How to handle a downgrade

A few weeks ago I was on a call with an inoperable seat in First class.  I’m not sure why the seat was inoperable, but sometimes it happens and maintenance cannot fix it in a timely manner so the easiest solution is to downgrade the person in that assigned seat.  I wouldn’t be against the lowest grade elite who got upgraded being downgraded.  I wouldn’t be against someone with a paid F seat staying in F, but the easiest way to do this, with minimal musical chairs, is to downgrade the person in the inoperable seat and that is what happened on my flight.

So what not to do?  Everything the guy did.  He got moved into the first row of Economy on the EMB 175 so all of first class could hear him whine and complain that everyone else should have been downgraded instead of him.  He whined and whined and whined.  It was funny listening to a 50ish year old business man throw a tantrum for a 1 hour flight.  I thought about giving up my seat to get him to calm down, but he was also complaining that he was moved from an aisle (it was the A seat so it was window/aisle) to a window and I had a window seat.

What should you really do? After the flight make sure to call/fax/tweet the appropriate airline.  If you were on a revenue F ticket request the fare difference between First and Economy.  If you were upgraded express your unhappiness with a last minute downgrade due to a mechanical issue.  Don’t whine in the letter.  I would suggest something like this:

Dear [Insert Airline]:

On [insert date] I was on flight [insert flight number].  Although I paid for a First class ticket, there was a mechanical issue with my seat, [insert seat] and I was moved back to Economy.  Since I did not receive the seat I paid for I would like to request a refund of the difference between my fare and an economy fare [issued as a check/credit/or miles if you really need miles.  Ask for what you’d prefer].

Sincerely
Name/elite account # & status
ticket number and PNR

or if you were on an award

Dear [Insert Airline]:

On [insert date] I was on flight [insert flight number].  I am a loyal flyer of [insert airline] because of the upgrade program and I look forward to the upgrades.  I had been upgraded on the flight and I was to sit in [insert seat] but due to a mechanical issue the seat was inoperable and I was downgraded at the gate to economy.  Since my downgrade was due to an issue with the seat I would like to request [miles are your best bet here since you aren’t even guaranteed an upgrade due to elite status].

Sincerely
Name/elite account # & status
ticket number and PNR

The key is to keep to-the-point.  State the facts.  State what you would like.  Don’t say “I will never fly your airline again.”  Don’t make comments about rude flight attendants or gate agents or make it sound like you were singled out.  Even though this flyer was making rude comments in person if he keeps it clean in his request he may just get what he wants after all.

With Delta when I’ve had issues I’ve had the best luck with faxing or tweeting @deltaassist.  This was on a US Airways Express carrier and I haven’t dealt with them much in terms of asking for anything.  They are slow to respond to web requests so I’d probably snail mail or fax them as well.

For other carriers a quick search for contact information on the website or a quick question on Flyertalk or MilePoint should point you to the best way to contact.  I know with pre-merger United a lot of people liked to email the 1Kvoice or appropriate email for their status tier.

…just don’t take the downgrade out on the flight attendant!

Comments

  1. Some airlines have a formal policy about such downgrades. For United you are due a voucher with the dollar amount determined by the distance of the flight, along with a refund of fare or miles if you were in the premium cabin because you paid for it rather than a complimentary upgrade.

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