A few months back, flying from Bangkok to Colombo on Thai Airways, I was a witness to a passenger complaint regarding seat changes to himself and two other members of his family. He had originally been assigned three seats together, with one of them next to a window. After boarding, he realized that his seat had been changed to three seats in the middle of the aircraft, where there were four seats in between two aisles, and one of those four seats were mine.
What this passenger had not realized was that after he made his reservation a few months back, the aircraft had been changed, and the 3-3-3 seating had now changed to 2-4-2. I did realize the configuration change a few months back, and changed my seat for an easy get away to clear immigration fast. But I guess that most people do not do that after they make their reservation.
The Chief Steward came to speak to this passenger, but there was nothing the crew could do as there were no three separate seats together, let alone a window seat. I believe the airline gave them the best option, by seating them in a row together. The passenger was threatening to sue and his voice kept getting louder. It was then that I heard the most absurd statement come out from the Chief steward, who said “Contact your travel agent and he will give you a refund”. I couldn’t believe what I heard. So, the travel agent will give you a refund for three tickets (approximate cost of $1400 for this sector only) just because an airline configuration changed? Good one!
Now, if this had happened in the US or on an US airline, the first word out of this passengers mouth and he would have been arrested for “interfering with an airline crew” – a federal offense, and if the airline was already in flight, it would have landed at the closest airport to have him arrested, inconveniencing and delaying all the other passengers.