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United follows Delta's lead, allows you to opt out of middle-seat 'upgrades'

July 27, 2021
3 min read
United follows Delta's lead, allows you to opt out of middle-seat 'upgrades'
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Hate getting stuck in a middle seat?

Well, you might be able to avoid one on your next United flight as the carrier just expanded its seating preference options for standby travelers.

Previously, you could only state your preference for an aisle or window seat. Now, you'll find three new options in the United app when you're on the standby or upgrade list for a given flight.

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Pending availability, you'll be able to opt out of the following three seating types:

  • Extra-legroom Economy Plus middle seats.
  • Bulkhead seats.
  • Exit row seats.
(Screenshot courtesy of United)

Though extra-legroom seats may be more comfortable, many travelers would prefer to sacrifice the extra pitch for an aisle or a window seat in the back of the plane.

The same is true for bulkhead seats. While they offer added legroom thanks to the positioning of the cabin wall or closet, your under-seat storage is limited, and the TV screens and tray tables are fixed in the armrest or seat itself.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

As for exit rows, some of the seats don't recline, and sitting there requires agreeing to assist in the case of an emergency, which might not be everyone's preference.

United will automatically begin assigning seats, based on your choices and availability, an hour before international flights and 30 minutes before domestic ones.

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Note that this new option only collects your seat preference. You’ll still clear the standby or upgrade list even if you’d rather avoid the seat types that are remaining. Additionally, the waitlist will still clear in priority order, with seat preferences only being considered when it’s your turn to be processed.

In explaining the move to TPG, the airline shared that this enhancement was designed to improve the travel experience. "Knowing what our customers prefer and doing our best to honor those based on availability during the standby seat assignment process makes for an even better United travel experience," according to the airline.

Delta first pioneered a similar seating preference feature back in 2017 to help elites avoid the dreaded middle-seat "upgrade." Before then, the Atlanta-based carrier would automatically upgrade eligible Medallions to any available extra-legroom Comfort+ seat.

(Screenshot courtesy of Delta)

Some people who’d selected non-Comfort+ exit-row seats found themselves “upgraded” to a middle seat in Comfort+, while others wound up in a bulkhead seat on a regional jet with a large backpack or briefcase — hardly a better spot.

Delta listened to feedback and has since implemented a feature to allow elites to opt in for Comfort+ upgrades, along with a choice of seat preferences: aisle, window or middle.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023