An inherent part of traveling is dealing with a lot of inconveniences, one of which is being on an overbooked flight. Sometimes these circumstances can become quite dramatic and hostile, as seen in the most recent overbooked flight news scandals, such as the SoCal family that was booted off a Delta flight, or the doctor who was literally dragged off an overbooked United flight. Although this practice by airlines is totally ludicrous, it is completely legal. And while these national scandals may have incited outrage with the airline industry and have temporarily marred certain airlines’ customer service reputation, this practice is not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, the trend is increasing and will continue to rise for years to come. Why? Despite the bad press, it is simply more profitable for the airline industry to gamble on a certain percentage of customers not showing up, rather than leaving the possibility of having a few empty seats on a flight. They maximize their profits at the expense of the customer’s experience. Here are some tips on how to be prepared for such an incident so you too can maximize your profitability of the situation at the expense of the airline by taking full advantage of the benefits rather than acting emotionally.
- Choose the Right Airline
It is better to pay a little more to fly on a better airline than to be inconvenienced later. Take the Spirit airline experience for example. While those cheap tickets may seem enticing at first, it is riddled with a plethora of hidden fees: every suitcase you bring, your seat, your breathing air, and of course the risk of being a part of an overbooked flight. Delta and United are the two most notorious overbooking offenders, offering compensation for 10-15 out of 10,000 passengers; whereas JetBlue and Virgin are the least with 0.9-1.9 per 10,000 passengers. Moral of the story, you get what you pay for.
- Don’t Volunteer to Give up Your Seat
Airlines will try to entice you with vouchers and incentives. Do not fall for it. You are not doing anyone any favors, except for the airline. By accepting their “gift,” the airline is is only obligated to compensate you a potential value of $200-$400, but it’s not cash, it’s in vouchers that require you to spend more money with that airline in a limited amount of time. If you are involuntarily bumped, however, federal regulations require that the passenger get compensated up to $1,300 of actual cash. Of course, this reimbursement depends on how much of a delay was involved and many other factors. It is in your best interest to use a service to file a claim for an overbooked flight in order to maximize your benefits.
- Cheap Seats Are Most Likely to be Targeted
Finding the cheapest flight is not always the best strategy to get the most value out of your trip. If nobody volunteers to leave the flight, there are a few factors that airlines consider in deciding who gets booted first. They make their choice based on frequent flyer status, time of check in, and the amount paid for tickets. Someone who is not a member of the airline’s loyalty club, who bought a cheap ticket and checked in late is a perfect candidate to get bumped off. Also, when you buy flying options like flex tickets, you are also a prime target to get kicked off an overbooked flight.
If your travel plans are going to be ruined, by all means follow the aforementioned tip and haggle your heart away.