Airlines all over the world overbook, supposedly to mitigate the losses they have when passengers fail to show up or cancel. That is hard to understand for those of us who are not profit-oriented airline CEOs because if there are no-shows, the airline has still sold the seat. And they can often resell the no-show seats to people who are in the airports and on waiting lists. So bumping seems like double dipping.
When all the passengers show up and the flight is overbooked, the airline staff will ask if there are any passengers willing to give up their seat in exchange for a bump offer. This is usually done pre-boarding, and the airline attendants have some leeway to negotiate deals with volunteers in exchange for passengers missing their flight. They always offer incentives. These incentives might be cash, a night in a hotel, sometimes a lot of frequent flyer miles, entry to an exclusive airport club, maybe even an upgraded seat on a replacement flight and occasionally a return ticket to a destination of the customer’s choosing. No one ever mentions how they are going to fit the passengers they bump onto the next flight, which is also overbooked.
It is a normal reaction for us to become a bit tense upon learning our flight has been overbooked. If you need to get to where you are going, you will find yourself looking around at the other passengers, hoping they will take the incentive, thus guaranteeing your seat. If you are relaxed and wouldn’t mind spending a night in whatever city you are in, or hang around for a couple of hours and receive some mileage or money or both, it is still not easy. Your body will automatically go into stress mode because it knows that if you take the first offer made, you might regret it because the process is a lot like an auction, and the offers increase steadily. The closer the time gets to boarding, the more lucrative the offer for voluntary bumping becomes. You need to have some kind of bump-strategy savvy, and accept an offer from the airline representative at exactly the right time as the offers rise, but before some cleverer person accepts an offer ahead of you. If you volunteer for a bump offer and are chosen, find out if the airline will pay for transportation to the hotel they are offering, and for meals while you are waiting for your replacement flight. Or, if they are offering you a seat on an alternate flight, make sure you will really have an assigned seat and are not going to be a standby. Don’t close the deal until you are sure of your benefits.
Expect to be bumped occasionally. In the domestic United States, a total of 40,629 passengers were bumped in 2016. So why shouldn’t it happen to you? But you don’t want to be a participant in involuntary bumping. That’s what happens when no one on your flight wants to give up his or her seat, including you. If there are no volunteers, the airline can legally remove a paying customer involuntarily. You need to know about this process, as you don’t want to be the one to be dragged off the plane while fellow passengers are filming your dilemma and pretending to feel indignant about what’s happening to you. Truth be told, they are just glad it’s you and not them.
We all need to be aware that airlines do have the right to forcibly remove ticket-holding customers from their planes. When you buy an airline ticket, you agree to adhere to the airline’s “contract of carriage” — but passengers rarely read these contracts, although they are available on the airline websites. Sometimes they are over 50 pages long, which certainly encourages us not to read them, and they generally protect the airline’s interests, not ours. The bottom line is that the company owns the airline and it’s their seat; you are just renting it from them.
Now that we know that the airlines can legally bump us, we need to know how the involuntary bumpees are chosen. When overbooking occurs, the airline company checks their computers and zooms in on the passengers who paid the lowest fares for their tickets. Generally speaking, airlines also have a last-passenger-boarded, first-passenger-bumped policy. But they also take into consideration our frequent-flyer status and the passenger itinerary, which means that those with connecting flights are less likely to be forced to bump.
So, the sharp passenger who bought a cheap ticket on some Internet site at 3:00 a.m. and checked in at the last moment because he or she doesn’t like to spend time sitting anxiously in front of an airline gate is the most likely to be forcefully bumped. Passengers with more expensive tickets that were bought ahead of time and those who have frequent-flyer status and who also checked in early to enjoy the airport experience are unlikely to be bumped involuntarily.
You don’t get rich if you are forcefully bumped, unless you encourage the airline employees to manhandle you enough so that you have grounds to sue them. But if you don’t choose to get yourself involved in that, the U.S. Department of Transport has guidelines that stipulate that the airline only has to pay you up to two times the cost of your flight for a 1 – 2 hour delay with $650 being the maximum they can pay out. And if your delay is longer than 2 hours, they pay more, but no more than a $1350 maximum. They don’t usually pay that much; but they will give a passenger a cash compensation based on when the flight that will get the passenger to his final destination will arrive. In the U.S., customers who are involuntarily bumped from a flight must receive a written statement that tells them their rights and explains how the airline decided they should be bumped.
Overbooking is not the only reason that passengers are bumped. In March of 2017 two girls were bumped from a United Airlines flight in the U.S.A. for wearing leggings. The airline’s excuse was that the girls were guests of United Airlines employees, and so they had to follow the same dress code that the employees did.
In 2015, a cricketer was refused entry to the Australian Quantas Airlines lounge because he was wearing flip flops.
Delta Airlines refused to allow a university student and his wife board one of their flights because they were wearing “humorous” tee shirts that referred to terrorist bombings.
Billie Joe Armstrong, the vocalist for the punk rock band Green Day, was forcefully removed from a Southwest Airline flight for wearing pants that hung too low.
In conclusion, dress low profile, buy only expensive tickets, become a frequent flyer no matter how much you dislike the airline, and check in really, really early.
If all flights are routinely overbooked where do the seats come from for those ‘bumped’? I might accept a few hours delay, an overnight delay if the compensation was suitable but not longer so with that in mind is it just a chain reaction? Do they ‘bump’ people off the next flight and the next one like dominoes?
Betsy is a very nice teacher. She is dedicate, loves the students and always try to help us with our problems. Every each class we can learn different things and Betsy prepares excellent exercises each day. I love my English Class.
Betsy is my little sister, and I am very proud of her for her amazing language capabilities. When she was just a small girl, she would sometimes make up new words when she needed to, to avoid being slowed down by not knowing the “mainstream” word. Example: her word, “benext”, a combination of “beside” and “next to”, which simple meant “do lado” (but long before she ever encountered Portuguese, of course).
Betsy is the best english teacher I’ve ever had! Her classes are always an amazing experience. She guides our conversation with different and interesting topics each day, what allows us not only to improve the vocabulary but also learn/ discuss about other cultures and subjects. I know I’m going to be totally addicted to this blog!
Aprender inglês com Betsy é um privilégio! Com aulas dinâmicas, inteligentes, divertidas, sempre tratando de assuntos atuais, consegue ensinar e cativar! Tenho aulas com ela há muitos anos! Não pretendo parar, pois além de aprender a língua, Betsy coloca assuntos muito interessantes em pauta. Nestes muitos anos, nunca repetiu uma só aula! Grande professora!