According to reports on Flyertalk, United will implement a new voluntary denied boarding policy starting on Tuesday.
The current VDB compensation on domestic flights is a choice between travel credits or a round-trip voucher good for any United-operated trip in the "lower 48" (contiguous United States).
While most airport agents only offer the free round trips when requesting volunteers, travel credits are available–you just have to ask for them, sometimes forcefully. The value of the voucher is determined by the time difference between your rescheduled and originally scheduled flight.
• OLD POLICY •
$200 — 1 to 3 hour departure delay
$400 — 3 to 6 hour departure delay
$600 — 6+ hour delay (usually meal vouchers are included + hotel if it is an overnight delay)
Starting Tuesday, round-trip tickets (aka DBCFREE) will no longer be available. In addition, there will be a $400 flat rate offered for all VDBs.
• NEW POLICY •
$400 — all delays
In adjusting their policy, United is hoping that many will use the $400 voucher to purchase more expensive tickets. It makes sense.
I’m not happy with the change, because my last six VDBs have all been overnight bumps and netted me $600 in travel credits each. It will be great to have a shot at a $400 voucher for a short delay, but in my experience, usually when United is looking for volunteers it is because many flights–not just that one–to a particular city are sold out. That’s what causes the overbooking in the first place. Now I realize that is quite a generalization, but that has been my experience.
Unfortunately, United will be still be using the paper voucher system, dividing the $400 voucher into four $100 coupons that can be spent separately or combined on any single domestic or international United flight.
Continental has a savvy (albeit stingy) voucher system in which the funds are electronically deposited into your OnePass account and can easily be applied to your online purchases. Hopefully, when United and Continental combine, UA can employ CO’s superior technology and website (while retaining UA’s far superior liberal routing rules).
Some are speculating that the new VDB rules will discourage passengers from volunteering to give up their seats if it will cost them a day. I don’t think so. I’ll take $400 on a $200 L-fare any day and I suspect others will as well on planes of 120+ people. And if they don’t get volunteers at $400, they can always raise the offer. I’ve watched a United agent process my VDB before: in theory, they can specify any value they want.