United/Continental Seat Snafu

I flew out to the Bay Area this week, and found, when I went to check in for my outbound flight the day before my departure, that my seat had been changed from the Economy Plus aisle seat I had booked six weeks before to a middle seat.  (If you’re not a Slave of United, Economy Plus is the front of the Economy cabin where there’s actually enough leg room to sit without cramping.)

I called United, and the customer service woman I spoke with told me:

  1. She couldn’t get me a better seat than the window seat I could see on the website
  2. This was an ongoing and known problem, one more result of IT glitches in the merger of the two companies.
  3. There would probably be seating problems for “six months or more” in the future.

I’m not sure all the parts fit together here.  What kind of snafu would re-shuffle the seating map?  Was everyone reshuffled?  Just me?  Why?  How?  And why couldn’t someone go over the mistakes by hand and improve the lot, at least, of the “elite status” flyers?

But assume it’s all true, what does it say about the future of global industry?  If every time there’s a merger it means a churn-o-genic event like this takes place, how can mergers be adaptive?

Coincidentally, I was going out to a “maker movement” conference in Palo Alto, the Make Magazine Hardware Innovation Workshop (a terrific conference with a very hot new tech category), and what these are aiming to do is eat the lunch of large manufacturers.  If a nimble 10-person organization can, say, build cars like Local Motors (one of the presenters at #MakeHIW), why on earth will you need a GM or a Toyota in the future?

Can someone hurry up and disrupt United-Continental?  Or maybe disrupt all mergers?


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