An American Airlines passenger has claimed his girlfriend was “kicked out” of first class so that an off-duty pilot could reportedly take her seat on an Embraer E-175 regional jet flight.
In a viral X post, former passenger Jake Williams wrote that, although a gate agent had upgraded the couple to first class, they were later told that his girlfriend’s seat was broken and that they had no choice but to move her “to the back”.
“You all are terrible,” Williams wrote above a video that showed a man in a pilot uniform settling into a seat. “You (gate agent) upgraded my girlfriend and I to first class. You kick her out because broken seat move her to the back. Then pilot sits in said broken seat.”
Below the post, a customer-service representative for the airline commented on Tuesday, saying that they would “take a closer look” at his claim.
In the airline industry, it’s common practice for off-duty pilots to be seated among other passengers because they’re deadheading or jumpseating, when they’re paid to fly to another location for work but aren’t on duty.
According to View from the Wing, American Airlines pilots get first-class priority thanks to a union contract, unlike other airline employees, who typically sit in economy when deadheading. American Airlines pilots also reportedly get priority over upgraded passengers like Williams and his girlfriend.
You all are terrible. You (gate agent) upgraded my girlfriend and I to first class. You kick her out because broken seat move her to the back. Then pilot sits in said broken seat. pic.twitter.com/F1I69By3az
— Jake Williams (@jwilliams0787) November 8, 2023
The couple certainly wasn’t the first nor will be the last to get bumped in favour of airline staff.
In a clip posted to TikTok, Danielle Schwab (@watergirl8296) similarly claimed that United Airlines forced her fiancé to give up his seat in first class and move to economy class so that a crew member could have his seat. Schwab explained that he was “bumped” while they were travelling from London’s Heathrow airport to Chicago.
“Okay so, I’m recording this right now because we are on United Airlines going from Heathrow to Chicago and we booked these seats, we’re in first class, we booked these seats fair and square,” Schwab said. “And, all of a sudden, my fiancé, we just got engaged, just got moved to coach.”
Although the couple had reportedly booked “ahead of time,” Schwab said that the airline wanted a “part of the crew to sit in first class instead.” She continued: “I understand that the crew works really hard, however, we booked these seats ahead of time and this is not fair. This is not customer service. I’m sorry, it’s just not customer service. Like, this is ridiculous.”
The TikTok video has since received over 1.7 million likes on the platform and sparked outrage targeted at United Airlines, with many demanding that Schwab seek compensation for the treatment. In a follow-up video, she said that airline staff informed her that the plane could be put “out of service if you don’t have enough seats” for flight crew.
“Flight attendants take turns taking naps in the back of the plane,” she explained. “There’s usually bunks or seats that go out into a bed. So, what they were saying is, if a seat is not working … what they did instead was they went ahead and booted four people out of first class, including Mikey [her fiancée].”
They were reportedly given a “glorified fast pass” but no apology from the airline, nor were they compensated with another first-class flight.
The Independent has contacted American Airlines and Williams for comment.