Plan B

If you think it’s hard to get an upgrade on an airline, try giving one up.

As much as I love to receive a bump in status, believe it or not, there are actually times when I don’t want one. For example, there are times when I travel with my kids when I’ll receive an upgrade, but they don’t. As much as they’d love to be out from under Mom’s watchful eye (and I’d like to be taken care of instead of taking care of), I really need to stay with my kids.

That sounds easy enough, but it actually isn’t. Usually the upgrade happens automatically and I’ll either see it when I check in online or I’ll get an email notification. Unfortunately, there is no way on the airline’s website to give up the upgrade. Just as a person with a coach class ticket can’t select a seat in first class, the opposite is also true. There is no way to move to the back, as it were.

Okay, so you’d think it would be easy enough to correct once at the airport. Well, that’s only partly true. If it were simply a matter of giving up my upgraded seat for a coach seat, that would be no problem. The complexity arises when I need a particular seat–one beside my kids. Now, that particular seat was mine-all-mine before the upgrade, but by the time I start to get the mess untangled, someone else has already been assigned to it. With airplanes operating at or near capacity these days, usually that means several rows of separation (maybe I should have stayed in first class) and begging, cajoling, and wheedling fellow passengers to swap seats. And don’t forget; if I didn’t need to sit by someone, I wouldn’t be giving up my upgrade in the first place.

Other people may have other reasons for giving up an upgrade: a company travel policy that doesn’t allow upgrades, personal preference, or even just being contrary. Regardless, it happens.

I think this is an interesting problem. Normally, when do something nice for someone, we don’t even consider the possibility of refusal. After all, who would refuse something better than requested? There are instances, however, when the intended recipient won’t or can’t take our “something extra.” As in every other situation, we should have a Plan B. If we don’t, our intended nice gesture may backfire and leave the recipient feeling frustrated rather than appreciated.

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