Thursday, May 24, 2012

Why Fear of Overbooking?

The Sydney Morning Herald (I’ve been hooked on it since first reading it in Sydney) has one of the best travel sections in the world; much better than travel magazines or the NYT.  I enjoy taking a read though their articles and sometimes browsing reader comments (unlike any story remotely political, there is some decent information to glean).  One story talked about how Southwest doesn’t suck as much as other US carriers.  I disagree, but will save that for a later time.  The interesting bit was the comments.  There was an engaging discussion on which US airlines frequently bump passengers and suggestions to avoid them.
US Airways A321 Spending the Night at PHX
Why are people so afraid of bumping?  I understand the obvious, missing the flight and having travel plans thrown in a blender, but it shouldn’t be a large enough concern to avoid airlines that do it frequently (they all do it to some extent).  Also, flight delays or cancellations happen, so it is best to add some padding to travel planning if that were to happen (always fly in the day before your cruise ship departs).  This padding will also help mitigate the impact of an involuntary displaced boarding (IDB or bump).
United Jets at EWR
Bumping can be very lucrative if travel plans are made with padding.  United offers $400 in travel vouches for volunteering for a bump; US Airways gave me $250 for a 90 minute delay.  They will rebook you, sometimes in paid first (bonus miles), provide a meal voucher if the delay is long enough, and buy a hotel room if it is an overnight delay (Westin LAX for me).  These vouchers can add up to several thousand dollars in value if you are bumped several times in a year.  Other airlines provide different amounts of compensation, but they all make it worth your while to take the later flight.  Bumps can be a great way to extend your travel budget and add variety to routine flying.

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