On Saturday I flew from San Francisco to Washington Dulles on United and witnessed what could be classified as a lazy and motivated gate agent at the aircraft door. Lazy because she wasn’t going to fill the two empty seats in first class with passengers on the upgrade list, but motivated to get our delayed flight out saying there were passengers with connections in Dulles.
For a few weekends, San Francisco International Airport is down to one arrival runway, due to construction, causing some flow control delays. As such, passengers missing their connections is more likely. And I believe my flight was a case in point.
When I boarded, the first class cabin was booked and checked-in full – I was number 4 on the upgrade list. No chance, really, and I didn’t care that much since I’ve been getting over my upgrade phobia lately. But I still like to see how it all plays out and when the agent came onboard with the paperwork ready to close the door, here’s how the flight looked:
I was in 10D and the gentleman ahead of me in 9D called out to the agent ready to close the door asking about further upgrades. (I bet he was also looking at his mobile app). The agent said, “let me look at the list” and turned around to her colleague. Seconds later, she said, “Yes, you definitely… take any open seat.” He got up and moved up front.
The agent then told the flight attendant, “I’m closing the door!” And she did. After the jetway pulled and the flight attendant armed the door, she went up front, grabbed the manifest from the purser and headed back to another passenger in 20C. He was quickly escorted up to the last remaining seat in first class and later in the flight came back to bring his belongings forward.
Sunday morning I looked at the flight again and noticed #1 and #2 on the list showed cleared, though I have no idea if they were indeed the two passengers moved forward. They probably were.
Now here’s what I wonder. If Mr. 9D didn’t question the gate agent, I bet those two first class seats would have flown empty. I certainly respect the gate agent for wanting to get the flight out as quickly as possible to protect the downline connections, but shouldn’t they also take the few seconds (it wouldn’t take more than a minute, would it?) to fill those empty seats?
I said earlier that I didn’t really care about missing the upgrade. But had I been number 1 or 2 and saw after landing that I showed cleared and still flew in coach, I’d be a little pissed. Wouldn’t you?
Finally, kudos to the flight attendant who seemed to take it upon herself to fill the last remaining seat in first class with Mr. 20C. I don’t think the gate agent had anything to do with that.