Airline seat assignments in Europe

Remember years ago when you had to use a travel agent to plan trips that involved air travel?  That was, of course, before the Internet became a travel resource that allows anyone to be a travel agent.  There are still those who prefer having a travel agent to make travel arrangements for them.  I like being able to make my own travel arrangements.

It is interesting to see the difference between the way things are done in other parts of the world and here in the U.S.  A few months ago, I booked some airline flights from San Luis Obispo to Venice, Italy.  With the way airlines cooperate through code-share agreements, it’s likely you’ll fly on more than one airline for an international itinerary, even though the flights may be booked through one airline.

For this trip to Venice, I booked through United Airlines.  There are 3 flights each way; San Luis Obispo to San Francisco to Frankfurt to Venice outbound, and Venice to Frankfurt to Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo inbound.  If you’re traveling with family or friends, it’s nice to be seated together when you fly.  That’s not easy to arrange if you’re flying within Europe.

In most cases, if you’re flying within the U.S. or going internationally to or from the U.S., you can choose your seats on your flights at the time you book.  There are some exceptions to this rule.  If you’re flying on one of the budget airlines, like Southwest Airlines, you don’t get to choose your seats.  There are also some airlines not based in the U.S. that do not allow seat assignments until check-in, such as Swiss Air.  Since airlines routinely overbook flights, I am much happier if I know I have an assigned seat.  If you are flying within Europe, you can forget about getting a seat assignment before check-in.  For some reason, all of the airlines that fly within the E.U. assign seats when you check-in.

For my trip to Venice, I was able to choose seats on the flights SBP-SFO, SFO-FRA, and LAX-SBP.  Those 3 flights are on United planes.  The other 3 flights are on Lufthansa.  At the time of the original reservation, I got 2 booking confirmation codes, one for the United flights and one for the Lufthansa flights.  Using the Lufthansa booking code, I was able to go to their web site and pick seat assignments for the flight FRA-LAX.  But their system would not allow seat assignments between Frankfurt and Venice.  I called Lufthansa and was told that seat assignments in Europe are made on the day of departure.  It seems to me that, if they’re going to assign seats, it would be much easier to assign them as they are sold instead of assigning them all on the departure day.  Such is life when you travel.

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