Seat Assignments For American Airlines Flights

You’ve accumulated enough miles for two business class tickets for your dream trip to Europe. After talking with an American Airlines (AA) reservationist, you book the flight, hang up and think you’re done. The only problem is that the AA agent wasn’t able to give your exact seat assignments. So, how do you get them? The good news is that with a little work, not only can we get our seat assignments, but also learn a few things about how airline ticketing and reservations systems work.

The first thing to know when booking an award ticket with AA is that when we confirm and pay, our ticket is not immediately issued. In the example above, the ticket is almost as good as issued (our seats in business class are held), but AA hasn’t completed the booking. When finished with the agent phone call and reservation, a confirmation number is emailed to you from AA. Check the itinerary online at AA.com with that confirmation number and the ticket status — you will see something along the likes of ticket pending. When the status changes to ticket issued, that is the signal  to pick seats — AA has issued the ticket and the partner airline has confirmed.

In my experience, most tickets are issued within a few hours (though we should expect to wait up to 24 hours). With an issued ticket, we’ll be able to confirm seats on any AA or US flights at AA.com. To secure seat assignments for flights with oneworld (or other AA airline partners), call up AA reservations to obtain the ticket and confirmation numbers for partner airlines.

A few things about ticket numbers and partner confirmation numbers:

  • AA ticket numbers all start with 001. The first three digits of an airline ticket number indicate which airline issued the ticket. The airline ticket number is the unique identifier that carries across any number of confirmation numbers. We may have confirmation numbers from AA, US, British Airways and airberlin, but the ticket number carries across the itinerary. Here’s a full list of three digit airline ticket number prefixes.
  • If a ticket is issued across three airlines, expect to have up to three different confirmation numbers. Airlines use different systems to track the tickets they issue, and not all systems are 100 percent compatible. Partner airlines have proprietary connectors that keep them together (frankly, we should be happy any of this stuff actually works!). To make sure we’re able to pick seats across airlines, we want to be sure to capture the confirmation numbers for each airline.

Stated simply, we’re going to have one ticket number, but may have multiple confirmation numbers (one with each airline flown on a trip).

Armed with our partner confirmation number(s) for the flights on airlines which are members of oneworld, the first place to go is the Manage Booking page on Finnair.com. Rather than go from airline to airline to pick seats (either through their website or by calling up their customer service), we’ll first go to Finnair to see what can be booked. Not all airline IT systems are equal, and Finnair wins due to their interoperability.

Under Manage Booking: enter in a partner confirmation number and last name, then click continue.

  • If we can pick seats for all the flights, do so.
  • If only a subset is available, contact each airline individually either through their website (using their confirmation number) or through their customer service number.
  • Don’t expect to be able to pick seats for AA or US flights on finnair.com — do that at AA.com.

The long and short of it is we may need to contact each airline, but hopefully the combination of AA.com for our AA and US seat assignments, and Finnair for our oneworld flights will have us covered.

Some handy links to keep around:

Either way, at the end of this exercise, we’ll have exactly what we wanted. Seats with our loved ones, and some knowledge in how to use all those numbers given to us.

Have questions about the tips listed or other topics? Feel free to email me.

[Image via Getty]

Howie Rappaport As a kid travel meant hopping in the family station wagon and spending a day at the park or the beach. Everyone got older and longer trips were possible; yes that meant driving from New York to Orlando...
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How does American Airlines assign seats?


How does American Airlines assign seats?

I have a flight tomorrow to Honolulu so I login early - 24hrs prior now to check in, I try to select my seats and there is only 1 seat showing as available in the entire plane and it's a middle seat Prior to this I could not select a seat as it said "seat cannot be selected prior to check in".

I called AA and asked them why there are no seats showing as available in the entire plan this early out and they told me that I should go to the airport early to swap the seat with a window/aisle because almost all the seat allotments are reserved to be assigned at the airport.

Is this some kind of new system? I have flown AA before and was able to choose from various seats.

What is the point of online checkin if all the seat assignments are done at the airport? I don't understand this logic.

Strangely my return flight already has a window seat assigned, it's only my outbound flight that was in a "Seat unassigned" state. I booked this flight a month and a half in advance so it's not last minute.
 
May 28, 10, 1:34 pm
 
 
Location: south of WAS DC
this is another perk for AA elites. all seats are to be picked over by elites. you no elite, you dirt. all carry on storage is reserved for elites. they get on first they carry however much they want onboard. your stuff gets gate checked, even if you have medical emergency stuff in it. you no elite, you dirt. i quite flying AA, because i am not an elite.

the GA's control the baggage. first 60 people(mostly elites) get on a dc9(or whatever they call it), and they start gate checking bags. i say why? "well, that's 99 bags, and that's all we allow". note 60 people, 99 bags. even i can count 1 bag per person. yes, AA elites are allowed 2 bags PP. i think some even have3.

a travel agent can see and get you a seat.
May 28, 10, 2:55 pm
 
 
Location: MHT/BOS <--> World
k374 - AA allows about 2/3 of their economy seats to be selected anytime after ticket purchase by any passenger. Once these 2/3 of the seats are gone, seats can no longer be chosen until the airport.

The other 1/3 of the economy seats are only available ahead of time to elite passengers. On planes where there are fewer elites flyers, there may be many seats remaining. These seats become available to all passengers at the airport. This elite benefit is one way American lures the business of those who spend the most money on plane tickets to their airline. The average fare an elite pays is also higher (average) than non-elites. Good businesses extend perks to their best customers.

AA is not alone in this practice. MOST US airlines have the same or a very similar policy.

slawecki - Your understanding is incorrect. AA allows all passengers, including elites, one carry on + a second personal item that can fit under your seat and does not need to take overhead bin space. Many/Most elite flyers bring both a carry on + personal item and do not check any bags. This saves AA money (not having to handle as many bags). slawecki - when the plane is full, only large carry ons that you cannot put under your seats need to be checked. I suggest you bring a second smaller item so that you will always be able to keep things like medication with you.
May 28, 10, 3:14 pm
 
May 28, 10, 3:41 pm
You're wrong. According to AA website, seat selection is not just reserved for elites. "** Preferred seats are available to AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum, AAdvantage Gold, AAirpass members and all passengers holding tickets with a Y or B booking code." I believe regular seats can be selected by anyone. Also, check your spelling before you post.
Originally Posted by slawecki
this is another perk for AA elites. all seats are to be picked over by elites. you no elite, you dirt. all carry on storage is reserved for elites. they get on first they carry however much they want onboard. your stuff gets gate checked, even if you have medical emergency stuff in it. you no elite, you dirt. i quite flying AA, because i am not an elite.

the GA's control the baggage. first 60 people(mostly elites) get on a dc9(or whatever they call it), and they start gate checking bags. i say why? "well, that's 99 bags, and that's all we allow". note 60 people, 99 bags. even i can count 1 bag per person. yes, AA elites are allowed 2 bags PP. i think some even have3.

a travel agent can see and get you a seat.
 
what of the above is not elite, or premium price? check the price of a Y ticket dca-dfw. AF1 is cheaper.

what misspeel? speel kecker shw no mizspl. AA website is a lying bunch <redacted>. on the md80 on dca-dfw-dca, first seat available for meat is about 2/3rds of way back row 23 or 24 on an md 80, where you live with the finest from p&w . the fa's end up back there. how they avoid osha noise regs for employees is beyond me.
Originally Posted by Acheivement
You're wrong. According to AA website, seat selection is not just reserved for elites. "** Preferred seats are available to AAdvantage Executive Platinum, AAdvantage Platinum, AAdvantage Gold, AAirpass members and all passengers holding tickets with a Y or B booking code." I believe regular seats can be selected by anyone. Also, check your spelling before you post.

Last edited by dstan; May 29, 10 at 2:09 pm Reason: inappropriate for FlyerTalk
 
Location: south of WAS DC
May 28, 10, 6:31 pm
 
 
Location: south of WAS DC
that is just not correct. nice talk. they carry a smaller second that is a 22" tall bag. look at what they carry!!! they do not hold 2/3rds for regular seats. i chose dca-dfw-dca for mid sept. and you are correct. 49 of about 110 seats are available. guess that is 2/3rds by AA stds.
Originally Posted by wanaflyforless
k374 - AA allows about 2/3 of their economy seats to be selected anytime after ticket purchase by any passenger. Once these 2/3 of the seats are gone, seats can no longer be chosen until the airport.
/B]

slawecki - Your understanding is incorrect. AA allows all passengers, including elites, one carry on + a second personal item that can fit under your seat and does not need to take overhead bin space. Many/Most elite flyers bring both a carry on + personal item and do not check any bags. This saves AA money (not having to handle as many bags). slawecki - when the plane is full, only large carry ons that you cannot put under your seats need to be checked. I suggest you bring a second smaller item so that you will always be able to keep things like medication with you.
May 28, 10, 6:51 pm
 
 
ok, so the way I understand it is that when I booked this flight a month and a half in advance 70% of the flight was already sold out which is why a seat assignment could not be made? After that the other 30% can only be assigned at the airport?
May 28, 10, 8:03 pm
 
 
Programs: Lifetime AA Gold-1MM
Haven't flown on AA in a while I see.
Originally Posted by slawecki
first 60 people(mostly elites) get on a dc9(or whatever they call it)
May 28, 10, 8:09 pm
 
Moderator: Delta SkyMiles, Luxury Hotels and TravelBuzz!
 
Please continue to follow this discussion in the AA Forum.
Thanks..
Obscure2k
TravelBuzz Moderator
May 28, 10, 8:16 pm
 
 
Programs: AA PLT (2.9+ MM), HH GLD, Hyatt Diamond, SPG PLT
That's partially it; yes. You are traveling to Hawaii on Memorial Day weekend, its a very popular destination. In addition, AA holds certain preferred seats for elite travelers so there are likely excellent seats available but you can't see them on your reservation.


Which HNL flight is it?
Originally Posted by k374
ok, so the way I understand it is that when I booked this flight a month and a half in advance 70% of the flight was already sold out which is why a seat assignment could not be made? After that the other 30% can only be assigned at the airport?
May 28, 10, 8:29 pm
 
Logic: A mid Sept flight already has passengers booked on it. You are not alone in this world. 49 of 110 seats would be the number of remaining seats available to cheap non-elites, not the total seats AA made available for that plane when they loaded the schedule.

Want to find out how many seats AA makes available to cheap non-elites?

Look at AA761 on Apr 24, 2011. Almost no one has bought tickets for Apr 24, 2011 yet, so you can see how many seats AA makes available by looking at AA's seat maps for Apr 24th flights. 87 economy seats are available to cheap non-elites, 37 economy seats are reserved for AA's best customers on this MD83 plane. 87 of 124 seats is 70%, more than two thirds.
Originally Posted by slawecki
that is just not correct. nice talk. 49 of about 110 seats are available. guess that is 2/3rds by AA stds.

Last edited by wanaflyforless; May 28, 10 at 9:36 pm
 
Location: MHT/BOS <--> World
May 28, 10, 9:16 pm
 
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