I’m taking a mileage run from Tampa to Los Angeles via Washington Dulles today, and my flight from Washington Dulles to Los Angeles has been looking pretty full for quite a while, with most fare buckets being sold out for the better part of a week. When I woke up this morning the flight was all “9s,” meaning they were still willing to sell at least nine seats. When I landed at Washington Dulles, however, the flight was sold out. When I got to the Red Carpet Club I added my name to the volunteer list, and I headed to the gate an hour before departure.
The flight had zero seats remaining and listed ten people as “confirmed awaiting seats.” That’s usually a near guarantee that they’ll need volunteers. Sure enough, the monitor indicated that they were looking for volunteers. As soon as the gate agent was all set up I approached her and gave her the usual song and dance, confirming I was already on the volunteer list, and explaining that I didn’t have any checked bags and was very flexible. She quickly responded with “oh, we really don’t like to take first class passengers as volunteers, it’s more work to upgrade someone else and have to rebook you.” Of course I wanted to respond with “if you’re that lazy, find a new job,” but I didn’t. I just once again emphasized how flexible I was, mentioning that she could rebook me in a middle seat in coach on the next flight for all I care. Most importantly, though, I pointed out I would be sitting right next to the podium should she need me (in other words, I’m watching you). 😉
As the gate area started to fill up, they made at least three or four announcements asking for volunteers. Never before have I seen so many people ask about the opportunity though not bite. There was another 1K that wanted to be added to the list, though he changed his mind four times, so literally every five minutes he added his name to the list and then took it off again.
In the meantime another gate agent showed up, who could only be described as “charismatic.” She was the type of gate agent that would call you “honey child.” A young Australian girl approached her, offering to volunteer. Their conversation went something like this:
Girl: “Yes, I wanted to volunteer please.”
Agent: “Are you connecting?”
Girl: “Yes, on V Australia to Sydney later tonight at 10PM.”
Agent: “Then we can put you on the later flight and you would still have over two hours to make your connection.”
Girl: “But is that enough time?”
Girl: “But it took me 1hr30min to make my connection here, are you sure that’s enough time?”
Girl: “But are you sure that’s enough time?”
Agent: “You know something honey, you better just take this flight, because it’s not about what I feel comfortable with, it’s about what you feel comfortable with.”
Girl: “No, I want to take the bump. I just want you to reassure me. Why don’t you be professional and reassure me.”
Agent: “I already told you that you would have plenty of time to make your connection, two hours is more than enough.”
Girl: “Okay, great…. but what if the flight is late?”
Agent: “Nuh uh, that’s it. You taking this flight.”
Agent: “You taking this flight, no way I’m dealing with this.”
Sure enough, there were several other volunteers, though they kept making announcements. Typically bumps aren’t too stressful since they bump passengers before boarding starts, though this time around they were waiting till the last second. I was keeping a VERY close eye on things, since I suspected the other gate agent was going to skip me on the bump list because I was in first class.
So I approached the other “charismatic” agent and, in a joking tone, said “any chance you’re going to need me? But I’ll only bump if you can reassure me of…” She cut in laughing, and said “you hear her? She was crazy!” They had told all the passengers in the gate area that they wouldn’t need their seats, except for my seat and the seat of another 1K (notably, the 1K who added and took his name off the list four times). She offloaded us, verbally confirmed we would be bumped, and headed aboard to upgrade the two people in coach that would be taking our first class seats, further loading confirmed passengers in coach.
When she comes off the plane she says “we have one empty first class seat, which one of you wants to fly?” Now, not to throw the other 1K under the bus, but:
a) I was the first person on the list and am easy to work with
b) He changed his mind four times, so clearly wasn’t all that into it
c) The gate agent already had me sign the voucher for the bump, while she didn’t have the other guy sign the voucher
So of course I jumped in — “well, I was on the list first.” She immediately told the other guy to board, and off he was (though he didn’t seem too upset about not having been bumped). Besides, I had already signed for the bump, so I had a contract with United for it.
So I’m a $400 voucher richer and was rebooked in full fare first class to Los Angeles a bit later. I really had to fight for this one, though of course it was worth it.
Now I’m at the Lufthansa Senator Lounge at Dulles waiting for my next flight, which is in a little over an hour. Apparently it’s the lounge’s two year anniversary, so they have someone here videotaping everything, which is comical in and of itself. Stay tuned for that.