American Flyer Banned By Airline For Accepting First Class Upgrade

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American Flyer Banned By Airline For Accepting First Class Upgrade

Image: Dallas Morning News

A passenger on American Airlines has been banned from the carrier after accepting an upgrade to a first-class seat that the airline itself offered, causing outrage in the online travel community.

We’ve heard plenty of stories of passengers getting kicked out of their first-class seats for ‘terrible’ reasons and wholly legitimate ones — like threatening cabin crew over food choice — but never before have we heard of a passenger being banned from an airline because they accepted a first-class upgrade offered to them by that very same airline.

That’s exactly what happened to one flyer from the USA, however, after an initial issue with their Iowa to Florida flight set off a chain of events that have baffled those in the industry and the wider online travel community, with many explanations offered as to why the passenger was finally banned but none being deemed fair or legitimate.

Boyfriend got banned for accepting 1st class upgrade
byu/Calexgo inamericanairlines

What Happened?

While you can hear the story straight from the horse’s mouth via the Reddit post above, here’s a quick recap. The post was made by the partner of the man affected. Both were due to travel on the Iowa to Florida flight, but the man missed his departure time. The American Airlines agent revoked him into an economy/coach seat the following day and — entirely of his own volition, so the poster claims — upgraded the man to a first-class seat.

When he arrived to enjoy the upgraded seat the following day, the flight was revealed to be overbooked. The man was then switched to another flight with his first-class status kept intact. He later travelled to Florida with no questions asked, likely enjoying the man amenities of the pointy end. However, when attempting to return to Iowa, he encountered an unexpected issue…

“When attempting to return to IA, he couldn’t check in and was found to be BANNED from American [Airlines]. We chatted with the agent supervisor there in MCO and said he got banned possibly for “fraud” since it appears he got more value from the original coach ticket mysteriously (nothing is documented as to why he was upgraded OR banned)…”


Why Did This Happen?

The couple were, unsurprisingly, outraged at this outcome, given that they had only done what any other passenger would have done: complied with what the airline and gate agents told them, happily accepting what seemed to be a suitable recompense for the inconvenience caused. Commenters on the spot were quick to agree with this sentiment. The top comment, with over 120 upvotes, began as follows:

“That’s ridiculous. They upgrade people after oversales for operational reasons all the time. Even if they rebook you in full fare first, it’s never an extra expense to the passenger. The gate agent who handled it has to have made a mistake here.”


Gary Leff over at View From The Wing attempted to explain this perplexing scenario as concisely as he could but, even with his boundless expertise and insider knowledge, still struggles to set out a clear, or at least a compelling, reason why this all happened:

“A passenger who missed their flight isn’t entitled to first-class space on the next flight if coach isn’t available. But they also cannot give that space to themselves. If there isn’t outright fraud involved (no reason to think there is) then it’s a passenger getting caught up in a big bureaucracy’s own mistakes…”

Gary Leff

Airlines Must Do Better

All in all, this one is both a head-scratcher and a hair-puller, evoking confusion and frustration in equal measure. It seems that the flyer here has been a victim of a massive corporation’s vast and complex set of rules which, in this instance, have begun to cannibalise themselves along with a once-loyal customer’s experience.

We wish the flyers well and, more pointedly, wish airlines didn’t have to make things so needlessly difficult.