Can Elites Get Better Seats for Companions on Separate Tickets?
"Reader Questions" are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.
Today we're diving into a Facebook message from Jeff, who has elite status with United...
[pullquote source="TPG Reader Jeff"]I travel for business and have United Silver status. I like to bring my wife with me and use miles to pay for her flight, but I can't get her Economy Plus seats because she's on a separate reservation. Is there any way around this?[/pullquote]
This is a good question not just for United flyers, but for elites on Delta and American as well. Elite members at all three airlines have advance access to the better economy seats on the plane, as do companions traveling on the same reservation. But what if your companion is on a separate reservation because you purchased their ticket separately, perhaps with miles?
Fortunately, if you're on United or American, you should be able to get your companion in the good seats with you as long as they're booked in the same cabin as you. However, the process for doing so is slightly different at each airline, and Delta is a different story. But in all cases, you won't be able to do it online — you'll have to contact the airline directly.
As a United elite, you can select Economy Plus seats in advance if you have Gold status or higher. So for a companion on a separate reservation, all you have to do is call United and ask an agent to manually override and put your companion in an Economy Plus seat next to you... though I suppose if you don't really like your companion, you could ask for them to be put in a seat away from you. But that might raise some suspicions. In Jeff's case, he's a United Silver so he can only select Economy Plus seats at check-in, but if he calls United when the check-in window opens he should be able to get Economy Plus for his companion as well.
However, if you don't want to call and deal with phone agents, with United you can just tweet at the airline directly to ask for the change. An important note: Never publicly tweet your record locator. If someone has your record locator and your name, they can change your reservation, including completely canceling it without your knowledge. So if you want to tweet at United, make sure to handle the request by private direct message.
When it comes to American elites, remember first that only Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro and Platinum levels have free access to Main Cabin Extra seats in advance — AA Gold elites get 50% off the price of buying them unless they wait until 24 hours ahead of the flight, at which point any open seats are complimentary. In either case, you'll want to call or tweet American and ask them to link your companion's reservation to your own reservation (which are called PNRs at American). Once they're linked, your companion should get access to most of your own elite benefits, including seat assignments.
Unfortunately, if you're flying on Delta on separate reservations, you're out of luck when it comes to Comfort+. While it's still possible to link reservations in an effort to get a companion upgraded into first class (though they will likely be at the bottom of the upgrade list), Delta's terms and conditions state that "when traveling with a companion in different reservations, General SkyMiles Members are not eligible for Complimentary Upgrades to Delta Comfort+."
The only good news here is that if your companion is in your Delta reservation, Comfort+ priority is now based on the status of the highest tier of the passengers in your reservation. But if you booked two separate tickets, you can't get Comfort+ for your companion on Delta.