But Travelers In Better Bargaining Position, Too
If you fly on commercial airlines,
the chances you'll be bumped from your next flight are about to go
up... as airlines effectively say "we already have your money, so
According to a recent story in The New York Times, there will be
more bumped fliers after Labor Day, when several airlines
intentionally shrink their fleets to fight rising costs.
The US Department of Transportation says in the first half of
2008, out of 282 million total airline passengers, that 343,000 --
or about a tenth of a percent -- were bumped from their flights.
Most agreed to give up their seats voluntarily, but a little more
than one in 10,000 weren't given a choice.
Historically, airlines have overbooked flights by about 15
percent. In the past, if you missed your flight, you'd catch the
next one. This fall, in a growing number of cases, there won't be a
next flight until tomorrow... and you'll pay $100 to change the
The Times predicts bumping is here to stay, as airlines struggle
to make sure every seat is full, to minimize seat-mile costs. But
they'll have to manage it carefully. Effective last month, if
you're bumped involuntarily from a domestic flight, and you're not
accommodated on another within two hours, you're required to be
paid $800, up from the $400 rate in effect for many years
The airlines are responding to the higher stakes. Last summer,
Delta bumped more than three of every 10,000 passengers, more than
double the industry average. This year, new technology to more
accurately predict no-shows has cut that in half.
No matter how refined the software becomes, there will always be
the chance you'll be bumped from a flight you needed to catch to
make your daughter's wedding. One alternative would be charging you
for your seat whether you show up or not, and letting it stay empty
if you don't make it. After all, the airlines would love it...
empty seats save weight.
There is an upside, however, albeit a chancy one.
As ANN reported, the DOT mandated earlier this
year that passengers may now receive up to $400 if they are
involuntarily bumped and rebooked on another flight within two
hours after their original domestic flight time, and within four
hours for international travel.
Travelers are eligible for up to $800 in cash if they are not
rerouted by then... a powerful incentive for airlines to do what
they can to rebook travelers in an expeditious manner. And if a
passenger doesn't want a travel voucher from the airline (after
all, who knows if some airlines will still be around to use it?)
they can demand cash.
In related news, passengers who voluntarily give up their seats
for other customers -- say, a family traveling together -- are in a
position to demand more compensation than in the past. And bumped
passengers are newly empowered, as well.
"I stood my ground," said Clay Escobedo, who was told by Horizon
Air gate agents there were only three seats available for his wife,
daughter, two grandsons, and himself on a recent flight from Reno
to Los Angeles. "I kept telling the agent, 'That plane better not
pull away from the gate. You need to make another
To their credit, the Horizon workers apparently went above and
beyond in finding two extra seats... eventually offering volunteers
round-trip tickets in addition to being booked on later flights.
Sure enough, Horizon found two willing candidates.
"They saved the day for me," Escobedo said of those