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Offline izcohen8

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seat request
« on: September 20, 2017, 01:07:38 PM »
Hi everyone,
I'm new here but I'm so thankful I found this community as it has been so helpful for me to read other people experience's and not feel so alone. I'm posting today hoping that someone can answer a question/concern that I have. I will be traveling internationally with my ESA on United airlines from Newark to Lisbon, Portugal. I already had them approve the letter from my doctor authorizing my need to have my dog with me on the plane. However, when I spoke to the accessibility desk, they told me that they were unable to move me to a bulkhead seat. The problem is, my dog is about 50 pounds and is too large to sit with me at a regular seat, especially since the seats on United international planes have entertainment boxes beneath them, which really limits the amount of space below the seat. I was told that when I get to the gate, I should speak with someone at the desk there about moving me to a bulkhead seat (which would mean bumping someone else and/or asking them to switch seats). This is a bit concerning for me as I'm afraid that I'll get there and they will tell me that they are unable to move me. Has anyone else had a similar experience? Are they usually able to move you to the seat you need once you arrive? I would appreciate any insight anyone can give me about this. Thank you so much!
Isabel

Offline Kirsten

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Re: seat request
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2017, 02:50:49 PM »
I've been moved to bulkhead a few times either at the gate or after boarding.

It's been a really long time since I made an international flight so I'm not familiar with the size of underseat storage on those flights.  I will say that on a regular domestic flight I'm generally better off in a regular seat than in bulkhead.  My service dog is 80 pounds and my previous one was 85 pounds.  Mr. previous had a longer, stiffer spine and he was probably better off in bulkhead but back when I had him I always requested bulkhead because I thought that would be better.  Since then, I tend to request a seat near the front in regular seating.

All that needs to fit under the seat in front is the dog's butt.  The airline will usually post the dimensions of that space.  Maybe you are already aware of these dimensions but if not, you might inquire.  Then determine whether your dog's butt would fit there.  Then practice pushing the butt into similar sized cardboard boxes so you're ready for flight day.  For you I'm suggesting this as a backup plan, in case you don't get the seat shift.

You can also look up your flight, find the specific model of plane you will be flying on, and look it up on seatguru to find out about what seats have better room.  Sometimes there's an HVAC channel that encroaches on part of bulkhead, which is not a problem for human feet, but does limit dog space.  It's just good practice to check seatguru.  Then you know what specifically to ask for.

It's not uncommon for them not to assign or change your seat until you get to the gate.  I've had that happen a few times.  For what it is worth, it has always worked out for me in the end, though that may partly be due to me being diligent about showing up early at the gate and asking for the accommodation as soon as I get there.  I also always ask for pre-boarding, which I am entitled to as a person with a disability who may have some difficulty getting seated (due to needing to install my dog in a tight space).

Once or twice someone has objected to being moved but the airplane staff have handled it for me.

I always try to make these arrangements well in advance, just as you have done.  I try to do it right after purchasing the ticket and I purchase well in advance to get a better price.  I try hard to be courteous.  But sometimes, as you have discovered, even when I try to plan ahead, the airline's policies do not permit me to get assigned to the seat I request in advance.

If there is a curtain instead of bulkhead between coach and first class, then definitely go for bulkhead because the dog's butt can easily fit in first class under the rear seat and no one is bothered at all but your dog gets a bit more room because those first class seats recline more than coach seats and can't be as close to the rear bulkhead as the last row of coach seats are.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline SandyStern

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Re: seat request
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2017, 06:29:54 PM »
Airline crews have always been kind and accommodating to me, but I'm confused about this. Most airlines charge extra for the bulkhead. The ACA says that a service dog (including ESDs) team may be moved to a more accommodating seat as long as it is in the same price category. So I wimp out and buy the bulkhead seat, or if it's short notice and all bulkhead seats are filled, I call the airline and offer to pay the bulkhead rate.

Am I reading it wrong?  One other thing: I would rather have a regular coach seat with an empty seat next to me than a bulkhead seat with the adjacent seat filled. My 80-pound dog fits better in coach if he can have the extra lateral room. He wedges himself under the seat in front.

Offline ZombieFodder

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Re: seat request
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2017, 07:08:10 PM »
I rarely fly, but they always stick me in bulkhead dog or no dog. The one time I didn't request bulkhead because I don't have dogs anymore they put me there anyway. Been awhile, but don't remember paying extra for it. This could obviously vary & as I said I very rarely fly.

When I had dogs I always reserved bulkhead in advance. But they did move me to bulkhead the one time I didn't reserve it for convenience and ease of boarding/deboarding and i didn't even ask, they just did it.
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Offline Kirsten

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Re: seat request
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2017, 07:18:02 PM »
They can't charge extra for bulkhead if it is in the same class of service as the ticket you set out to buy.  But they don't have to upgrade you to first class to accommodate you.  For that upgrade, if you want it, you'll have to pay for it.  Once in a great while they offer it as a courtesy and boy is it awesome of them to do that when they do.  But they don't have to.

They do have to make a good faith effort to put you in bulkhead if you request it.  If you wait until the day of the flight to ask for it, you may not get it because they aren't obligated to honor requests made less than 48 hours prior to scheduled departure, just to try (trying may mean negotiating with the passenger sold the ticket, but that passenger can refuse).  But if you request it more than 48 hours in advance, even if they say they can't assign it to you then and you'll have to ask for it at the gate, then they're pretty much obligated.  However, that doesn't mean they'll actually follow through and do what they are supposed to do.  Which is why you have a backup plan in case they don't give the OP the bulkhead seat that was requested.

The ACAA regs specifically discuss bulkhead seats in reference to service dogs and they define service dogs to include ESAs (for ACAA, ie flying, purposes only, does not apply to public accommodations).
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Kirsten

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Re: seat request
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2017, 07:23:06 PM »
Some (but not all) airlines will allow you to request a "block" be put on a seat.  What this means is that that blocked seat gets sold last.  It does not mean you are guaranteed to have an empty seat next to you but in theory would mean that if there was an empty seat on the plane, it would be the one next to you.  It doesn't always work out that way and not all airlines will agree to block a seat for you.  They are not required to do this.  It is an extra service that some airlines will do.  It actually works out well for them too unless the PWD gets snotty about it.  By blocking the seat they prevent another passenger from being put out by having to sit next to your dog including being crowded by how much is stuffed into your foot space.

Often, the flight staff will offer an empty seat to the passenger stuck next to you in bulkhead.  In my experience, more often than not that passenger would rather take the empty seat in regular coach than stay stuck with you in bulkhead, but not always.  They can't make the passenger move, just give him the option.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline SandyStern

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Re: seat request
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2017, 07:56:41 PM »
Duh. Gawd, I can be dumb. "Class of service" means coach, business, or first.  I was thinking it included the "even more space" seats. I've been spending more than I had to all these years.

Offline Solace

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Re: seat request
« Reply #7 on: September 20, 2017, 08:03:20 PM »
Oh dear!

Offline Kirsten

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Re: seat request
« Reply #8 on: September 20, 2017, 08:56:08 PM »
Not knowing something doesn't make a person dumb.  Nobody knows everything, so if not knowing one thing makes a person dumb, then all humans are dumb.  :wink:
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline izcohen8

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Re: seat request
« Reply #9 on: September 20, 2017, 09:53:28 PM »
Thank you everyone for the information and input! I am familiar with this specific aircraft and airline as I have flown it previously (without dog) and made sure to scope out the seating arrangements as well as verify on seatguru. The problem as I mentioned was that the seat I am currently in has an entertainment box in the footspace under the seat in front which would impede my dog from fitting underneath (as do most seats on this aircraft). He isn't a huge dog and if worse comes to worst, I think he could wedge in underneath the seat in front as long as that box isn't there.

As far as bulkhead seating goes, there is definitely enough space for a dog if not even more space than there would be with a regular seat. Someone mentioned something about having to pay extra for the bulkhead seating which is normally true as United puts business class customers in bulkhead seating, meaning they pay extra. I'm wondering if I should call back tomorrow and see if they will move me if I pay the difference between the seats. While I'm not sure what the law says about this exactly, I was under the impression that having a disability meant I had the right to be seated in bulkhead without having to pay more, but maybe this is wrong. Either way, I am just stressed that I will be forced to sit in a seat in which my dog is unable to lay down without impeding the foot space of our seat mate. This is the first time I'm flying internationally with my dog and as I usually fly Southwest domestically, I have not had this problem in the past. Again, I appreciate everyone's help with this! I know you can all understand how stressful it can be to travel/fly with an ESA.

Offline Kirsten

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Re: seat request
« Reply #10 on: September 21, 2017, 12:35:16 AM »
You don't have to pay extra for bulkhead if you have a disability related reason for needing to be seated there.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline izcohen8

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Re: seat request
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2017, 05:37:20 PM »
That's good to know, thanks! Also you mentioned that you prefer not flying in bulkhead even though you have an 80 pound dog. I'm not sure if you fly United at all (or anyone else here) but would you think that an economy plus seat (I'm currently in an economy plus seat in the row directly behind the bulkhead row) has enough room for my 50 pound dog in case they are unable to move me to a bulkhead row? I'm not positive how much leg room bulkhead has in comparison to the other seats in economy plus and I can't seem to find any information about the seat pitch in bulkhead but it has great reviews on seatguru so I think I'll still try to request a seat there at the gate.

Offline philopsher77

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Re: seat request
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2017, 07:33:59 PM »
Duh. Gawd, I can be dumb. "Class of service" means coach, business, or first.  I was thinking it included the "even more space" seats. I've been spending more than I had to all these years.

Does it?  Why is Economy and Premium Economy considered the same class, when they do not have the same options?  The difference between coach and the others is you get more leg room, amenities, etc., because you pay more.  Premium Economy (generally with extra leg room, sometimes with other perks) seems to be, by that logic, a different "class of service" than Economy (and the even more pared-down Basic Economy that they are trying out in some airlines now).

Offline Kirsten

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Re: seat request
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2017, 09:25:36 PM »
Bulkhead is not a separate class of service.  Yes, they charge more for it for regular passengers, but they aren't supposed to charge PWDs more for it when it is an accommodation for their disability.

382.81   For which passengers must carriers make seating accommodations?

(c) For a passenger with a disability traveling with a service animal, you must provide, as the passenger requests, either a bulkhead seat or a seat other than a bulkhead seat.

The only type of passenger that might possibly get you bumped from a bulkhead seat, if they follow regulations exactly, would be someone with a fused or immobilized leg.  In theory, people with service dogs have the same priority for bulkhead as people with fused legs.  When you have two people wanting the same seat though, they're going to have to make some sort of decision and it might not go your way.

Does this mean they can't or won't ever mess up and not give you the requested bulkhead seating?  No.  Sometimes they screw up.  You should get bulkhead when requested.  To improve your chances of getting what you request and getting it smoothly, follow these steps:

1.  Call reservations at least 48 hours in advance and request the seating you need.  Best practice is to request it at the time of ticket purchase or as soon thereafter as possible (I use a discount ticket service that doesn't allow me to specify, so I buy my ticket, then call reservations and ask for the seat)
2.  Check in at your airline's counter where boarding passes are issued and luggage is checked.  Check your boarding pass and see if your seating is right.  Ask to change it if it is not.  Maybe they can change it and maybe they tell you to ask at the gate.  It doesn't hurt to ask.
3.  Arrive at LEAST an hour early at the gate and check in there.  Identify yourself as a person with a disability traveling with a service dog.  If there is any doubt about your seating, ask for what you need.  Also ask for pre-boarding at this time.
4.  Get in line to pre-board.  Hustle.  Get your dog situated as quickly as you can because the hoards are right behind you.
5.  If you will need an accommodate at the destination airport, talk to the cabin staff when they appear to have a free moment.  Don't interrupt them when they are doing something else.  This is the time to tell them you need an escort at the arrival gate or a wheelchair, or help making a connection, or if there is any question about your seat on the connection (you should have received both boarding passes already and know whether or not you are correctly assigned).  This is particularly important if you will need assistance making it to your connection.  If they forget it may take too long to sort it out when you get there and you may miss your flight, so ask them to radio ahead and make sure.
Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest

Offline Kirsten

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Re: seat request
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2017, 09:45:03 PM »
Example of seating going wrong due to error:  https://cms.dot.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/docs/eo-2017-1-11.pdf

Kirsten and Tardis
In loving memory of Cole (1/11/99 - 6/26/12)  He gave me back my life.

"The one absolute, unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world -- the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous -- is his dog." -George G. Vest