If United Labeled Its Economy Plus Maybe Flight Attendants Would Have it Easier and We Wouldn’t Need the Colombian Police

I flew down to Bogota today on United out of Newark. The plane was a 737-800. First class was sold out. The eight rows of Economy Plus through the exit rows were nearly empty. Regular economy was almost full.

UA EWR-BOG Seatmap

Economy Plus was in no way indicated, no signage or curtains, exactly the same seats, just a bit more legroom. Naturally, prior to takeoff, several left their seats to move up and were quickly told by a flight attendant. One woman looked embarrassed and went fast. A couple remarked how silly it is and moved back, too. A middle-aged man started a protest about United, something about a rebooking and other complaints. Eventually, he too moved back. Fun start to the flight for the flight attendant.

In the middle of the flight a young man from the back moved up and settled in. He was noticed by a different flight attendant and she explained that he needed to move back, then continued on her run up the aisle before seeing him move. He didn’t.

Near to landing she came back through, and seeing he hadn’t moved, and still wouldn’t move, the discussion got heated and she went to the head flight attendant. She came back saying, this time in English, “Disrespectful. The police will meet you at the gate.”

So, to be a further ass, he moved back exactly one row, from the first exit row to the one opposite me. This time she saw that and called down the head flight attendant, and another, a tall man. The discussion in Spanish was enough to spook the guy into returning to his original seat.

I didn’t stick around to see if the police showed. I think the flight attendants let it go, north worth delaying their midnight hotel check-in to deal with that crap.

Why should they have to deal with it at all? True, these passengers could have paid attention to the announcements when boarding but otherwise they had no reason to think they had to remain confined to the back of the plane. When confronted for doing something they regarded as perfectly fine, predictably some did not respond gracefully. We get unhappy flight attendants and steaming passengers over a problem that shouldn’t exist.

United is supposedly trying to take steps big and small to improve it’s experience for employees and passengers. It’s a quick one to fix. Throw a doily over the seatbacks or just call up the Copy Everything Delta Does department.

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  • Charles (CMK10)

    It says “Economy Plus” above every row next to the numbers on the overhead bin.

    Also, you used the wrong its in the title.

  • J

    I hate when people do that, especially when they sit in the middle seat that otherwise was going to go empty.

    Not surprising that this happens on int’l flights since not many other airlines care if you move seats after boarding, especially if you stay in the same COS. Considering Economy Plus and Economy seats look alike (like you mentioned) it makes things more difficult to understand.. However, that guy was a dick for not moving especially when told to by the FA.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Charles – corrected, thanks, one of those posting after midnight errors.

    I didn’t notice if that plane had the tiny labels you mention, the flight attendants didn’t seem to either. I know I have seen those before on others planes, though when I look at the only grainy photo I took I don’t see it, and regardless, don’t you think that only flight obsessives are going to notice that? None of these passengers did and I wouldn’t expect them to even know what economy plus is without much better call-outs.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @J – there was the little dick at the beginning and the big dick at the end, especially after he proactively moved only one row back I did wish he had gotten the police greeting.

    And don’t get me started on people leaping into a middle seat next to me that would have gone empty. That I have fought over when an airline charges extras for those seats, most recently someone on South African JNB-JFK who tried to slip in to the exit row next to me with the flimsy excuse that her in-flight entertainment was not working and of all the empty seats on the place she just had to have that one.

  • Tom

    I guess the FAs didn’t have the credit card reader on that flight? I remember hearing an announcement on a domestic flight that anyone who wish to move to E+ can buy on board.

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  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Tom – prior to departure there was mention by one of checking the price but the middle aged guy balked before it was even quoted so I don’t know if they had the card reader.

  • ptahcha

    It doesn’t matter how much signage or doily or curtain they can put in. People will always try to sneak in.

    @Tom there’s always a credit card reader onboard for BOB and other transaction, since it’s all on iPhone now.

  • Gaurav

    @RTC, what was the outcome of the disagreement on the SAA flight? What do you say to someone in that situation? I mean the seat isn’t yours in any way unless you’ve purchased it. Not trying to criticize in any way, just curious since I’ve been on both sides of the situation.

  • Rapid Travel Chai

    @Gaurav – the backstory was I bought the ticket in August for early November departure, I did not know that they were adjusting their systems to start sale of premium seats, I lost count of how many times the system kicked out my seat assignments, how many calls it took to try to keep my seats while they fiddled. Evetually the system was up and I gave up on their efforts to give me the seat free and paid the whopping sum of $60, I have been meaning to do a post on the best value coach upgrade in the world. I was going to defend my turf against on all-paying comers. In this case, yes, I was a bit of a dick, the woman came alone trying to get by me and take the seat and I said no. She was shocked. I explained these are extra charge and she can have it if she pays the airline the fee. She came back with a flight attendant, keep in mind the airline just launched sale of the seat so he knew little, again I persisted, he looked flummoxed, and then she went off in a huff saying, “I wouldn’t want to sit next to that guy.” She took one on the many other open seats closer to her original seat. It was all bs to get the extra legroom.

  • DaveS

    Many people aren’t even aware there is a difference. Yes, the seats should be marked visibly so that the demarcation between regular and premium priced seats is easily visible to anyone. “Premium seating forward of this sign sold for extra fee” might be a way to do it.

    There are all kinds. Seated on the aisle in the first row of regular economy, I witnessed a surprisingly friendly banter between a young man who tried to move forward to a seat in the nearly empty premium economy area and a FA who said no. They were both of the kind who believe a smile and laugh will go a long way, and I’ve never seen such a cordial argument. He wound up where he started but the FA seemed extra pleasant and helpful to him throughout the flight.

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