Is my broken business class seat on LOT only worth a $200 Expedia voucher?


How much compensation is a malfunctioning airline seat on LOT Polish Airlines worth?

Judy Miller wants to know. She would like a cash payment after being forced to sit upright for nine hours. But she was offered a voucher and a discount off a future flight — on another airline.

Miller’s story is a literal and painful example of the hazards of booking airline tickets through third-party sites, as well as a reminder of the need to clarify what form of compensation you will accept in settlement of a complaint. Had Miller done this, she might have received compensation she found satisfactory.

Her story began an hour after takeoff on a flight from Warsaw to Chicago on LOT, on which Miller paid $1,500 for a business class seat through Expedia. At that time, she found that her seat would no longer recline. She was forced to sit upright for the remainder of the flight. Although the flight attendants tried to repair her seat, they succeeded only in moving it into a slightly-reclining position with the footrest unaligned with the seat.

“When I asked the flight attendants to make a report, they filled out one of their LOT forms and refused to give it to me unless I signed it and accepted 9,000 United miles or 20 percent off a future ticket on LOT,” she says. “I objected but took the miles as I wanted the report. At current value, I believe the miles are worth about $135, which is nothing.”

As United had nothing to do with Miller’s unhappy experience on LOT (the flight was not code-shared), she found the offer to be far short of what she had hoped for.

Related story:   How much does my airline owe me for a broken seat?

Miller then complained to Expedia, but she wasn’t happy with its response either. She apparently didn’t make any requests for specific forms of compensation. Expedia offered her a $200 voucher for use on a future flight. This was unacceptable to Miller, who had hoped to receive a cash refund for half of her airfare.

At that point, Miller asked our advocates for assistance in getting more compensation.

We suggested that Miller post in our forum about her case. Our advocates advised Miller to use our contact information for Expedia to write concise, polite letters to its executives, beginning with the primary contact and allowing each person a week to respond before escalating to the next higher-ranking executive. They also pointed out to Miller that she needed to be specific about what resolution she was asking Expedia to provide:

You need to specifically ask for what you want. Otherwise the situation devolves into the frustration of them lowballing you, and you saying “unacceptable.” The only thing that back and forth will get you is being labeled “difficult,” and then ignored.

Our advocate told Miller that her case was not one which we would be able to help her through direct advocacy. As our FAQs note, we don’t mediate cases involving airline seat comfort issues. In addition, we haven’t had any success in reaching out to LOT Polish Airlines on behalf of passengers who request our assistance.

But we think the $200 voucher offered by Expedia is in line with compensation for similar problems. We’re putting it to our readers:

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Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org.

  • SirWIred

    My vote is to chase after United; they are the ones that choose to partner with LOT, they are ultimately responsible for their performance, or lack thereof. I’m surprised they got anything from Expedia directly at all; maybe that’s what they do instead of spending actual effort to advocate for their clients.

  • deemery

    This was NOT a code-share, UA has no connection to the flight. Now contacting Star Alliance might get some response, particularly if Miller has frequent flier status on a Star Alliance carrier (such as UA.)

  • $200 isn’t enough compensation for a 9 hour flight. There’s an expectation on long flights that you can recline and sleep. There’s also health issues with moving your seat around to keep the blood flow moving.
    My biggest sticking point is refusing to share relevant information unless you sign away rights to full compensation. Holding a report hostage unless she take minimal compensation? That shows a lack of integrity.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    When airlines advertise that their FC and BC sections are there to help you to be productive; refresh (i.e. flat beds); etc. then the airlines need to deliver on those ‘benefits’ especially since capacity (i.e. number of flights) is less making it nearly impossible to move to another seat.

    I think that a $ 200 voucher is a joke or insult. It should be at least $ 500 USD cash.

    Personally, I think that the DOT/FAA/etc should fine airlines 200% of the FC or BC fare when a ‘component’ (i.e. the seat doesn’t incline; no power in your ‘space’; no IFE; no meals; etc.) in FC or BC isn’t ‘working’…100% to the government and 100% to the passenger. I think that this will serve as a motivation for the airlines to main their FC and BC seats.

  • Alan Gore

    It could be argued that $200 might be adequate compensation for inability to recline an economy seat (in fact, the pax behind her might pay $200 extra for the privilege of not being reclined into) but not for a J seat. A pax who pays the premium for Business has a higher expectation of quality.

  • AAGK

    I do not see this as an example of the hazards of booking through an OTA, unless it the airline was like, let’s save the broken seat for whoever used Expedia. Then again, maybe it did.

  • AAGK

    Also, a broken seat is worth zero to me on a 9 hour flight. If I had the option of booking a broken seat or no seat on that flight, I would select no seat. A refund is appropriate, to the credit card.

  • greg watson

    I flew to London on a big British Airways plane…………………Very comfortable, except when someone in front of you puts their seat……………all the way back…….onto your knees. I am only 6′ 2″, but there was significant pressure on my knees to make it uncomfortable. I asked one of the cabin attendants to talk to the person sitting in front of me & they did move their seat forward enough so that the back of the seat wasn’t on my knees……………….however, 2 hours later…………..they moved their seat all the way back again…………..& rather than kick at the back of the seat or make a scene I took the discomfort for the remainder of the flight ( 6-7 hours). I don’t recline my seat for this reason & I would hope that seats in the future…………don’t recline………..if you have a travel pillow (neck support) an upright seat is not that uncomfortable………………..if you think you need more comfort…………fly business or first class & don’t infringe on other passengers space…………….it is called , simply……..being aware & considerate.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I think the OP should ask for the difference in cost between business and economy class, whatever that value is.

  • You said it yourself – if you want more comfort then pay for it. At 6’2” you’re on the edge of comfort for economy seating.
    Some people have lower back issues and need to recline their seats during a flight. A neck pillow won’t alleviate that when the problem is on the other end of the spine. The person may have booked that flight knowing that the seat could recline and accommodate their medical needs.
    For future travels check the seat picth and the recline angle.

  • Dan

    “don’t infringe on other passengers space”

    Sorry but airlines have been clear that the recline space belongs to the seat in front. The person in front of you is not reclining into YOUR space. They are reclining into THEIR own space.

    I’m not saying that’s a free pass to be a jerk, but if YOU need more space then YOU need to move up to business class.

  • jsn55

    I agree, I would have refused to fly in a broken seat. They should refund the difference between an economy seat and the biz seat, using values at the time of booking.

  • taxed2themax

    But minus the value of the other services of J class which she did (if in fact) receive – such as higher meal/beverage service, boarding, baggage allowance, IFE etc… While I agree that seat functionality is a part of thhe cost differential, it’s not the only part, So, if the conversation is a fare difference, then I think it needs to be limited to just the “missing” part/

  • taxed2themax

    That does assume that a) the airline knew – in advance — that the seat was and would be defective at flight time *and* b) that the requiest people and process was in place to make the concious decision to assign said seat to the passenger solely based on the origin of their booking.

  • greg watson

    I guess we agree to disagree……………I myself have had back issues for many years, but if I knew I was causing someone discomfort……………..I would adapt to the situation………….but maybe being considerate of others…………..is out of style now…………..that person knew & was asked politely to not put his seat all the way back……….just enough to get off of my knees……….but he did put it ALL the way back……………..maybe neither one of us can afford 1st class, but we can afford to treat each other with civility.

  • AAGK

    So you agree with me. Because that is exactly what I said.

  • taxed2themax

    Yes. I agree and yes that is essentially what you said… my only addition or point of stress if you will, is that your position does assume that the two points I outlined are true.

    The story does not address this notion, so I have to hold out the possibility it’s not as such.

    While as a betting man, I don’t think this is how it happened, I do agree that it might have. And yes, I don’t think this is relexrive of the OTA itself, but more on LOT directly.

  • AAGK

    I agree. My last sentence was more like, oh those airlines – :) . Obv they didn’t know the seat was broken in enough time to repair and of course they didn’t plan who would sit there. It is totally the airline’s fault and it happens. A broken seat hurts the airline much more than any individual customer. This may be one thing we can’t blame on OTAs.
    I would insist on a refund based on when I discovered the problem. Credit card only. If noticed halfway there, then 50%. I would not accept a voucher.

  • KanExplore

    I agree – booking with an OTA wasn’t the problem this time. If she had booked directly with LOT, how would it have been handled differently?

    Actually one interesting thing here, which is not accounted for in the article, is why they offered her (a relatively paltry number of) United miles? United had nothing to do with this flight. Can airlines simply issue miles of another carrier, even an alliance partner, like that? I haven’t heard of that happening before.

  • Dan

    See I agree with your message far more now; I am all for civility. If someone politely requests that I move my seat explaining that it would be a great help in easing their discomfort, then I will do what I can to help them.

    However, if someone angrily informs me that I must move my seat because I am infringing on THEIR space, I will tell them to go fly a kite (in reality there would be expletives but this is a family friendly forum). The flight attendant knows it’s my space and will continue to shrug off the angry passenger’s repeated complaints.

  • Jeff W.

    The offer of UA miles was indeed puzzling. My guess is that during the reservation she put in her UA FF number to get Star Alliance perks (if any) and/or earn UA miles on this LOT flight, since they are both part of Star Alliance.

    If we want to give LOT any credit, at least they offered her miles in a program in which she could use in the future. Unless she is a regular traveler to Poland.

  • James

    Assuming it was a full flight, you’re saying that one hour into the flight, she should have terminated the flight?

    Her story began an hour after takeoff on a flight from Warsaw to Chicago on LOT, on which Miller paid $1,500 for a business class seat through Expedia. At that time, she found that her seat would no longer recline.

    Should she have demanded the plane land at the nearest airport? (That’s usually called “hijacking.”) Should she have pulled a DB Cooper, and demanded a parachute to jump from the plane? (The plane was likely near Iroquois Falls, Ontario, about to fly into northern Quebec, based on the great circle route from O’Hare to Chopin.

  • joycexyz

    An expectation is not a guarantee, but she paid for business class and should receive some sort of compensation for the discomfort. She needs to be specific in what is acceptable. That said, if someone compels you to sign a report in order to receive a copy, put the words “Under Duress” under the signature.

  • Attention All Passengers

    Gee maybe the mechanic/maintenance people for LOT are responsible ??

  • joycexyz

    Except that you probably don’t know it’s broken until you’re airborne and try to recline.

  • joycexyz

    Civility? What a quaint concept! And the idea that you (at 6’+) should have to pay extra to avoid the midget seats smacks of size-discrimination. I’m not kidding.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Given that tall people get lots of benefits from society in general (they make more money, for one thing), there’s no reason to call “being tall” a protected class.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “As our FAQs note, we don’t mediate cases involving airline seat comfort issues”

    The FAQs also say the site doesn’t mediate non-refundable tickets or hotel rooms, car rental damage, visa/passport issues, and a whole bunch of things that are frequently written up here, so I’m not sure that’s a reason not to mediate the issue.

  • The Original Joe S

    Or “C.F.” = Contra Fidem – against my will. Most people won’t know CF…..

  • The Original Joe S

    Try it immediately upon sitting down. Then you can either ask for a new seat, or get off.

  • The Original Joe S

    I don’t fly no coach seat to no Asia no more no never. Pay for it, and get comfortable…..

  • The Original Joe S

    Don’t you realize that most people are inconsiderate jerks? This is one reason why no weapons are permitted on airplanes…….

  • The Original Joe S

    I like expletives!

  • The Original Joe S

    ha ha ha ha

  • The Original Joe S

    higher meal/beverage service: Slop VS Swill? Ha ha!

  • cscasi

    Seems the issue did not start until an hour after takeoff. Had she used the recline feature during that hour? And, if the seat was not written up in the cabin log as having issues, the maintenance people/mechanics would not know of the issue.

  • cscasi

    Normally, it does not take someone an hour after takeoff to figure out if their seat will not recline.

  • Attention All Passengers

    I was referring to the poster who wants to blame United ?? for a broken seat. Unless United uses their mechanics to fix things on LOT, what would they have to do with anything before, during or after ?

  • cscasi

    But, you never spoke to the passenger in front of you to explain your issue, did you? You had the flight attendant do it. Perhaps, had you personally asked and explained to the passenger in front of you, that might have done the trick; or not. But, you did not try according to your comments.

  • Lindabator

    This was NOT A CODE SHARE so United owes them squat — LOT offered the miles because she probably only had UA miles

  • Lindabator

    LOT is a mileage partner, so thy would offer a goodwill gesture on miles – just offered hr the United program, as sh was probably already a member

  • Lindabator

    she says that an hour into th flight the sat would no LONGER recline, so obviously WAS working

  • Bill___A

    I do not agree that the recline space belongs to the seat in front. I have every right to have my seat upright and not be forced to recline because someone else puts their seat back. This issue of saying that it belongs to the person in front is, in my opinion, from the times when there was enough room to recline without having your seat in the face of the person behind you. When the airlines decided to take away the space required, they can say what they want, but I am entitled to the space required for me to sit and I am not going to pay thousands of dollars to go to “business class” because someone took away the space and then didn’t update their rules. People who recline without courtesy in these smaller spaces are nothing short of jerks and inconsiderate to boot. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings if people became seat kickers in this situation. I do not recline my seat unless there is space and permission from behind.

    The advice to “not infringe upon other passengers’ space” by not reclining their seat is, in this current situation, good travel advice.

  • Dan

    Like I said above, it’s all about being polite. If the person asks me not to recline because it hurts them, I won’t recline. I am empathetic to their discomfort. However, if the other person acts entitled to the space and tries to argue that it’s really their space because the greedy airlines blah blah blah, my empathy goes out the window and my seat goes back to full recline.

    It’s the same with seating assignments. If I am asked by another flyer to swap seats in order to accommodate them sitting with their travel partner, I happily comply. However, on rare occasions, that other traveler will just seat in my seat and rudely tell me I must go sit in their middle sear in row 35 so they can sit next to whomever. Yea that doesn’t fly with me.

  • SirWIred

    Yes, I realize that now; I even edited my post to note I made a mistake before you posted this.

  • KanExplore

    So they have the ability to purchase miles from United at will and transfer them over to the United account of a passenger who isn’t in their own program? I wouldn’t know how LOT accesses a traveler’s United account in order to deposit those miles. I could see how they would offer Miles and More miles, but this one is new to me.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I don’t really agree. You are paying for the experience as a whole, not part by part. If I go to the movies and the sound is broken but the video is on, I want a full refund, not half because “hey, you could read lips”.

  • taxed2themax

    In your unrelated example I’d agree because sound issue is integral and fundamentally an essential part of the movie… However in this case, I don’t think that because one aspect was not as described, then means the whole product becomes subject to refund.

    As I’d see it the seat issue did materially negatively impact the passengers ability to check-in more baggage and/or use the business classes check-in area, the meal or beverages service or offering, the departure lounge option and such.

    So, while I can agree that there is a economic partner in play that due to the seat issue should be considered, I don’t think that it makes the WHOLE prodigy subject to refund as unlike your unrelated movie example, I dont think that all the other parts that make up the J class product are materially impacted by the seat issue…. a such, I don’t think a refund of the whole would be justified.

  • joycexyz

    Will they let you off without creating a scene? Well, I guess if there’s a scene, you’ll be escorted off.

  • joycexyz

    Thanks for the info. It’s cryptic, but effective.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    I guess we disagree.

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