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United Airlines "Forced" Couple to Give First Class Seat to Crew Member

The couple had paid for their tickets in full and just gotten engaged.

What should have been a perfect end for a romantic getaway turned out to be a sad tale of separation for one couple flying home on a United Airlines flight from London to Chicago. Danielle Schwab, whose TikTok profile is @watergirl8296, posted a series of videos outlining how her fiancé was "forced" to move from his first-class seat to a new seat in economy class to accommodate an airline crew member.

She detailed her disappointment with United's customer service in her videos, which seems to show that little was done to compensate the couple or make them feel comfortable after the stressful ordeal.

"We booked these seats fair and square," Schwab states in the first video, which she recorded while in her first-class seat aboard the flight. She says the couple had gotten engaged during their trip, but that their newly-engaged bliss was cut short when her fiancé was "bumped back to coach… because they wanted part of the crew to sit in first-class instead."

Schwab acknowledged that airline crew members "work really hard," but her main issue, apart from being separated from her partner, came down to the fact that they had paid for a product they were unable to use or enjoy for the long-haul flight.

A second video featuring her fiancé Mikey provided a longer explanation of what had occurred.

"Flight attendants take turns taking naps in the back of the plane, there's usually bunks or seats that go out into a bed," she began. She went on to say that there may have been an issue with "seats not working" so the airline "went ahead and booted four people out of first class."

Flight attendants often work unconventional hours based on flight schedules. The Federal Aviation Administration created regulations to ensure these employees receive adequate rest in order to perform their duties in a safe and alert manner. According to the FAA website, those with a "scheduled duty period of 14 hours or less… must have at least nine consecutive hours of scheduled rest" once their shift ends and before another begins. 

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That can be tricky on a long-haul flight, as crew duty often begins at check-in and ends "at your layover or home domicile," according to the Association of Flight Attendants. If an international flight takes nine hours, staff can be on duty for an additional three hours before takeoff, which is why crew rest periods often happen during a flight.

Crew rotation schedules allow for this, but it does often mean resting crews must be confined to onboard sleep capsules or specified areas of the plane. Some United flights, according to The Points Guy, "are outfitted with four extra-reclining coach seats for flight attendants," which are sectioned off for privacy using a thick curtain.

Schwab acknowledged that the flight attendants seemed sympathetic to her distress and that the bumped passenger situation was not part of a normal procedure. She received information that planes with similar issues are usually "put out of service if you don't have enough seats" for flight crew, but that bumping passengers is also an unfortunate option airlines can take.

"You can do the screwed-up thing and kick people out," Schwab emphasized.

The couple allegedly received support from a United Airlines ground staff member, who met them once they landed but seemed to provide little help. Mikey said they were given a "glorified fast pass" through the customs and immigration process line, but it seemed less like a perk as they had a four-hour layover waiting for them on the other side.

The couple stated that they tried to get someone to help them receive fair compensation or additional answers to their questions, but were repeatedly told to "submit a claim online." Their subsequent flight was not upgraded, and the ground staff member left them at the airport shuttle after they retrieved their bags.

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"The guy was rushing us the whole time," Mikey added, alleging that the staff member "made up stuff" about waiving an overweight baggage fee despite their bags weighing less than the weight limit. 

The couple hasn't posted an update since the ordeal, but they did mention that another passenger who was also bumped "received compensation." However, The Street obtained a response from a United Airlines representative regarding the matter:

"To provide the required room for crew members to rest during the flight, we had to reassign two customers who were originally ticketed in Polaris to Premier Plus seats instead. We understand this is frustrating for our customers, and we refunded the price difference for the seats and offered each customer a $1,500 certificate for future travel."

Katka Lapelosova
Kat is a born and raised New Yorker exploring the world as she writes, eats, and everything in between. Read more
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