How United Handled an Oversold Flight in a Post-BumpGate World

Jun 19, 2017

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In a post-BumpGate world, it’s increasingly interesting to see how airlines — and passengers — handle overselling situations. Last month, we wrote about how Delta handled an oversold flight wonderfully by bumping the compensation for volunteers up to $1,100 within a few minutes. Sure enough, passengers jumped at the opportunity to pocket the cash.

Now, we’re hearing about how United recently dealt with a similar situation — in this case, United Express Flight 4199 was set to depart from Newark (EWR) for Toronto (YYZ) and TPG reader Sam was on board. When checking in on the app, Sam didn’t get any notification that his flight was oversold, so there was no indication of any monetary offering. However, when he got to the gate, the attendant made the dreaded announcement that the flight was, in fact, oversold and one volunteer was needed.

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According to Sam, the gate agent started the bidding at $2,000 worth of United travel vouchers for the one seat, but there were no takers (madness!). United then offered up a seat on an alternative flight, which would arrive three hours later and require a connection in Syracuse (SYR) before continuing to YYZ. The gate agent offered the $2,000 twice at the gate and both times, no one jumped at the generous amount. (Presumably, there were a lot of businesspeople on board who needed to get to Toronto quickly.)

With no takers, a United agent came on board the plane with the same $2,000 offer, but once again, no one went for it, so the agent then bumped the offer up to $2,000 plus meal vouchers. Just like that, the addition of the meal vouchers sealed the deal and one person volunteered to get off the flight. According to Sam, the agent didn’t say how many meal vouchers there would be or how much money they were worth, but in his experience, each one is usually worth about $7 and you’ll get a few of them.

It’s interesting/hilarious/surprising that the $2,000 wasn’t enough for someone to volunteer to bump themselves from the flight, but once the meal vouchers were added in the mix, someone was eager to be bumped. As you’ll remember, United Airlines was the carrier implicated in the infamous BumpGate scandal when Dr. David Dao was forcibly removed from his seat. Since then, the airline has changed its policies for oversold flights — we can already see some of those efforts in place with this example, since the offer was started at an astounding $2,000. It seems like, in our eyes, United did everything right in this situation and continued to up the offer until someone volunteered to leave the flight.

Featured image courtesy of Robert Alexander via Getty Images.

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