Did United Airlines really give away a passenger’s business class seat to crew?

EQRoy / Shutterstock.com / @watergirl8396 TikTok account

A woman took to social media to rant about United Airlines downgrading her fiance from business class to ‘coach’ so that a flight attendant could rest in his seat.

Danielle Schwab was traveling from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) with her fiance. 

In a TikTok post uploaded on May 24, 2023, Schwab, under the username @watergirl8396, ranted about the couple’s poor experience with United Airlines.

Schwab said that “all of a sudden”, her fiance was moved to coach (economy class) by the airline so that a member of the flight crew could rest in his seat.

“We had booked and paid for our seats ahead of time. This is not customer service,” Schwab said.

In a subsequent TikTok post, Schwab uploaded a written account of the incident .


Heres the full stort in written format to clear up any confusion. #unitedairlines #unitedairlinestiktok

♬ original sound – Danielle Schwab

According to Scwab, she and her fiance had already boarded the plane and were seated on their United Business Class Polaris seats, when a gate agent stepped onto the aircraft. 

The agent told them that they will need her fiance’s seat for a flight attendant. 

Schwab also clarified that her fiance was downgraded to premium economy, and not coach or economy, as she stated in the first video. 

United needed a total of four seats to be given up for cabin crew. Schwab’s father, who was traveling with them, was able to speak to another woman whose seat was also given to the crew.

Schwab later found out that the other two passengers had agreed to be offloaded and take the equivalent flight the following day, accepting incentives offered by United Airlines.

Did United Airlines really downgrade a passenger?

The short answer is yes. However, there is a reason for the downgrade.

In an emailed statement to AeroTime, United Airlines explained:

“The seats we normally reserve for crew members to take their required rest breaks weren’t working on this flight, so we unfortunately had to reassign two customers to Premium Plus rather than cancel the flight. We understand the customer’s frustration and are refunding the price difference for their seats and giving them each a $1,500 certificate for future travel.” 

In Schwab’s latest statement, she said that they were not given any compensation by the airline. She claims that a member of United Airlines’ customer service met them at the airport when the flight landed to apologize, and encouraged them to share their feedback on United Airlines’ app. 

When they asked about the compensation, the airline staff told them that this was handled by a different department.

“We understand that this is a first-world problem but this was horrible customer service that should have never happened,” Schwab said.

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