Stymied on advance seating

By George Dottl
This item appears on page 26 of the April 2014 issue.

For a trip to Vietnam in January-February 2014, George Dottl of Rogers, Arkansas, called American Airlines and booked tickets for his wife and himself. 

They would fly on Jan. 2 aboard American Airlines from Arkansas to Dallas/Fort Worth to Tokyo, Japan (Narita International), then board a Japan Airlines flight to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. They would fly the reverse route on the same airlines on Feb. 17.

He wrote to ITN, “Calling on the ‘Platinum line’ on April 11, 2013, I got my ticket written with American using a credit card, then upgraded to business class using frequent-flyer points. I was told to contact their partner, Japan Airlines (JAL), regarding our assigned seats on the JAL portion.

“I ended up speaking to a JAL supervisor, who told me that if I had booked our flights with JAL directly I could have had seats assigned in advance but that because our JAL flights were booked through American Airlines, our seats could not be assigned until 72 hours before departure time.

“This was not acceptable to us. I contacted American again and received an email with an apology and an offer to refund the cost of our tickets. Unfortunately, we had signed up for tours, so this would not work.”

ITN sent copies of Mr. Dottl’s letters to American Airlines (4255 Amon Carter Blvd., MD 2400, Fort Worth, TX 76155) and Japan Airlines (Honolulu International Airport, 300 Rodgers Blvd., Ste. 21, Honolulu, HI 96819;

An American Airlines rep emailed back, “We do correspond with passengers when they contact us and we have already done so with Mr. Dottl.”

A JAL rep informed ITN that they had sent an email to Mr. Dottl. Mr Dottl wrote to ITN, “There was no signature on the email from JAL.” He quoted parts of the email, as follows: “We would like to express our deepest regrets for any dissatisfaction you may be experiencing, since you are not able to get seat assignments for the sectors Narita-Ho Chi Minh City on flight AA5845 on January 3, 2014, and on flight JL750 on February 17, both operated by JL.

“As representatives of AA and JL have informed you, our fare policy regulates that we do not allow customers to preselect a seat for the fare ‘N,’ purchased for sectors between Narita and Ho Chi Minh City. The representatives offered you a higher fare that does allow for an advanced seat assignment, and they also offered to refund your tickets.

“Please accept our sincerest apologies for the miscommunication from our representative regarding selecting your seats through the AA website 72 hours prior to your flight departure for both flights. The representative meant you can get a seat assignment only for JL750 from Ho Chi Minh City in this manner. Unfortunately, because the first flight in your itinerary is not operated by JL, for systemic reasons, you are unable to select seats for flight AA5845 prior to check-in.”

Mr. Dottl noted to ITN, “JAL’s email stated that I needed to buy more expensive tickets in order to get assigned seats. This is the first time I was told this.” 

In a follow-up email on Feb. 23, after his trip, Mr. Dottl informed ITN that when returning from Ho Chi Minh City to Tokyo, he requested upgraded seats from JAL and was told that because he had originally purchased his tickets through American Airlines, he could only get the upgrade if he rewrote the entire ticket at a cost of more than $4,000. — Editor