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United to notify passengers of crowded flights, offer free changes

May 12, 2020
3 min read
United to notify passengers of crowded flights, offer free changes
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Monday afternoon, I detailed United's confusing policy of "blocking middle seats". Essentially, middle seats are not available for passengers to pre-select, but, since the airline isn't capping ticket sales, they may be assigned at the gate on relatively full flights, if necessary.

Now, United has announced a new policy that'll empower phone representatives, gate agents and customers to avoid a potentially uncomfortable scenario in which passengers board a plane to find an entirely full flight.

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As United explains:

Travel demand has declined dramatically over the last few months and even though we have reduced our schedule by 90%, the vast majority of our flights (85 percent) are less than half full. However, because our schedule is so reduced, there are a small number of flights where our customers are finding planes fuller than they expect. In an effort to be as transparent as possible with our customers and give them more control over their travel plans, starting next week and continuing through June 30, we’ll allow customers on flights that are expected to be closer to full capacity to choose to rebook on a different flight or receive a travel credit.

More: These are the only long-haul routes American, Delta and United plan to fly in May

Ultimately, it shouldn't cost the airline much to move passengers to new flights, aside from a few minutes of work for a phone or gate agent. Passengers will get the option of selecting a flight where they'll be a bit more comfortable.

As for how the new program will work, United says:

To make it easier for our customers to plan, we’ll do our best to contact them about 24 hours before their departure time so they can decide whether to adjust their plans before they arrive at the airport – and we’ll provide this option at the gate, if more than 70% of customers have checked in.

With more than 70% of customers checked in, gate agents would have no choice but to begin assigning middle seats — hopefully this added flexibility will enable them to avoid putting passengers in an uncomfortable position, while limiting the financial impact for the airline.

More: United Airlines CEO warns of a smaller carrier post-coronavirus

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Featured image by United plans to serve Haneda with a mix of wide-body aircraft, including the 787-10. Photo by Zach Honig.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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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.

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  • 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