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You Can Now Volunteer to Be Bumped Right In the American Airlines App

May 03, 2019
3 min read
You Can Now Volunteer to Be Bumped Right In the American Airlines App
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Despite technical advances in so much of the air travel experience, there's one aspect that's remained stubbornly manual: handling oversell situations. It's only been in the last couple of years that airlines have tried to add an electronic element to the process. Yet still, often the process still ends with a gate agent announcing the flight is oversold, and asking for volunteers to take another flight.

American Airlines is working to eliminate this often-chaotic process, and this week it took a step forward toward that goal: AA passengers are now able to volunteer to be bumped right in the AA app. After testing this feature recently with a limited group of passengers, this electronic volunteering process went live for all AA passengers and at all US airports for AA flights starting Friday, May 3.

Currently it's only available through the AA app, but the airline is planning to expand the system to the web and kiosk check-in procedures soon.

One of the passengers that got to test it early was Jamie Larounis, who shared the screenshots and experience on Twitter:

Jamie pointed out what seemed to be a quirk in the system: he went through the volunteer process through the app, but the gate agent said that he wasn't on the list. He figured that his being on the upgrade list prevented the system from letting him also be on the volunteer list. I checked with American Airlines about this situation, and they confirmed that this isn't a limitation of the new system. Passengers will be able to be on both the upgrade list and volunteer list.

An electronic volunteer process is something that both Delta and United have had enabled through their check-in process and/or app for a while now. So, this is certainly another catch-up step for American Airlines -- just like boarding push notifications that AA is beta testing now.

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But AA doesn't plan on stopping here. It's working on dynamic rebooking solutions to avoid gate-bump situations by adding confirmable offers right in the app. For example, a passenger on a connecting itinerary through Dallas/Fort Worth might be offered an opportunity to rebook on an itinerary connecting in Chicago instead with compensation for the change. Doing this in advance of the departure gate would allow the airline more rebooking options and allow the passenger to adjust plans for the altered schedule.

When speaking with an American Airlines spokesperson about this process, I clarified an aspect of the volunteer bump process. Sure enough, it is AA policy that the compensation amount is the same for all passengers bumped at the gate.

For example, let's say that four passengers volunteer to be bumped, bidding $150, $200, $250 and $300. If the gate agent needs to bump three passengers from the flight, the passengers who bid $150-250 will have the option to be bumped for $250 each. If one of those three passengers is no longer interested in volunteering, the offer would increase to $300 each for the remaining three passengers.