View Full Version : Why are duplicate seat assignments sometimes made?

19th Jul 2008, 16:58
This happens to me every so often on United and other airlines. Two of us on board with the same seat assignment. It's all on a computer, right? And the computer should know if the seat is taken, right?

19th Jul 2008, 17:14
Usually the main reason is that the original person assigned the seat has been switched for whatever reason, but the staff have not managed to catch up with the person to ammend the boarding card.

You are correct that the computer does know that the seat is allocated, so 2 people cannot be allocated the same seat in the computer system at the same time, so one person must have been moved/offloaded out of that seat at some stage for it to be assigned again.

Finding someone else in the same seat usually happens when manual boarding is in operation, as using the automatic machines at the gate, it should beep to alert the gate staff so they can change the seat, where as doing it manually doesn't do this and it is only when the 2nd person with the same seat number is entered that the computer will say "already boarded" that the problem flags up - that is assmuming they are reconciling by seat number. If they reconcile by security number manually, then it won't even show up there as both people will have a different security number and then the problem only comes to light onboard the a/c.

It is very rarely happens though that there are not enough seats to be able to accomodate the "extra" passenger, as 99% of the time they will still have a seat, just a different one to the boarding card.


19th Jul 2008, 18:49
very rarely happens though that there are not enough seats to be able to accomodate the "extra" passenger

Except Newark to Edinburgh on Continental....

Have down the route 3 times this year so far & seen eight then over a dozen passengers respectively bounced at the gate on the last two trips.....

I've found it always pays to use the frequent flyer card and board as early as possible, just in case, as even although, I've had an earlier connecting flight with CO on the same ticket & checked in for both at the same time, I've still had folks appearing on board with the same seat assignment.:(:confused:

Haven't had to do the run since the second daily CO EWR and the daily DL to JFK service started, but judging from my colleagues' experience a couple of weeks ago, it's still not unusual to be bounced from the early CO flight to the later one.

22nd Jul 2008, 14:15
The issue, on the rare occasions when it happens, is usually when departing a hub. Nowadays you get boarding passes for both legs through a connecting hub at the start (if not 24 hours before). The computer notices a late inbound flight, says "they've missed their connection", and releases the seat to a second passenger, expecting the first connecting passenger, arriving too late, to have to go to the desk and get reaccommodated. However, if things just work out for that first passenger, they hoof along to the gate thinking they are just in time for their connection, only to find their seat is given away.

Note the example above is departing the Newark hub to Edinburgh. Much less likely departing Edinburgh westbound, where very few are connecting.

Another situation is, I believe, unique to US carriers. If a gold card-carrying passenger books/transfers at the last minute and the flight is full, they just give them a seat anyway, wherever they want, due to their status in the frequent flyer programme, and let the gate/cabin staff sort it out. I believe the seat they can choose is only offered for those already taken by pax without hold luggage, to avoid problems pulling any bags.

It's really the same situation as overbooking, except that nowadays you have a seat number to go with your reservation. I've known overbooking by over 60 pax on BA on a 747 London to India (a route which for some reason is always plagued with no-shows/delayed pax), and the flight goes out with no empty seats, and nobody turned away. Now THAT is getting your overbooking algorithm right !

23rd Jul 2008, 11:43
Occasionally, check-in staff have bumped people off their checked-in seats to re-seat families together. That said, they usually bump the highest frequent flier and upgrade them instead to make up for the inconvenience. That's what AF did with me a couple of times before, mostly because I was seated in the aisle seat of a 2-seat config, and they had two seats in the middle bloc, and 1 seat open next to me for a family of four.

So I got bumped, and then pulled aside at the gate to be given my new seat details.