Delta’s new voluntary denied boarding “bidding” system

Delta is going “Ebay” on us with their new voluntary denied boarding procedure. When a flight is oversold Delta will now typically have a screen at check-in (either online or at the airport) indicating that the flight is oversold, asking people if they’re interested in volunteering. If they are, it asks them to “bid” an amount for which they would accept the bump. There’s a “tip” at the bottom, saying “Delta accepts lower bids first.”

I certainly can’t fault Delta for this. After all, this is for passengers that are voluntarily denied boarding. Why not give out the lowest amount of voluntary denied boarding compensation possible, taking into account that both parties are happy?

At the same time, logistically I’m not sure how exactly this works. I don’t believe they present the potential alternative flights at check-in, so on what grounds could I really bid the amount? If I’ll be rebooked on a flight an hour later, I might bid $100, while if I’m rebooked on a flight the next day, it might take $400 to entice me. And there are a lot of other factors too, like whether someone is a local or not (for example, Delta would probably be better off giving a local $250 than someone else $200 plus a hotel for the night).

Anyway, it’s certainly creative. Not sure how much sense it makes logistically, but it tackles a simple problem, which is that before this, passenger were often overcompensated for bumps resulting in short delays, while they couldn’t find volunteers for bumps resulting in longer delays. I’ve been in the situation several times, especially since United switched to a flat $400 in compensation for a voluntary denied boarding. If you’re going to be rebooked on a flight an hour later, almost everyone would take the offer, while they have a hard time finding volunteers if the next available flight is the following morning.


  1. In my admittedly limited experience, United has had trouble getting volunteers for a VDB. I think this could potentially net >$400 compensation for a VDB.

  2. I have done a VDB with Delta in the past, but I do wonder how many agents actually follow this system since it makes things more complicated for them.

  3. NW did this for several months before the merger with DL and I NEVER saw an agent offer anything lower then $300 VDB.

    I’ve also seen the offer screen on DL a few times over the past couple months but have yet to see any of the ridiculous low ball offers. At this time, I question whether this bidding system is actually in use. By that I mean…..are DL agents actually paying some of the ploppies’ offers in the $50 to $100 range? My money is on the “no”.

  4. Well, unless the law has changed regarding bumping in the past few years. Its illegal to give out different amounts to pax on the same flight when bumped. If you accept $100 as the first person bumped, and the last recieves $400. Everyone, by law, must receive $400!!!!

  5. some of the logistical concerns can be addressed by delta. Potentially they can cross-reference bid information with rerouting costs etc and come to a list of optimal bump candidates.

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