto Europe charge you for the seat reservation you lost?

Posted by
32 posts

When folks say book directly with an airline, does this apply when using miles in a mileage plan? E.g., how confident should I be in the seats booked on British Airways via the Alaska mileage plan web site? From the sounds of it, I should be monitoring those seats on the BA site. I really appreciate the discussion.

Posted by
996 posts

When folks say book directly with an airline, does this apply when using miles in a mileage plan? E.g., how confident should I be in the seats booked on British Airways via the Alaska mileage plan web site? From the sounds of it, I should be monitoring those seats on the BA site. I really appreciate the discussion.

I have booked tickets with miles. I always monitor those seat assignments as well. I lucked out last time. One had a time change, but not seat changes.

Posted by
19474 posts

I've used miles recently for two round-trips across the Atlantic (2015 and 2016). There were 6 total flights segments. I had no trouble booking seats, and I never got re-located. But six is very small sample size, and I had not chosen premium seats that might be especially attractive to others. If someone ever moves me to a middle or window seat, I will be most unhappy; otherwise, I'm not picky unless I have a tight connection and feel I need to be near the front of the plane.

Posted by
648 posts

After reading this thread this morning, I checked our reservation for travel booked directly on United's website in June. Sure enough, there was a notice of a time change, but no mention of seat changes. I checked, and we had been bumped 10 rows behind what we selected, right by the bathrooms. I was able to fix it with a call to United. Once again, this forum is invaluable! Thanks!

Posted by
4734 posts

We just received notice of a change on our trip this spring, but it's on the DFW - Tulsa leg. I'm still going to check, though...