How to Confirm Seats on Air China?

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about potentially flying to Panama on Air China. The fifth freedom route really intrigued me as it let me fly an internationally configured 777 to Central America rather than one of United Airlines’ 737-800s. I finally booked the flight for 40,000 United Airlines MileagePlus miles and $7. Here is where the issue started.

Air China 777-300 First Class
Photo courtesy of thefilipinotraveler

I was able to confirm my seat for my flight from Dallas to Houston since it was on a United aircraft, but I could not confirm my seat on Air China (you CANNOT confirm partner airline seats through United’s website). I received the following message when I tried to look at my seat.

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I thought that I could go to Air China’s website to quickly select my seat. I selected ‘Booking Management’, then ‘Check My Booking’ which gave me the option to input my last name and Air China confirmation number (which I retrieved from United Airlines’ reservation page). I received the following error.

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Since my ticket was not booked through Air China, I was not able to select a seat through the website. I ended up calling Air China’s US toll free number (1-800-882-8122) to remedy the situation. After selecting the option for ticketing, I waited for four minutes then I was asked to ‘press 1’ if I wanted to continue holding or otherwise hang up. Huh??? Two minutes later an agent came on the line.

I gave my reason for calling and she stated that she was able to take care of my request. I provided my confirmation number and told her that I would like seat 1A. She stated that she could not assign seats in Row 1, only airport agents could do that. What? She then informed me that I was already confirmed in seat 2A since I was traveling alone. I was fine with that, but I really wanted seat 1A.

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Lastly, I asked if I would be receiving a seat confirmation email, to which she replied, “no”. She stated that I should check my seat when I check in at the airport. My entire interaction with the phone agent lasted one minute.

Final Word

On one hand, I was happy to get a soft seat confirmation. On the other hand, I am not feeling great about not getting a definite seat confirmation until I go to the airport the day of the flight. I also do not understand why the phone agent could not confirm seats in Row 1. I am sure this will work out, but this process definitely left me confused.

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