Airlines Have Bumped 343,000 Passengers This Year

Over a quarter-million passengers were bumped from flights in the past eight months, a number that is set to grow as airlines try to boost anemic profits by slashing fleets. The Department of Transportation requires airlines to compensate bumped passengers with cash or vouchers, but savvy passengers can leverage their situation to negotiate heftier payments…

Travelers can now receive up to $400 if they are involuntarily bumped and rebooked on another flight within two hours after their original domestic flight time and within four hours for international. They are eligible for up to $800 in cash if they are not rerouted by then. The final amount depends on the length of the flight and the price paid for the ticket.

Even stricter rules apply in Europe, where compensation ranges from 125 euros (about $185) to 600 euros (about $888), depending on the length of the flight and the amount of time the passenger will be delayed.

Compensation must be paid immediately in cash, or with a voucher if the passenger accepts it, and the airline must offer a choice of a refund, a return flight to their departure city or an alternative flight. Volunteers also receive compensation, which they negotiate with the airline.

Passengers are learning, however, that if an airline does not get enough volunteers at a lower figure, they might be able to bid up the offer, and also obtain sweeteners that include vouchers for meals, hotels, transportation and even plane tickets.

Baiting the bump is a proud tradition for many thrifty travelers. If negotiating provides a cathartic prelude to vacation, read our guide for getting bumped.

If your trip can’t wait for vouchers and cash, we also have a handy guide for holding onto your seat.

As Overbooked Flights Rise, So Do Payoffs for Those Who Are Bumped [The New York Times]
(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. Rolcol says:

    So wait… You can get the money AND travel back home after the 2 / 4 hours have passed?

  2. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    I was actually booked on a Continental flight, and did not have a seat. It was a connection from Houston, and when I checked in in Brownsville, I had no seat on the flight out of Houston. I was all but bumped before I was even at the airport!

    Meanwhile, haven’t we here at the Consumerist decided the way for airlines to slash costs is to CAN THE CEOs along with the outrageous salaries?

  3. Is this foreign or domestic flights? Also, what is this number in relation to total passenger travel?

    The BTS has a stat that says 667 million people flew in the US in 2008 (FYE May). If that’s the case, it’s incredibly unlikely you’ll ever be bumped.

    Then again, I’m not entirely sure I’m reading that 667 million passenger stat correctly. It seems like an astoundingly large number for US-travel alone (over two flights average per person in the US!). But then this could also include connecting flights, and so on. Any insight is welcome.

  4. timesquare says:

    I am not surprised at all.. I was bumped because my connecting flight was canceled. Hence, I had to take a cab back to the hotel.. paid extra for the cab and the night at the hotel. All because of American Airlines! No one even called to let me know in advance..

  5. Bryan Price says:

    The header’s borked. Still, since it’s different from the feed title. You can’t put images into titles! Ain’t going to work!

    I’m looking at a short jaunt to Columbus at the end of next month. And my wife wants me back in South Africa, again. The short jaunt, I’m for, get’s me back home and out of the house. I have no idea how long my wife wants to hang on to me again — 4 weeks again, I’m guessing this time. Getting bumped to CMH isn’t an issue, coming or going (for me at any rate). Getting bumped to South Africa would be a definite pain, there’s only one flight per day! I doubt that many people get bumped on that flight anyways, it’s always a full flight (767).

  6. Andr0 says:

    Could we get actual law/regulation book entries quoted or referenced? I don’t think “Consumerist said you have to give me $400 in cash” will work on your average gate crewmember.

  7. Fly Girl says:

    Each airline has a different dollar amount that they’re willing to pay in exchange for a voluntary/involuntary bump– you need to read the contract of carriage to see what, exactly, the policy of your airline is.

    Generally, the gate agents are encouraged to look for volunteers on an overbooked flight, offering free round-trip domestic tickets and the next available flight out as compensation.

    If the flight is overbooked by five, the gate agent will need five volunteers to give up their seats. Generally, not everyone that is booked on a flight shows up for a flight, so the need for volunteers dwindles as it gets closer to departure time. If the gate agent starts out needing five volunteers, they usually end up only needing one or two (if any) by the time the flight is closing out.

    The volunteers will (at minimum) be rebooked on the next available flight and be given a free round-trip domestic ticket. If the next flight is a long way out, the standard airline caused delay compensation applies– free meals, hotel, etc… Read the contract of carriage to determine what your airline pays for that, too.

    If the gate agents are having a hard time finding volunteers (they rarely have a hard time– most people are more than willing to accept the offer), they’ll start to sweeten the deal– first class on the next flight out in addition to the free round-trip flight, maybe TWO free round-trip flights… It just depends on how desperate the gate agents get.

    Worst case scenario (rarely ever happens) the gate agents can’t find any volunteers. In that instance, people are involuntarily bumped. Those people are given their choice of the cash or the free round-trip ticket, and the gate agent should be well-versed in exactly what the dollar amount is– it’s no secret. It’s right there in the contract of carriage. In addition to the cash or free ticket, the invol’d passenger will get their meals and hotels paid for like anyone else on an airline caused delay and, of course, they’ll be rebooked on the next flight out.

    (So, yes, Rolcol, you get the $400 and still get to fly out two hours later. Not a bad deal, and you can see why most people volunteer to be bumped.)

    Honestly, you get a MUCH better deal if you volunteer than if you are invol’d. But if you volunteer, they aren’t going to give you cash. The airlines don’t want to give out cash, obviously, so if you try to volunteer but ask for cash, they’ll just pick someone else who is willing to take the bump in exchange for a free ticket.

    That 343,000 passenger number is the total of people bumped– volunteers and invols together. I’d guess the number of involuntary bumps is in the four digits or less. Every savvy traveler I know LOVES to volunteer to be bumped from an overbooked flight, and in all of my years working for major airlines, I never once had an invol. Not once.

  8. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    I volunteered to be bumped last month on United, LAX to O’Hare & got a voucher for a free round trip in the 48 states, good for a year. I left on the next flight 55 minutes later & arrived only 30 minutes later due to tailwinds.

    I would have done the same O’Hare to LAX, but the next flight was 5½ hours later & I was getting picked up, so I had to pass it up.

    I love getting bumped!

  9. LightLeigh says:

    @Andr0: The official DOT page is [airconsumer.ost.dot.gov].

    The $400 & $800 amounts are maximum amounts – basically you get the amount of your one-way fare.

    To be eligible for compensation, you must have a confirmed reservation, and also check in by the airline’s check-in deadline, which can be several hours before the flight.

  10. kepler11 says:

    Consumerist, could you please be more precise if you put up a story like this? It makes it seem like you’re leaving out important information or distorting the numbers to exaggerate the issue.

    The article clearly says:
    “…In the first six months of the year, about 343,000 passengers were denied seats on planes, according to the Department of Transportation, out of 282 million passengers. Most of those people volunteered to give up their seats in return for some form of compensation, like a voucher for a free flight.

    If people volunteered to give up their seats, then it is not exactly 343,000 people who were screwed against their will, is it? Most of them decided to volunteer to be bumped because they liked the compensation and agreed to it. There’s not much you can criticize about that which is maybe why you left out the part of them being mostly volunteers/willing.

    The more relevant/important number is the number of people who did not volunteer and did not want to be bumped, but were.

    Now the article does go on to say:
    “…But D.O.T. statistics also show about 1.16 of every 10,000 passengers had their seats taken away outright because of overbooking – which may sound like a low rate, until your name is called.…”

    So the actual number of people who were involuntarily bumped is more like 32,700.

    That is an order of magnitude less than your headline makes it out to seem. That is a very low rate. Remember this is out of 282,000,000 passengers. You should have mentioned that.

    Not to say that those passengers weren’t inconvenienced. They were, and they should receive their full entitled compensation under the regulations. But those are the exact numbers, and the exact number is important, if you want to be rational and discuss the issue to get angry over. 32,700 is very different from 343,000.

  11. Mr_D says:

    But if those people weren’t voluntarily bumped, they would have been involuntarily bumped. They bump people because they need to, not because they feel like handing out free tickets.

  12. cw7585 says:

    Every time I fly I pray I’ll get bumped – it’s better than Christmas.

    A few years ago I was about to board a NW flight to Tokyo and Seoul from Detroit. I accepted their offer to be bumped, which did a couple good things for me:

    1. A day in Amsterdam, as they flew me to Korea through Europe rather than transpacific
    2. $1000 voucher which got me from Boston to Bangkok later that year.

    As this offer was being made, I noticed a flight to Amsterdam boarding behind us. I asked the nice NW lady if I could get on that plane, rather than the one they’d slotted me for later in the day. “Well, you could, but it would mean you’d have to be in Amsterdam longer instead of here in Detroit..”

    Hmm… Amsterdam or Detroit? What a hard choice – 7 minutes later I was on the plane.

  13. Altdotweb says:

    @kepler11:

    The article was posted about as nuetral as can be.

    There is no indication of anyone being “screwed” by the airlines. It merely states that there were 343,000 seats needed due to various states of airline overbooking and detailed some of the ways that bumped passengers could be compensated.

    The fact that all but 32,000 volunteered doesn’t change that reality that 343,000 incidents occurred where a passenger was denied boarding.

    32,000 Involuntarily DENIED boarding.
    321,000 Voluntarily DENIED boarding.

    DENIED is the keyword here. When you volunteer, you are still being DENIED a seat.

    The magnitude is the same, the damage is just not as severe.

  14. @Fly Girl: Magnificent response. Very, very informative. Thank you.

  15. magic8ball says:

    I thought the vouchers were a bad deal because they came with so many restrictions that it’s prohibitively difficult to use them.

  16. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    also, helps a lot to be REALLY nice and VERY patient. because the people volunteering off usually want a deal NOW before going off to wait for their flight.

    i volunteered off a flight from raleigh to arizona once. and since i wasn’t in a hurry at all, just a vacation, being picked up by a friend who lived 5 minutes from the airport and sets his own schedule, i said to the gate agent “when you are ready to talk about my new flight, i’ll be waiting right over there reading a book’

    sure, i waited two hours before they came to talk to me, but the next flight was several hours away anyway. 6 other volunteers spent that time yelling, arguing and dialing customer service from their cell phones. i heard them all. most of them got a flight out at 6 pm, no upgrades, and a $50 meal voucher.

    after the debacle was over, a gate agent quietly asked me to accompany her to a private office. as we walked down the hall she said ‘you are the nicest person we’ve had all week and we want to reward you for that. i didn’t want anyone else to hear what YOU’RE getting.

    i got a flight out at 1pm, with an upgrade to first class for the flight out AND the return flight 5 days later, plus a $200 voucher towards another ticket. and of course the first class upgrade came with a hot meal [it was pretty good too!]

  17. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @Fly Girl: Needs a star. Mods, you listening?

    @magic8ball: I got “voluntarily bumped” twice on my way home from California early this year (once for each leg of the flight). One of those legs, they found a seat for me anyway and told me to keep the voucher. US Airways. I was just looking at the terms and conditions page attached to my ticket vouchers (“Take Flight Certificates”) and this is what it says:

    1. TFC is transferable with valid PIN [the PIN is written on the voucher and is just "1234"] and must be redeemed within one year from issue date.
    2. Regions are defined as follows: Region 1 – Contiguous 48 States, Region 2 – Canada/Mexico/Latin America/Caribbean and Region 1, Region 3 – Alaska/Hawaii/Europe and Regions 1 and 2.
    3. TFC may be exchanged for travel on US Airways, US Express, America West Airlines, or America West Express. Cannot be used towards reissue of previously issued ticket or service charges. Cannot be combined with any other documents. TFC transferable only before ticketing. Taxes, surcharges, and fees are responsibility of the user and must be paid before ticketing.
    4. Dollars-off travel TFC may be applied toward any one ticket. The original oversold flight segment determines the value. Region 1 – $200 Region 2 – $300 Region 3 – $400. Codeshare flights permitted.
    5. Flight credit TFC may be exchanged for a free round trip ticket. Seats are limited and may not be available on every flight. The original oversold flight segment determines the region where the flight credit may be used. Codeshare flights not authorized.
    6. Changes to orig/dest and/or dates permitted subject to fees provided all terms & conditions met.
    7. Stopovers are not permitted. Co-terminals and open jaw travel permitted.
    8. Redeem for travel at any US Airways/America West ticketing office or call Reservations.
    9. For further information on terms and conditions please visit our website at http://www.usairways.com.

    Hope that helps…

  18. felixgolden says:

    Apparently, getting bumped is not just limited to airlines. My parents leave tomorrow for a trip that includes a 10 day Baltic Sea cruise. They’ve been getting calls from the cruise line telling them the cruise is overbooked. Since this is part of a longer trip and they are traveling with other people, missing the cruise is not an option. So far the offer is up to a full refund, $4700 in vouchers and $2500 in cash.

  19. Hawkins says:

    Here’s what the airlines are thinking.

    If a flight leaves with an empty seat, that’s revenue lost FOREVER. It makes the CFO cry.

    So they deliberately overbook.

    Historically, the rate of no-shows has remained steady at 7-8 percent ([travel.nytimes.com]). What’s changing is the airlines:

    As they get more desperate (i.e., more evil), they increase the overbooking factor. The reasoning is that, the more they overbook, the less likely that they’ll have to live through the tragedy of the empty seat.

    Worse: the more they overbook, the less likely it’ll be that there’ll be a seat for the bumpee on the next flight out, which is also grotesquely overbooked.

    Sigh.

  20. lincolnparadox says:

    @kepler11: Either you’re a troll from the airlines or you’re just a jerk. 343,000 people were bumped, whether they liked it or not. All of them got paid, for the bumping, and all of them we a little bit inconvenienced.

    My family an I have been bumped once and delayed every trip for at least one leg of our annual trip to New York. We usually fly United, through O’Hare, but we’ve tried Minneapolis & Dulles, too. The flight takes anywhere from 12-24 hours (if we have an overnight delay), but it should take no more than 6 hours (drive, wait and flight) time. They usually take care of us, but flying the three of us isn’t cheap and we fly for expediencies sake.

    Last year, we figured out how much it would cost to rent a car from Enterprise and take it to NY. About 1/4 the ticket cost (for car, gas, an insurance boost from my provider, and 2 reserve stays in a motel) and 13 hours of driving. So, we tried it. There were no problems, no delays, it was tiring but not stressful. Plus, we could bring back what we wanted from home.

    Honestly, unless I’m going over water or mountains, I’m driving. And I will probably take the train over the mountains.

    Now I don’t get bumped, it saves me money

  21. kepler11 says:

    @Altdotweb: @lincolnparadox: Sorry, I’m not a troll for the airlines, and I’m not a jerk. I’m pointing out important information, that you should know if you want to approach the story with a reasonable mind. The exact numbers in the story are what make the story, so shouldn’t the numbers be understood correctly?

    It does matter whether someone was a volunteer or not, and it’s not just an issue of a word definition. You’re using the word “bumped” to mean something bad, which it is, when someone wants to be on a certain flight, but is not allowed because they have oversold that flight.

    If someone volunteers to get on a later flight in exchange for compensation, they have agreed to do something they want to do, and there is nothing bad about that. They came out ahead, because they were willing to trade their time for a free flight or whatever compensation was offered. The airline came out ahead by filling the entire plane. You seem to want to count those people as being disserviced, or improperly treated, from the sound of your posts. If someone volunteers to be denied boarding in exchange for compensation, are you saying you’re upset about that? Sure, by definition they were “denied” boarding, but they chose to be denied, right?

    Your statement, “343,000 people were bumped, whether they liked it or not. All of them got paid, for the bumping, and all of them we a little bit inconvenienced.” is not correct. If 90% of them liked the offer (were volunteers), and accepted money for their time, then they shouldn’t be included in the number of people who are interpreted as being involuntarily denied from their travel plans.

    The number of people forced to miss their flights was 32,700. If you want a story about that number, then please write it, but it is not the same as 343,000.

  22. Mr_D says:

    @kepler11: It seems like you’re missing the point. Airlines aren’t doing this because they’re swell guys; they’re doing this because they fucked up scheduling the flight. You’re correct, if they wanted to be bumped, that means they weren’t inconvenienced. That doesn’t mean they weren’t bumped.

  23. floraposte says:

    I see kepler11′s point, though, and it goes with what flygirl is saying–people aren’t being torn en masse from the flights they desperately want to be on, so it’s not worth panicking about that. It is worth knowing that you can get benefits from being flexible about when you actually get out of the airport.

    Unfortunately, my main travel seems to be prone to involuntary bumping, and I can’t be flexible, so I do a lot of crossing of fingers that somebody else can.

  24. kepler11 says:

    @Mr_D: I don’t think I’m missing the point. Look, Consumerist posts this story that 343,000 people have been denied boarding, out of 282,000,000 total passengers (which they chose to leave out of the story). It is natural to assume that they post this story to highlight how many people are not taking the flight they were originally scheduled on, because the airline overbooked those flights. And from past stories (and the general nature of this blog), this is designed to play to the “we hate airlines” audience, because 343,000 is a big number.

    Or, if you’re more charitable, you could take the story to be simply an accounting of how many people the airlines overbook by.

    Either way, it is only honest to understand that for 90% of them, it worked out to their liking, because they took alternate flights in voluntary exchange for compensation of their choice. There is no story you would write about people who happily took the compensation and went on their way on a later flight. But there are a lot of nightmare stories about people who were involuntarily denied boarding. So, isn’t the real number of 32,000 the important number? There were 343,000 people denied boarding, but most (90%) of those people aren’t the ones who are an issue, right? Put another way, if all 343,000 people denied boarding in the US were volunteers, would there be a story about that? No.

    So, just to be clear, whether it says it or not, the story (and motivation) is about involuntarily denied boarding passengers. And I agree that they should be held accountable for reducing that number steadily, through penalties for doing it. I don’t care how many people were voluntarily denied boarding, because it worked out for both them and the airline, and there is nothing to be upset about there. It could be 2,000,000 for all I care. That number is talking about something negative or bad. I do care about the 32,000 and the size of that number.

    Finally, regardless of how much you dislike the practice, and the unfortunate rate of 1.16/10,000 passengers involuntarily denied boarding (which should be improved), the practice of overbooking does help, in a large way, to keep airlines filling their seats and contributing to lower ticket prices. You can see how unprofitable airlines are already — they should use every tool they can, to the extent of fairly treating passengers and their obligations. Now, you can debate all sorts of things about executive compensation, charging for this and that, etc. but on the point of overbooking helping airlines to make a profit (instead of folding into bankruptcy), I don’t think there’s much debate to be had.

  25. Trai_Dep says:

    magic8ball, speedwell: Are these the voucher tickets that you need to physically walk into a terminal kiosk and wade thru the line to get? That is, are cashing them in a lot more work than e-ticketing?
    Or, am I confusing these w/ cashing in frequent flier miles? I’m not sure, so look forward to cheerfully being schooled. :)

  26. Fly Girl says:

    Kepler11 is right– the story isn’t that 300,000+ people have been bumped, it’s that 30,000+ people (out of nearly 300m) have been involuntarily bumped. It’s the invol number that matters, because those are the people who were forced off of the flights that they were originally booked on, causing them to miss business meetings/weddings/funerals/birthday parties/vacations, etc… Those people were, ultimately, compensated and it’s a good thing that those dollar amounts have gone up. But, for someone who just missed their son’s wedding because they were involuntarily bumped from an overbooked flight, I don’t think it makes a difference whether they were given $400 or $4,000…

    Lately, I’ve noticed the tendency of the editors to post intentionally inflammatory topics without actually offering up the whole story. This post was not the worst offender, by any means, but it is one of many posts that have been cropping up lately. Why does it have to say 300,000+? Isn’t 30k bad enough? And why not attempt to put it in perspective– 300k bumps out of 300m passengers isn’t all that bad, really, and only 30k invols out of 300m is really not that bad… I get that revenue is driven by page hits, and inflammatory posts drive page hits, but it discredits the Consumerist’s mission when misleading posts are allowed to slip through.

  27. Fly Girl says:

    @Trai_Dep: Each airline is a little different, but for the most part, the free tickets are super easy to use. You call reservations and make a booking and give them the ticket number that’s on your voucher. On the day of departure, you go to the airport and check in like everyone else, except you have to see an agent to give them your voucher. And… That’s it. Pretty simple.

  28. sketchy says:

    @Mr_D: The thing is if the Airlines don’t overbook their flight and miss out on revenue the price of other tickets goes up to cover that. It is actually beneficial to the vast majority of flyers that flights are booked at 108% or more, even if the odd passenger is asked to take another flight with compensation and the odder passenger compensated for not being able to take their flight of choice.

  29. Fly Girl says:

    @sketchy: You’re right. If we, as consumers, want to reserve the right to change our tickets and rebook our tickets and refund our tickets, then we also have to accept that the airlines are going to overbook the flights.

    The airlines figure out, on average, how many people cancel or fail to show up for any given flight, and then they allow themselves to overbook by that amount. They also take into account time of year, holidays, etc… (People might flake out on the 10:00 am Tuesday in July Miami to NYC flight, but NEVER miss the 10:00 am Tuesday before Thanksgiving Miami to NYC flight.)

    Usually, it works out just fine and the flight has plenty of seats for everyone. Occasionally, however, it doesn’t. If too many passengers show up, then the airline has to bump people. The vast majority of those people are voluntary bumps– a couple of hours in exchange for a free ticket isn’t a bad deal. A few of those people are involuntary bumps. Involuntary bumps make for angry passengers and bad PR, so they try to avoid it as much as possible.

    If the airlines didn’t overbook flights, tickets would cost even more than they do now. Why? Because we want to reserve the right to change the dates on our tickets, to cancel our tickets, and to refund our tickets. If the airline is holding a seat for you on a flight and then you change your dates the day before, there’s a very high likelihood that your seat will be going out empty. And, since you’re rebooked for another date, you just got TWO seats for the price of one. That costs the airlines major money.

    By overbooking, the airlines help to cut costs and make up for revenue that would otherwise be lost. What’s the alternative? Not allowing ANY date changes, rebooking, cancellations, or refunds? No thanks– I’ll take overbooked flights any day.

  30. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    @Fly Girl: actually i called and made my reservation with my voucher over the phone and then mailed them the voucher and they sent me an email confirmation to go print my e ticket. that was us air

  31. Fly Girl says:

    @catastrophegirl: Sweet. Even simpler than my version. Ya, they make the free tickets pretty easy to use. There’s no strings involved, they’re free and legit.

  32. Altdotweb says:

    Where does the D.O.T distinguish between voluntary and involuntary when it comes to compensation?

    Replace “bumped” with “denied boarding to” in the title and it’s still a valid fact; 343,000 passengers did not make it itno their original seats this year.

    If the story reported that 32,000 were bumped, it would do a disservice to the readers by keeping them unaware that 32,000 was only 1/10th of the total seats that were overbooked.

  33. kepler11 says:

    You clearly are not familiar with overbooking, and the statistics.

    They are separated and broken out by voluntary and involuntary.

    And it would not be a disservice to base the story on the 32,000 involuntarily bumped. It would be more honest in fact. Most of the 343,000 number are people who willingly gave up their seats for compensation. They came out ahead. If the role of regulation, and the criticism of this blog is to point out customer disservice, then the vast majority of those 343,000 are success stories.

  34. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    @Trai_Dep: Yes, what FlyGirl says. The ticket portion says to call USAirways to make your reservation.

  35. Meathamper says:

    Hmmm, all of a sudden I feel bad for the airlines.

  36. Altdotweb says:

    @kepler11:

    Where are the stats from the DOT?

  37. kepler11 says:
  38. Altdotweb says:

    The stats are broken down between voluntary and involuntary, but the percentage of bumps is recorded only for the total amount and not each category.

    According to that DOT stat list, a bump is a bump in the eyes of the gov’t. That is why the 343k number is more necessary than the 32K.

  39. picardia says:

    @kepler11: You ARE an airline plant, aren’t you? Wow, I usually think people are way too quick to call plant, but this is on the money.

  40. muledoggie says:

    Gttng bmpd s pssbl whn y fly. f y fnd ths nccptbl, dn’t fly.

    Ml

  41. cccdude says:

    So does this still apply if you’re flying on frequent flyer miles? I’d think those folks would be the first ones bumped since you aren’t technically paying for the flight.

  42. Fly Girl says:

    @cccdude: No way, Jose. The people who get involuntarily bumped are the ones who bought their tickets last and the people who checked in last. If any of those people are premium members of the airline, they won’t get bumped. (Obviously, the airline doesn’t want to piss off their best customers.)

    The airline REALLY doesn’t want to bump people on frequent flier miles for a couple of reasons: A.) Anyone with enough miles for a free ticket is a decent customer. Don’t want to piss off the good customers. and B.) That customer didn’t pay for their ticket. Bumping them means that the airline is paying them to fly. Now they’re in the hole for a ticket instead of just out a free ticket. They don’t want that, either.

    So, if you’re traveling on a frequent flier ticket, you’re pretty safe from being involuntarily bumped.

    You could still take a voluntary bump, however. I’ve taken voluntary bumps while traveling on a ticket earned on a previous voluntary bump, in fact! It can be a wonderful and consumer friendly cycle if taken advantage of! :)

  43. Anonymous says:

    My cousin just landed on a flight from SK, canada. The stewardess announced they took on too much fuel, they needed 5 volunteers to get off. No one volunteered. She came back a few minutes later, say I have a list of 5 people who’s final destination is where we’re going. If no one volunteers, I’m calling you off. No one volunteered, so she read off five names, took 5 off. All because she said they took on too much fuel, and needed to balance out the weight!

    I’ve been on flights where they overfuel, normally the just pump the fuel off… She missed her connecting flight because of all this!