Interesting article in the Los Angeles Times yesterday about bumps.
But there is a growing trend that spells trouble for travelers: More passengers are getting bumped from flights.
In the first nine months of 2009, the rate of ticketed passengers who were denied boarding was 1.22 per 10,000 travelers, compared with 1.12 in the same period in 2008.
That equates to nearly 54,000 passengers involuntarily bumped in the first nine months of 2009, up from about 47,000 fliers in the same period in 2008.
Trouble? I’m not complaining.
The airline gate agents will initially try to entice passengers to give up seats with an offer of a free ticket on a later flight plus cash or a voucher for a future flight.
Passengers can haggle with the gate agents, Winship said. You can even ask for a free meal voucher or a pass for the airlines’ VIP lounge in addition to a free airline ticket. Don’t be surprised if the agent tries to low-ball you. The airlines are trying to spend as little as possible to get you to your destination.
But don’t get too greedy in your demands, Winship warned, because the gate agents may reject your offer, knowing that other passengers may be willing to give up their seats for less.
An astute observation. I’ve dealt with agents who refuse to even entertain the notion of giving me travel credits instead of a roundtrip voucher. I’ve learned to always accept what the gate agent offers and sort out the details later.
The law goes on to say that the airlines can base their bumping policy on how early you check in for a flight, whether you have an assigned seat, how much you paid for the ticket, whether you are a frequent flier, if you are an unaccompanied minor or are traveling with family members.
Based on those criteria, industry experts say airlines are most likely to bump you if you paid the cheapest fare, are flying alone and you show up at the gate at the last minute.
This has certainly been my observation when noting IDB situations. I’ve never seen an elite member bumped and it usually is a passenger with no seat assigned on a low-ball ticket. More than once I’ve heard a passenger indignantly declare, "Well Expedia said I was confirmed!"
I like the article, but the reporter could have made it better by interviewing someone like me–a passenger who eagerly anticipates oversell situations and relishes the words, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we are looking for volunteers…"
Admittedly, the subset of the flying public who fits into my category is small, but in my 200,000 miles of flying each year I constantly run into passengers asking gate agents if volunteers are needed and hanging out in the gate area, like me, in hopes that they will have the chance to give up their seat.
I genuinely hope the bottom lines improves for all U.S. airlines this year, but I hope that recovery entails a lot more flight overbookings.