Would You Take A Bump For $4,000?

As you probably recall, United suffered a horrible incident earlier this year in which airport police dragged one of their passengers off a flight for refusing to give up his seat. The flight was oversold and, although he had already boarded, the airline decided that he was the passenger who would need to be involuntarily denied boarding since they had been unsuccessful in soliciting sufficient volunteers.

There was much discussion at the time. I argued that United should have offered more compensation to lure a passenger off the plane. In fact, I said that had I been on that flight, the whole fiasco never would have happened. (Because my travel is almost always flexible enough to take a later flight.)

Shortly after the incident happened, Delta announced that they would increase the limit on their voluntary denied boarding compensation to $9,950. That way their gate agents would have the flexibility to cut a deal. Of course, that was just the maximum they could offer, but the same bidding process would still take place. In other words, no one necessarily expected them to actually ever need to offer that much, because presumably someone would take a lower offer first.

Many of us wondered whether the compensation would ever get close to that level. Well, now we know.

Delta pays a passenger $4,000 to take a later flight

Friday’s flight from Atlanta to South Bend, Indiana, was oversold. It turns out that there’s a little football game being played this weekend, and Notre Dame and Georgia and Bulldog fans are rather passionate. It’s the first time they’ll play the Golden Domers up north. Or just about any team up north for that matter. 

So when it was determined that the flight was oversold, the Delta agents started trying to solicit volunteers. The bidding hit $2,200.  Then $2,800. Then $3,000.

Yet they still had no takers. Apparently this was one of those flights, much like the one with Dr. Dao on United, where they didn’t realize they were in an oversold situation until everyone had already boarded. It’s much easier to convince someone not to take a flight while they are standing in the terminal — once they are in their seat, they’re mentally already at their destination.

Finally the bid hit $4,000. At that point, one woman agreed to take her jackpot in exchange for a later flight.

We even get to meet the passenger who got that last seat when the woman volunteered.

Presumably, he could have taken the $4,000 himself.

Did she make it to the game?

The flight in question was scheduled to depart Atlanta at 9:45 AM.

And her rebooked flight was supposedly at 7 PM the same day, never mind the fact that Delta didn’t have a 7 PM flight.

So the closest would have been either 5:48 PM or 8:02 PM. But either way, that was about 8-10 hour delay, which is certainly a while to spend in the Atlanta airport.

But then again, $4,000.

The crazy thing though is that the game isn’t actually until Saturday evening. So the alternate flight would still get her and any of the other potential volunteers there with plenty of time to spare. Heck, Delta could have even rebooked her for Saturday morning, and it would have been okay. Or to Chicago, Detroit, or Indianapolis where she could have rented a car. For $4,000 I might have driven all the way from Atlanta!

I followed — literally, every weekend — a college football team for three years when my brother-in-law played for Air Force. So I get the importance of the game, the cost of tickets (though ours were always comped), and all of that. But our thinking was that as long as we arrived sometime the night before, we were fine.

Given all of that, it’s really surprising that the bidding hit $4,000. I mean, good for her, but I’m surprised that somebody didn’t jump on the offer sooner, especially given that it wouldn’t mean missing the game. Then again, there’s a reason that Andrew pondered why don’t more people volunteer to be bumped earlier this week.

Bottom line

I’m sort of fascinated by this story. I’ve been bumped dozens of times in my life, but I think my max compensation was $800, which I was pretty happy about. So this is obviously really impressive. It’s also interesting to see Delta’s policy in action. It’s one thing to announce a policy like this, but it’s certainly another to follow through with it in the heat of the moment. Good for her. Good for Delta.

But seriously, did everyone on this flight value their time at more than $400 per hour? 

Would you have taken $4000 if it meant being delayed 10 or so hours? 

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Comments

  1. Nice to see. Usually, the last person (presumably) at the gate to get a seat just gets their res cancelled. Clocks set to favor the airline….

  2. I get that airlines have to ask for volunteers before resorting to IDBs. But after a certain point, why didn’t they just IDB the guy who didn’t get on and let the flight depart? Surely the cost of IDB was less than $4000. If anyone knows why, I’m curious.

  3. Well, it may be amazing that it took $4,000 to be bump. What’s more amazing is that all those people are going to watch some college sports competition, not a professional one.

    No wonder not all those who went to college are smart…..

  4. I think you misspoke: flight was not scheduled to leave 945 and arrive 955. Based on the photo scheduled to leave 945 and status was 955 departure.

  5. @James
    College football is professional in all but name and the salaries (which are under the table).

    This one is just mind-boggling though. These people are total morons. You’re not missing out on anything by not being in South Bend, IN on a Friday evening. For that many people to give up $4,000, when they’ll still be able to make all of their Saturday and even most of their Friday night plans regardless, is just so stupid it makes me wince. As mentioned they could have just drove, or surely gotten on one of the many flights to ORD or DTW and drove the much shorter distance. It’s like they thought that flight was their only opportunity to get to Indiana. Then again, Georgia fans…

  6. The govt should eliminate IDB limits. Airlines should only be able to get people off by bidding up the cost like this.
    As other people asked, was this $4000 cash or a $4000 voucher?

  7. The value of time varies quite a bit based on the situation. I’m taking a brief trip for a football game and family visit in a few weeks. I’d probably need $2k to be delayed.

    I also inherently mistrust vouchers, having been burned by them in the past.

    I wonder if the passengers were sure of the next confirmed flight at the time the bidding was going on?

  8. A couple of interesting comments from the linked post:

    #1
    I was also on this flight and received 4,000 Delta dollars to take the later flight. There were 5 or 6 of us who got this deal. By the time I reached the gate, Delta was already offering $1,800 for volunteers to be moved to the 5:48 p.m. flight. At that time they still needed two more seats. I was told that everyone who gives up their seat will get the same amount that is given to the final volunteer. I told the agent to add me to the list

    Once boarding began, Delta continued to raise the offer but no one accepted. After boarding was completed Delta continued to increase the offer, and no one accepted until $4,000 was reached, which turned out great for the rest of us who volunteered at a lower amount.

    I’m now in South Bend looking forward to the game tomorrow.

    #2
    I told my friend who is a Delta gate agent in Atlanta about this and his response was heck that’s nothing. He said they recently gave $6,000 each to 16 passengers (i.e. $96,000) to get off an overbooked plane. Now that’s serious money. And kudos to Delta for doing this! But I wonder how in the world the computer can guess wrong by 16 seats.

  9. I received a $2200 voucher and two free nights plus food to get bumped from Punta Cana to Philadelphia this past wed. Still got upgraded to first on Friday. I am EP

  10. Stay was at the Westin in Punta Cana. Just some rain and wind. Thursday’s flight was cancelled due to Irma

  11. @Debit That’s a really ugly ‘joke’. Not even vaguely funny, and not the oh-so-clever bon mot you clearly think it is.

  12. A serious question: when someone gets a voucher like this and spends it on future travel, will those dollars become MQD’s? or just coupons against the reservation?

  13. @AS
    Pro but the salaries is not pro? What do you mean? They are still college student. Their daily activities are studying not training. Are you joking?

  14. JC: Travel vouchers almost always count the same as spending cash with the airline. So dollars spent, and miles earned are all the same.

  15. Last year I took a $900 bump on Delta. IIRC I had to log on to a specific Delta website where I could choose how I wanted the $900. My choices included gift cards from Macys, Best Buy, Home Depot and a ton of other stores. My choice was to take an Amex gift card for $900. In that way I could use the $900 at all stores (instead of just one) of my choice. I just cannot recall if a ‘DL travel voucher’ was an option; it probably was.

    However, years earlier, I did take a $400 bump on Delta. The $400 was printed by the gate agent and was definitely a travel voucher.

  16. A few years ago I was on a United flight that was overbooked, and I had some flexibility in my schedule, so I volunteered for a flight that was an hour later, and got a $400 voucher. I headed to the gate for my new flight, and when I got there, the GA announced that the flight was overbooked, and they were offering $400 for an alternative flight. I still had plenty of flexibility in my schedule, so I volunteered again, and they gave me another $400 voucher, and THEN THEY BOOKED ME BACK ON MY ORIGINAL FLIGHT.
    So for $800 in vouchers, I kept my original itinerary and all I had to do was give up my original seat choice — this was a 2 hour flight, so it was no big deal.

  17. @Lucky Please do the same with Debit as you did with Credit. I know he only wants a reaction (like all trolls) but I don’t want him given the opportunity.

  18. Airlines do not keep that kind of cash on hand nor checks so all this compensation would be some type of voucher….

  19. Pardon my ignorance but a travel voucher can be used in all kind of ai fares even basic economy? Is it unrestricted? Can this travel voucher be used on skyteam alliance or others?

  20. I travel with a family. To bump just me I would never even consider it outside of 2k+ and free rescheduling for all 3 of us. Turned down 1k a couple times. But sure 2k or even 4k I would do for just rescheduling me. Just take them off the flight and drive.

  21. Turned down $3k for a TPAC long haul business class bump on Delta last month. Would have lost a full day plus my favorite seat on the upper deck of a 747. Was definitely tempted though, would’ve done it for $6k.

  22. Had been bumped once, but international flight with Korean Air.

    For a family of 5, each of us get USD$200 (Cash), upgrade to business the next day (8 hours flight)
    and a night in Seoul (they booked us a suite to house us in)

  23. Well I didn’t expect to read about the UGAg Mutts on one of my go-to travel blogs! Given that they are our most hated rival – I’m a Georgia Tech man and we do run this state! – I won’t say anything mean about the knuckle draggers over in Athens…oops…too late. 😉

    But in all seriousness, I kind of get it. UGAg fans are…passionate. And as someone who has been to 119 of Tech’s last 121 games, home and away, including 106 in a row, I think it would take something like $4k to get me off the plane if I were headed to a “big” game like UGAg-Notre Dame.

    As for AS, with all due respect, I think your comments are ignorant and distasteful. While college sports is purely amateur, it’s not remotely professional. The majority of football and basketball players will never play at the pro level. If you consider a paid for education “pro” so be it, but that’s an extreme stretch. As for UGAg fans – and I can’t believe you are making me defend them! – morons is a ridiculous comment. They happen to be passionate about something you aren’t and it’s something that is harmless. As for college vs pro sports, I turned down free suite tickets for the Braves recently (and would do the same for the Falcons unless they were playing Dallas) yet I have gone to many college games in which Georgia Tech wasn’t even playing. And I can assure you I am not a “moron.”

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