Does United Airlines Give Out Too Much Information?

Last night, my niece Amanda was flying from Newark to Geneva on United Airlines. She was running late getting to the airport so I visited United.com to see if the plane was on time and then texted Amanda to see if she had made it or not. They were both on time. I then asked what seat she was in because I was amazed to see that there was a tab to the live seat map with its inventory, right there on the website. See screenshot below.

United Amanda

The flight was almost completely full except for a few empty seats, and I noticed that one them was next to my niece’s seat—19A. When I texted her and told her that it looks like she had an empty seat next to her, she quickly texted back asking, “How do you know?” “I’m Johnny Jet,” I told her! But then I cautioned her not to get too excited because it looked like there was one person on standby. I told her it was probably a flight attendant and since First Class was full, the flight attendant would probably sit next to her in the next best seat, in Premium Economy.

She didn’t think I was right since they were close to closing the door. I told her to let me know if someone takes the seat beside her and if their name is K. Min. (Surprisingly, United’s website lists the standbys, including those for upgrades, on their website). A few minutes later, my niece texted back in all caps: “HOW DID YOU KNOW A FLIGHT ATTENDANT WAS GOING TO SIT NEXT TO ME?!” I said, “I already told you, I’m Johnny Jet,” but in reality, I was shocked that United’s website gave so much information.

I also noticed the following morning, when I went to see if she had landed on time, that the site allows you to see the actual seat numbers of those on standby and upgrade list (see screenshot below). I personally love all this information because I’m an aviation geek but I’m not sure how many passengers will. Especially flight crew who are trying to fly incognito to surprise someone. Same goes for passengers who are on the upgrade list as we can now see which ones got upgraded and didn’t pay for First Class.

UA First CLass List

What do you think? Am I making much ado about nothing or is this way too much information for an airline to be disseminating to the general public?

Comments

  1. You are making much ado about nothing.

  2. Not too much info. Vital info for combating upgrade shenanigans

  3. Pat Bunyard says:

    Worked great when I was able to check I was on the standby list . Don’t think you would be able to find someone without knowing what seat they are assigned. Great info for travelers.

  4. It’s really not a big deal Johnny a Jet. As a UAL employee we rely on all that info as we non rev.

  5. It’s the first three letters of the last name followed by first initial. What’s the big deal. Upgrades and airline employes depend on the info.

  6. Ever since the United and Continental merger, Elite access is no longer elite. BTW, my wife got a letter from United the other day and they automatically awarded her Silver Elite Access this year even though she didn’t fly the minimum 25000 miles last year.

  7. I agree – much ado about nothing. I don’t really care if somebody knows the first letter of my first name and last three of my last. I like knowing where I am on the upgrade list. Posting seat assignments does not seem to have much value to me, but doesn’t upset me.

  8. I’m shocked it was on time?

  9. I love it. I have noticed that UAL has done this since the CO merger and CO used to do it also. I have been on flights before where a first class seat flies open for whatever reason, even though there were many people on the upgrade list, myself included. This feature allows me to see if they filled it or flew empty.

  10. Delta also lists the standbys and upgrades this way! I have always thought it kind of odd…

  11. I think this IS a big deal and it’s totally creepy. UNITED, you suck. Don’t do this. I don’t want some random person checking out where I’m sitting. It can be used for nefarious purposes… I don’t have to spell that out.

  12. Hmmm. I think it is fine for anyone booked on the flight to be able to see this, but kind of weird that everyone else in the world can, too. I’m not freaky about privacy, but can imagine that some people might be uncomfortable…someone who wouldn’t want their estranged spouse or mean boss to know their activities, for example.

  13. Alaska has gives this information on it’s website, at least as far as standbys and upgrades go.

  14. Welcome to the digital information age, Johnny!

  15. Sorry Johnny Jet but this is a BIG YAWN. Your articles are usually spot-on, but this time you missed the mark. Are there some people who don’t like this information posted? Sure! Are there some people who DO like this information posted? Sure! That leaves the other 80% who just don’t care.

  16. First, I’m shocked that Johnny Jet is shocked that seat maps are public. They have been so for years and years. So what?

    Second, I am surprised that some airlines make upgrade and standby lists public; I know many airlines make this available to anyone on the flight via their mobile apps. However, I’m having trouble understanding the concern. What is the attack scenario? Does a bad guy scan the upgrade and standby lists for every flight and then try to guess who the people are based on first three letters of last name and first letter of first name? (Even if the passenger’s name has only three letters, how is the attacker to know this?) Or does the bad guy have out-of-band information as to what flight someone is on, and if the person is also on the standby or upgrade list, and is cleared, is then able to determine the seat assignment? If so, so what?

    Third, I’m confused because the screen show of the info after the flight landed showed no one cleared the standby list, yet the post stated that a FA did clear.

    • Johnny Jet Johnny Jet says:

      Hey Rand,

      1. I’ve known for years that they made their seat maps public but I think it’s new that they show the actual load after the flight is complete. I have no problem with it.
      2. My concern is that the upgrade and standby list is open to the public. There’s no reason for it — it should just be privy to the passengers and airline employees. I used to date a flight attendant and one of her friends had a psycho ex-boyfriend who would stalk her every move. Hence, making it a safety issue.
      3. The FA didn’t get upgraded since business was full — she was sitting in coach next to my niece like I stated.

  17. I don’t think you could have seen her seat if she had not given you her reservation computer code. Also the standbys and upgrades are listed by the first three letters of the last name plus the initial. Of course, if your name only has three letter, such as many Chinese names do, then they are revealed.

  18. Johnny Jet Johnny Jet says:

    I didn’t have any code. Give it a shot yourself.

  19. This really is not a big deal. I fly United every week and it is true on that the first three letters of your last name and the first letter of your first name is shown. It allows those of us who frequent the same route regularly to see if our friends are on the same flight – which of course is not its purpose but comes in handy. Don’t sweat the fact that a flight attendant took a enonomy plus seat. Geez don’t you think there are other things to get upset about – I love all the info UA gives and I’ m more interested in safe, on time flights.

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