United App Now Offering Compensation to Overbooking Volunteers

Dec 17, 2018

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As part of its efforts to improve communication and the handling of overbooked flights following 2017’s disastrous “bumpgate” incident, United’s now making it much easier for customers to volunteer to move to another flight when the airline ends up selling more tickets than there are seats on a plane.

As the airline explains:

“Flights can become overbooked for many reasons — weather, mechanical issues and air traffic control issues are just a few — and when this happens, airlines ask for volunteers who are willing to take a different flight in exchange for compensation like a travel voucher. We’ve gotten better and better at this, with automated solutions that allow customers to bid for the compensation they’d accept to be rebooked, along with policies and procedures that help smooth the way. In fact, United’s recent efforts have already resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of involuntary denied boardings (IDBs) that occur, which have dropped 97 percent year to date through November versus the same period last year.”

Now, customers traveling through 230 airports can pick from compensation options, and select a new confirmed flight, through the United app or on the airline’s website. Depending on the flight, customers may be able to volunteer as early as 24 hours before departure, choosing compensation — be it a travel voucher or redeemable miles — and a new flight before they even head to the airport.

If you’d prefer to roll the dice — or if your flight isn’t offering confirmed compensation — you can submit a bid, instead.

While selecting compensation and a new confirmed flight could be a win-win for both customers and the airline, the new bidding option could result in customers getting less compensation for giving up their seats on overbooked flights, since inexperienced flyers may place a low-ball bid to up their chances of scoring a voucher.

That said, customers may be less willing to give up their seats during peak travel periods, so those with more flexibility could end up coming out ahead by entering a higher amount than agents may be inclined to offer at the gate.

It’ll be interesting to see where we net out here — if you do end up with a successful bid, please share the details in the comments below.

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