I’d like to think that I learn from my mistakes, though there are days like today where I just want to bash my head against the bulkhead. In the past I’ve blogged about the importance of showing up at the gate early when you’re trying to get bumped off a flight that might be oversold. Last year I was flying from Washington Dulles to New York JFK, and showed up at the gate, only to find that they needed volunteers. Unfortunately they had already processed the volunteers (and compensated them), so didn’t need more. Bye bye, free ticket! But I learned from that… at least until today.
This morning I flew from New York Kennedy to Washington Dulles on a United Express flight operated by Atlantic Southeast Airlines. The flight showed as being zeroed out in advance, though lately I haven’t had great bump luck, so I wasn’t counting on them actually needing volunteers. I showed up at the counter with 40 minutes to go till departure (20 minutes before boarding), and I see there’s one passenger on the “confirmed awaiting seats” list, and zero seats remaining. That means they’re oversold by one passenger. Great. They even had the “we are looking for volunteers” verbiage on the monitor
Of course all excited, I go up to the counter and get in line. I assumed the other people in line were just there to ask the typical questions, but no, they all wanted to volunteer. And what was the gate agent doing a full 40 minutes before departure? Printing out $400 worth of travel credits for another passenger that she already bumped. Nooooo!
What’s the problem here? First of all, from United’s perspective, it’s stupid to bump passengers so far in advance. There could be no shows, last minute cancellations, etc. Always solicit volunteers early, but only bump when the flight is ready to go. But more importantly (for me), the bump list is sorted by elite status. And that means as a 1K with United, I’m always at the top of that list. But because the gate agent bumped a passenger before the list should have “closed,” I wasn’t given a chance to volunteer.
Anyway, it’s entirely my fault, I’m not blaming anyone else here. It would have been nice if the gate agent would have waited, as she should have, but she didn’t. Oh well. But I think (hope?) that I’ve finally learned my lesson…
Fortunately the flight was actually quite entertaining. The flight attendant kept getting Delta and United confused. Atlantic Southeast Airlines, which now does some flying on United’s behalf, does most of their flying for Delta. This particular flight attendant was flying under the United brand for the first time on this trip. So she struggled a bit — “You’ll be earning SkyMiles for this trip, just visit delta.com to enroll,” and “welcome aboard Delta Connection flight…” That’s only the beginning, the fun went on and on. The captain had it down a bit better, though still referred to the flight as “United Connection” (as opposed to United Express).