Don’t Get Dao-ed: How To Tell If Your United Flight Might Be Overbooked

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Overbooked flights happen all the time on all three of the legacy carriers. Most of the time these issues resolve themselves naturally and passengers are never the wiser. Some folks will cancel their ticket, no-show, or switch to a different flight. Sadly, others will misconnect. In all of these cases, nothing needs to be done as the problem will solve itself.

Sometimes, however, the oversold situation persists and there are literally more passengers in the gate area than the flight can accommodate. When this happens, the agent solicits volunteers willing to take a later flight in exchange for compensation. In rare cases where they get no takers, they may have to involuntarily deny boarding (IDB) to someone.

Once in a blue moon, all of this will break down and they’ll try to deny someone boarding who has already boarded. As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s exactly what happened to Dr. Dao on his United flight from Chicago to Louisville. We all know how how that ended.

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How To Fly With A Stroller In The United States


Just as the United dragging incident sparked a lot of interest regarding the finer points of how airlines overbook flights, the American strollergate altercation involving the mother of twins has led to a lot of discussion about the finer points of flying with strollers, prams, baby buggies, or the like.

It turns out I’ve had quite a bit of experience traveling with a stroller given that my wife and I have taken our kids — now aged 5, 4, and 1 — on multiple international trips each year since they were born. In fact, I would say that our BOB Revolution stroller is probably our most coveted piece of travel gear, and the one thing most responsible for allowing my wife and I to maintain much of our pre-kid jetset lifestyle.

So I thought it might be useful to go over the basics of what it’s like to fly with a stroller. I’m going to focus on domestic travel within the United States, and then make a few comments about the variations you might see around the world. But at least within the US, I’ve found that stroller policies and procedures are pretty consistent across airlines and airports.

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What’s One Wish You Have For Airline & Hotel Loyalty Programs?


Over the years I’ve spoken at a fair number of industry conferences. Usually I’m given a specific topic to talk about, and that’s fairly easy for me to do. I bug the hell out of people talking about loyalty programs all day anyway, so being asked to talk about loyalty programs is fun to me.

This coming week I’ll have a brief talk at the Loyalty@Freddies conference, which is primarily a conference for loyalty program executives. Many of them are in New York for the Freddie Awards anyway, so for the past several years there has been a conference in the days leading up to this, where they can share best practices, etc. Some of the perspectives are brilliant, some are predictable, and others are plain shocking.

For the most part the conference is just about them sharing tips with one another, though they also bring in the perspectives of frequent flyers to balance things out a bit.

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7 Things To Know Before You Cancel A Credit Card


We all have different things we’re looking for in credit cards, and over time those things often change. I have plenty of cards I hold onto for years on end, while I also have cards that I cancel after a year or two, because they don’t provide me much ongoing value.

The way I see it, there are three big factors to consider when applying for a credit card — the sign-up bonus, the return on everyday spend, and the perks. Sometimes a card has a compelling sign-up bonus, but after a while you realize it’s not giving you much value otherwise.

With that in mind, I figured it would be useful to write a post about things to keep in mind before you consider canceling a card. In no particular order:

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How Much Compensation Should Airlines Offer When Soliciting Volunteers?


I’m mostly convinced that United’s debacle that ended with the good doctor being dragged off his flight could have been avoided if United hadn’t tried to be cheap. By the time the four deadheading crew members had been added, the flight had more confirmed passengers than seats.

So the gate agent started soliciting volunteers to take a later flight, first offering $400 and a hotel room, and then $800. But that’s where the offers stopped. At that point, the gate agent called the cops, and they eventually dragged Dr. Dao off the plane.

You know the story by now.

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What Are Your Rights If You Get Bumped From A Flight?


Yesterday I shared the story of a passenger literally being dragged off an oversold United flight because they needed his seat. In light of that, I figure this is probably a good time to write about what you’re entitled to in the event you find yourself on an oversold flight. This post isn’t intended to reflect the exact situation that happened on Sunday night, but rather to address the topic more generally.

Airlines use very complicated models to decide how many seats to sell on a particular flight. However, almost across the board they’ll sell more seats than actually exist on a plane. Why? Because they know that typically some passengers won’t make the flight.

Some passengers may show up to the airport too late, while other passengers might cancel their tickets last minute, while other passengers may miss their connection due to flight delays. They have incredibly complex models, and most of the times they work out perfectly. However, they’re not going to get stuff right all the time, and as a result there are occasionally situations where more passengers have checked in than the plane has seats.

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Why Is Business Class Sometimes Cheaper Than Economy?


Every so often I get an email from a reader confused about how business class on a flight could be cheaper than economy, and asking if it’s an error. For obvious reasons, it seems backwards. For example, take the below flight between Puerto Plata and Frankfurt on Condor, where business class is $729, while premium class is $749:

This is only one example, though it’s something I notice pretty commonly on domestic flights as well, where first class is cheaper than economy. So, what causes first/business class to sometimes be cheaper than economy?

The simple answer is that this is due to how complicated inventory and revenue management at airlines is.

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8 Ways United Polaris Could Improve

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A week ago I had the chance to fly United’s new 777-300ER Polaris product from San Francisco to Hong Kong. The plane commenced international service just a few days prior to that, so it was the first real opportunity to try the “full” Polaris experience.

Overall I was impressed — this is a huge step in the right direction for United, and their business class bedding is the best bedding offered by any airline in business class. The seats are also a big improvement, as there’s direct aisle access from every seat, though I didn’t find them to be that comfortable compared to what else is out there.

Anyway, United Polaris is a huge improvement over what they used to have. However, like any product, there’s room for improvement. In this post I figured I’d look at eight ways United could easily improve Polaris. Most of these points are intentionally very minor.

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The Best Way To Book American’s A321 Transcon First Class


American offers a pretty solid product in first & business class on their transcon flights. At least the hard product is great, while the service and food are just okay. American is the only airline still offering three classes of service from New York to both Los Angeles and San Francisco.

These specially configured A321 have 10 reverse herringbone seats in first class. Having direct aisle access from every seat in a cabin on a domestic flight is pretty awesome, though do keep in mind these are the same seats that American uses in business class on their 777-300ERs.

Meanwhile in business class American has fully flat seats in a 2-2 configuration. So the product is more in line with the hard products offered by Delta and United.

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Does The Freedom Or Freedom Unlimited Offer A Better Incremental Return?

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Reader Rohit asked a question in the Ask Lucky forum about whether he should apply for the Chase Freedom® Card or Chase Freedom® Unlimited.

The premise is that he has the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, and wants to apply for one of those no annual fee cards, given that they’re great complements to the Sapphire Preferred. Which is worth more — 5x points in select categories on the Freedom Card, or 1.5x points across the board on the Freedom Unlimited Card?

Ultimately there’s no “one size fits all” answer, as it all depends on your spend pattern. So the best I can do is to provide a general outline by which you can decide.

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Limited Time: Earn Double Plastiq Referral Credits


I’ve been using Plastiq for quite a while to occasionally pay bills with a credit card that I otherwise could not. I’ve used them to pay our mortgage, insurance, electric bill, and property taxes, all bills that I used to grumble about not being able to earn miles and points for.

There are fees involved, of course, so I don’t always use Plastiq, but there are plenty of times where it can really make sense. Like if you need to meet the minimum spend requirement on a newly acquired credit card, for example. At any rate, you need to make a conscious decision and crunch your own numbers to see if it’s a good deal.

Plastiq also has a nice referral program. And for a limited time, it’s even better. But first, let’s review how it works.

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3500+ Flights Cancelled Due To Winter Storms


As the projected severity of the winter storm in the Northeast increases, most domestic airlines in the US have either cancelled flights, or issued waivers for travel over the next few days.

A bit of snow (much less a blizzard) can cause systemwide disruptions, so if you’re scheduled to travel in the coming days you’ll want to take precautions.

Delays are starting to pile up, and many airlines have preemptively canceled flights for tomorrow. At the time of this writing there are over 3,000 canceled flights, and many delayed flights between today and tomorrow. A few examples of pre-emptive cancelations for Tuesday:

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Tips For Traveling To Jordan


Before I get into our flights home, I wanted to take some time to go over travel tips for Jordan. I really loved our trip to Jordan, and it’s a destination I’ve received many questions about.

While it takes some planning, I think Jordan is a pretty approachable country, with warm and welcoming people, so hopefully having extra details are helpful to some of you.

Jordan is a small country, with a rich and varied cultural landscape, that I think sometimes encourages overly-aggressive schedules. We packed as much as we could into our seven-day trip, but having another 3-4 days would have allowed us to break up the driving a bit more, have some down time, or see any of the other dozens of things we missed, like the Desert Castles, Jerash, and the Dead Sea.

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Visiting Petra


After a quick breakfast at the Marriott we jumped in the car and headed to Wadi Musa. The drive only took ~10 minutes, and we didn’t have any issue finding street parking across from the Movenpick.

To give you a sense of how the town and the historical site are oriented, here’s a picture taken from a hill above Petra, which I’ve added labels to.

It’s about 2 kilometers from the Petra Visitor’s Center to the Treasury, to give you a sense of the distances. The Treasury itself is only about halfway down the main road into Petra — you’ll go another 2 kilometers to the end of the main road where you can see some of the other key sites.

You’re looking at a minimum of 5 miles of walking if you stay on the main road and don’t explore any of the side trails, so keep that in mind when choosing your footwear!

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