|June 18, 2005, 11:14 AM||#1|
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Airline Bumps (for Archive)
Edited for formatting by TTom
Here is a very lengthy guide that I compiled and posted here a few years ago. I have tried to update the info and links, but there might still be some outdated stuff....
What is a bump? When you take a bump, more formally called “Voluntary Denied Boarding” or “VDB” by the airlines, you are accepting the airline’s offer to take a later flight - instead of your oversold flight – in exchange for some form of compensation, typically (A) a free ticket with numerous restrictions or (B) a voucher in a designated amount which can be used like cash towards the purchase of a later ticket on the same airline.
You can search for specific flights that are sold out to use as a guide to selecting your own flights on another date at comparable times. Holiday weeks/weekends, conventions, peak vacation periods and popular year-round destinations (e.g., Hawaii) are among the best opportunities for bumps.
But anything is possible. A canceled flight could mean extra passengers on your flight at the last minute, thus creating an overbooking situation. Or cancelled flights that would connect with your flight could unexpectedly leave a number of empty seats on your flight.
Finding Bump Opportunities
How do you find overbooked flights? Or how can you determine if your flight might be overbooked? Head for this link and use it in connection with the following more-than-you-ever-wanted-to-know discussion - www.flyaow.com/classcwt.htm
Enter your flight date(s) and times and choice of airline. Select "Sort by Departure Time". After clicking on "Check Availability", you should next see a number of flights that come close to matching the criteria you entered, including the flight you will be on. If not, change the times a bit and try again.
Once your flight shows up, you will see some version of the following on the right side of the screen:
F7 Y9 B9 M9 H9 Q9 V9 W7 T5 S6 K9 L5 G0
The letter in each two-digit combination is a fare class, starting with highest fare classes (e.g. first class or "F" in this example) on the left and ending with the cheapest coach fare class ("G") on the right. There are several sites that assist in identifying the class of service represented by the letters.
Although codes are not universal among airlines there are similarities. As examples, for AA, see this site, although there is not a complete explanation for each class. For Delta, see this site. For United fare classes, see this site.
What Do the Numbers Mean
The number in each two-digit combination is the number of seats that the airline is currently willing to sell in the particular fare class. The maximum number of seats shown will be nine for any class, because the software is limited to single digits. There may well be more than nine seats for sale. If there are several coach categories showing "9", it's likely that there will be empty seats on your flight.
Further, if all categories of coach seats show "9", it's theoretically possible that the airline is willing to sell only nine more seats in total, not nine seats in each fare class. Why? Because the airline may be willing to sell a particular seat in whatever fare class a purchaser picks. A business person might pay full "Y" to fly out and back on the same day, while the vacationer might buy that seat in the lowest fare class while agreeing to stay over a Saturday night and purchase the ticket well in advance to get that low fare. As the number of available seats shrinks, the airline will tend to discontinue selling seats in the cheaper classes, theorizing that last-minute purchasers will reluctantly be willing to pay top price!
It's also likely that the number of available seats on a particular flight will show up differently if you do a different request that includes other segments on the flight’s itinerary, such as SLC-DEN-BOS on a single UA flight number where you are merely flying SLC-DEN.
The Chances for Getting Bumped
The best chance for getting bumped would be if your flight shows something close to zeroes all the way across – at least for all coach classes. Even if a few seats show as being available in selected coach seats - especially the more expensive "Y" and "B" fare - the flight could be oversold. Why? Because airlines routinely overbook. And they may continue to sell seats at a high fare, anticipating that the revenue from such high fares will much more than offset the compensation payout necessary for anyone volunteering to be bumped. And it often happens that there are enough no-shows so that the airline doesn't have to ask for volunteers.
If you use one of the various on-line seat selection tools (including your airline’s tool) in connection with booking a flight, you can’t tell whether a flight is likely overbooked even if the seat map shows that you can’t reserve a specific seat in advance. Why? Because as the flight fills up, airlines routinely hold significant numbers of seats for assignment at the airport, depending on who shows up to check in. That doesn’t mean the flight is overbooked.
At the Airport
Be sure to get to your departure gate more than an hour early to be first in line when the gate agent arrives at the counter. Ask if they might need volunteers.
The entire voluntary bumping process will likely start about 20-40 minutes prior to departure, perhaps only a few minutes before boarding and concluding within ten minutes or so of closing the door to the plane. The airline will make an offer, such as a free (restricted) round trip ticket voucher and guaranteed seating on a specific later flight to your destination. At that point there is no opportunity for negotiation. If you don't accept the offer quickly (e.g., within about 30 seconds), they will move to the next potential volunteers so that the airline can get enough volunteers to get the plane away as close to on time as practical.
So be prepared beforehand as to what the minimum amount is that you will accept and what the latest scheduled arrival time at your destination is that you will accept.
If you accept the offer, stay as close to the agent as possible (without hindering the process) to listen in to offers made to other volunteers. You are entitled to the same compensation as other volunteers - no more and no less. If someone gets more than you, wait until the last deal is made before demanding (very politely) the same compensation.
Occasionally, gate agents seek bump volunteers who have no checked baggage. Conversely, there might be no storage space left on the plane for your big carry-on bag by the time you board (last of all passengers), if your seat is not needed. The best situation is one where you have only a small carryon bag that will fit under your seat if you eventually board.
What you will be offered
Airline policies vary, as you read in the thread in The Lounge. UA’s formal written policy, for example, is to offer either a free ticket voucher or, at the passenger's option, travel credits in the amount of $200, $400 or $600 depending on the duration of the delay (0-3 hours, 3-6 hours, and 6 hours plus). The vouchers can be used just like cash in paying for a future flight. However, in practice, UA will almost certainly offer you only the free round trip, which as you can imagine, comes with some blackout dates and capacity control restrictions.
For UA, if you decide to insist on travel credits (usually the better deal), you can tell a disbelieving agent that the policy can be found under the profile s*ual/denied-vdb. But be careful about doing this. It's at least possible that the agent might not want to deal with the hassle and will simply go to the next volunteer on the list and tell you to get on the plane.
NOTE: For additional bump info and resources, go to www.bumptracker.com
NOTE #2: And another general guide (long, with a lot of stuff that’s not useful) is here - www.flyertalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=278082
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