07 November 2009

Airlines Must Ask For Volunteers First, Pay Those Unwillingly Bumped

Hello all BlkAv8tor2003 checking in!!!

Here is a story written not by me (DAVID KOENIG, AP Airlines Writer) but one I read online and I added my own comments and tips in italics and it's just to give you the traveler a heads up in advance! If you have questions and I can go into great detail, hit me up and I'll do my best to help you out and steer you in the right direction!

Remember when traveling "Be Proactive, Not Reactive" and enjoy your flight!!!

DAVID KOENIG, AP Airlines Writer

DALLAS - Airlines are operating fewer flights this year, meaning that planes are packed even with the slump in travel.Often the airlines sell more tickets than there are seats on the plane. (usually 10% of the capacity of the particular aircraft) Last year, more than 63,000 passengers were bumped, according to government figures, and this year is shaping up as more of the same.
So what should you do if you get bumped? What if your flight is delayed so long that you miss your niece's wedding?

You should have had a back up plan and proper planning will help in these cases!
Before bargaining with the gate agent over travel vouchers and upgrades, it pays to know your rights and the airline's responsibilities.

All airlines have these rules available to every passenger and they usually post them somewhere on their websites too! Seek and you shall find! If you don't look before you fly or ask for a copy then your at the airlines mercy when you run into an oversold flight!

The federal government sets rules on bumping and occasionally fines airlines for breaking them. This month, the Transportation Department fined Delta Air Lines $375,000, although it may waive about half if Delta improves its procedures for handling oversold flights.Now airlines must ask for volunteers first, and pay passengers who are bumped against their will.

Payment can be in many forms from meal vouchers, hotel vouchers and ground transportation compensation. This is before they even get to travel certificates! So be prepared to barter and know when to stand your ground or when to bite. Use the airline against itself to get what you need to get where your going and a little payoff on the backside. Cash payouts happen very rarely but in some unique cases they do happen!

If you are flying on Southwest Airlines then things are a little different because Southwest does not deal with the other airlines like the other airlines deal with each other so be prepared and i will give you some of the scoop on Southwest. Don't worry it's not bad but it will be a different experience!

If you are bumped from a domestic flight, the airline must pay you the price of a one-way ticket up to $400 cash if you are rescheduled to reach your destination between one and two hours of the original arrival time. The maximum doubles to $800 if it takes longer.

Now if you don't know this in the beginning then they already have got you! Again you at their mercy because most people who ride the airlines don't have a clue of what to do in an oversell situation and they just take what they get handed to them even if their is a little yelling and screaming but that what get you much it just usually makes things worse!

Some passengers with time to kill don't mind getting bumped. They hope to get cash, travel vouchers or an upgrade to first-class in exchange for taking a slightly later flight.

Get food vouchers, upgrades or travel certificates and vouchers and get the max! Make they airline give you CONFIRMED SEATS WITH SEAT ASSIGNMENTS! If they can't do that first and foremost then don't give in because it can put you in a bad situation on your next flight! also remember just because you have a confirmed reservation on a flight...That doesn't mean squat without a seat assignment! That's just a product of the potential oversell situation and you could be in the same boat as your previous flight. So have your plan, back up plan and a contingency plan just in case because whatever part of the plan you miss the airline will exploit that to its advantage, especially if you have a sharp airline employee! Trust me even though you may not run into them they do exist and they can help you or burn you but that depends on what ammo you have in your arsenal!

Chris McGinnis, a travel consultant in San Francisco, says the best flights to haggle over are late-afternoon or evening ones popular with business travelers who can't afford to be stranded overnight. Airlines are likely to offer more for passengers who give up a seat on a New York-Chicago run than on a flight full of vacationers from Atlanta to Orlando, he says.

This will come from experience and sometimes you will have to get a little burnt before you get the jist of how things work! First flights in the morning are the flights to do your best bargaining and if your schedule is not as tight as the business traveler then you can really rack up in payouts but remember to have a plan with back ups.

Gate agents may put out a sign or simply tell passengers that they're looking for volunteers to skip the flight. McGinnis says it's often best to ignore their first offer and wait until departure time nears. Learn to play poker and learn how to bluff and know when to fold because the agents will already be looking at the passenger list to see who has or what appears to have some flexibility. So if you have flexibility in your travel planes then use that to your advantage when you see they may be looking for volunteers! One quick option is get on the phone with your airlines reservations and see what the next flights are that are available and direct then with minimal connections. (Watch out for connecting flights in your snow cities like Chicago or Denver for United or Minneapolis for Northwest! If you can avoid connecting to flights through these cities during the winter months that would be the best thing you could do! Trust me, all you need is a medium sized storm to be moving through and the next thing you know your stuck for two days and there is no compensations for weather delays, cancellations and overbooking will be guaranteed to happen when weather is a part of the equation!

"The bidding gets stronger," he says. "That's when it goes from $100 off your next flight to maybe $300 and a business-class seat on the next flight out."
Play your cards right and listen to every announcement the agents make and if possible sit as close to the departure podium or counter that you can without standing in front of the agents and sometimes you can hear valuable info early (agents talk) and even 1 minute advantage for decision purposes can be monumental on an oversold flight!
Experts warn about accepting travel vouchers. They might be hard to redeem, especially at peak travel periods. Make sure you understand any limitations.

The agents should tell you in their initial announcements that the vouchers have blackout periods if any and you need to know if that will work for you or not and it could be a determining factor. Don't be fooled either, the blackout dates are not negotiable and you won't be able to get the airline to wave them just for you! Your not that privileged, know body is so don't waste your time trying to barter this fact! If an agent or supervisor tells you different it B.S.! They don't have that power to make that kind of promise!

Travelers are often baffled why airlines can sell more tickets than they have seats. Airlines oversell flights because some passengers buy costly fully refundable tickets on more than one flight and then only use one. Other flights are overbooked because the airline had to substitute a smaller plane with fewer seats.

If you wonder why airlines over sell flights its because not every passenger for a flight always makes it and they always want flights to depart as close to full as possible. It's the business they are in and the more people they have the better but sometimes everyone does show up and they have to deal with it! They are prepared to deal with the inexperienced traveler and will exploit that to their advantage! Don't get caught with your pants down or you will never sit the same again!

While there are federal rules on bumping, there is no sweeping requirement for airlines to provide hotel rooms and meals for passengers who are stranded overnight, even if it's the carrier's fault, according to the Transportation Department. But you can haggle.
"It's up to the discretion of the carrier and the (gate) agent," says George Hobica, who operates
airfarewatchdog.com. "Some airlines will do their best if you ask nicely and you ask privately you'll do better than if you make a scene." He says when a long delay appears obvious, you should ask to be rebooked on another airline.

Let the airline rebook you to another carrier because they will handle the bag transfers, seating, reservations and accommodations if those are necessary. If you get downline from the problem city where everything started the airline you were rebooked to will tell you to go to the your original airline to get any additional assistance if needed so be prepared to do this if necessary!

Charlotte, N.C., real estate broker Mathew Bessette says Delta put him up in a hotel after his flight home from New York was canceled and a second flight spent four hours on the tarmac. He says he gained bargaining power by knowing the cause of the problem with his first flight no flight attendants.
"If their plane breaks down or their crew doesn't show up, that's their problem and it's their responsibility to accommodate you within reason," he says.

Remember that if the airline can control the situation in a delay the airline is liable but if it is something God controls the airline is not liable to compensate or protect you in anyway! Argue it if you like but you will be wasting your breath! A good way to be prepared for these type of situations is know the weather where your starting, enroute and at your destination! Remember too that the weather may look fine at your destination and the airline can still end up in a weather delay situation.

Veteran travelers say if a long delay will cause you to miss the reason for your trip a wedding or business meeting, for example ask for a refund. However, there is no law requiring the airline to give you a refund.

In my opinion if you plan your travel so close to an event you want or need to go to then whatever happens you deserve! Do not depend on the airlines to get you from point A to point B on time, same day or with ease because there are way too many other factors that come into play that could wipe out "your" plans and cause you to be delayed and or miss your planned event! Plan ahead and the earlier you know about something the better!

Airlines and passenger-rights groups are fighting over how the carriers handle long delays, and Congress may settle the issue. This month, a Senate committee passed a bill that would require airlines to let passengers off planes that are stuck on the tarmac for three hours.The airlines say such a law would make things worse by forcing planes that might be near the front of the takeoff line to taxi back to the gate, then go to the back of the pack. More flights would be canceled, says David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, a Washington trade group for the largest U.S. carriers. Consumer groups aren't buying it."No one believes that the airlines will fix the problem themselves," says Kate Hanni, a California real estate agent who created a passenger-rights group after being stranded on a grounded American Airlines jet for more than eight hours in December 2006. "They haven't yet."

Since airline travel is often stressful, and summer always brings many delays, experts advise you have a Plan B. Know what flights are available if yours is canceled. If your flight is pushed back or scrubbed, hop on your laptop or phone to see if you can rebook.

Airline travel is going to be stressful and if you plan ahead and expect to be delayed, cancelled flights and getting there without your bags you will have less to stress about! Your preplanning will make your trip less of a problem and make your trip go a little smoother and you will be able to make adjustments on the fly!

"Prepare for the worst," says Hobica, the travel expert. "Bring a good book."

I can't say it any better....Plan For The Worst and Hope For The Best But Always Have A Plan!!!


Anonymous said...

I was only offered a bump once, I had flown into Newark on my way to Orlando (via Continental) and had a 12 hour layover.

About an hour after I landed there was a Continental flight to Orlando that was 75% empty, I asked if I could get on that flight, I was told that to do so I would have to pay a $200 fee.

So I said I would wait.

Come morning and my flight was about to leave and I get called to the desk and the desk attendant asked me if I wanted to take a bump, I said no, I explained to the attendant that I had offered to get on the all but empty flight the evening before and was told it would cost, so I was not going to under any circumstances take a bump, (and spend another minute in Newark) even for a flight voucher.

I said that if they had put me on the flight the night before they would not be having this problem and that this was their problem not mine, the desk people were incredulous at this and I went on my scheduled flight, wondering how they got so stupid and more attuned to why the airline industry is going under.

BlkAv8tor2003 said...

Thanks Anonymous for the comment. The smart move for the agent was to look and see how full the flight was the next day and then take your seat from that flight while rebooking you on the last flight of the night since you were there. Definitely the airlines loss!

You also know that you can just walk up to the flight and tell them you want to go standby and then you don't have to pay because they are not giving you a seat comfirmed, your happy with just getting on an earlier flight! This is not something the airlines like to tell the passengers because then they wouldn't make $200 for an upgrade!

Just a little trick of the trade and it's legal to do and they really can't deny you boarding if your there, carry-on baggage only and you have a confirmed flight with a seat on a later flight.