Stupid Tip of the Day: Changing a Seat Assignment on a Flight Operated by a Code-Share Partner

Note: Stupid Tip of the Day is a fairly new but no so new regular feature of The Gate which will not be featured regularly — if at all — after today.

ou have booked a flight with one airline and you want to either get a seat assignment if you did not already receive one; or change your seat assignment…

…but you go to the official Internet web site of the airline to do so — only to get a message stating that a seat assignment cannot be changed at this time; or cannot be changed via the Internet at all.

The likely reason could be that another airline is actually operating the flight as part of a code-share agreement where two or more airlines “share” the same flight. For me, the obvious clue that a flight is being operated by a partner airline is the flight number itself, as a flight number which is “higher” than the typical flight numbers used on flights operated by the airline is a reasonably good indication that another airline is actually operating the flight. For example, Delta Air Lines flight 9384 from Amsterdam to Washington-Dulles Airport is actually operated by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines as flight 651. The flight number 9384 is the clue that the flight is not operated by Delta Air Lines — unless it is what is known as a special section, which is a flight typically not on the regular flight schedule.

In 2007, I flew as a passenger on Delta Air Lines flight 9998, which was not a scheduled flight. Rather, it was a special section which flew twice around the international airport in Atlanta on April 30, 2007; and then flew on to Salt Lake City and Los Angeles on May 1, 2007 with its executives at the time, plus specially invited guests — which included me to author an official weblog for Delta Air Lines documenting its emergence from bankruptcy with words and photographs. If you are interested, I will share that with you sometime in the future, as those were two trips which I will never forget — but I digress.

Anyway, if you want to reserve or change a seat assignment but are unable to do so, you could always call the airline; or if you booked through an Internet travel agency such as Orbitz or Expedia, you could probably have your seat assigned through them — but they are usually still at the mercy of the operating airline; and your changes may not be guaranteed.

The best way may be to first check to see which airline is actually operating the flight. The Internet web site where you purchased your ticket should have that information available. Once that is definitively determined, go to the official Internet web site of the operating airline. You can usually use the six-character record locator of one airline involved in the code-share agreement to find your reservation on the airline actually operating the flight, which will typically have its own record locator for your itinerary. Using the aforementioned example, you can use the record locator from Delta Air Lines flight 9384 to look up your itinerary at the official Internet web site of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. Once you find your itinerary, you will likely be able to assign yourself an available seat.

Remember that it is typically the operating airline which ultimately is the final arbiter pertaining to that flight, which is why you may not be able to reserve or change a seat assignment with the airline which simply assigns a flight number to that flight as part of a code-share agreement.

Hopefully, this stupid tip of the day will give you more control over ensuring that you are assigned the seats in which you want to sit.

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