I was bumped off a plane, received a $500 voucher, and there were still seats onboard.

If you’re ever wondering why an airline goes into bankruptcy, this story might just explain it. I received a $500 voucher for being voluntarily bumped off of a plane, yet there were still seats onboard.

I was flying from San Fransisco to Dallas, and the flight was listed as over-sold well prior to departure. Being flexible on timing, and willing to take a bump, I volunteered myself in the AAdmiral’s club about 3 hours prior to boarding, which is before anyone else had a chance to list their name. At the time, I was an AAdvantage Platinum.

Fast forward to boarding time, and the flight did appear oversold by 5 people, according to the gate agent. I was number 1 on the list, and there was a couple, who was making their way to Indianapolis as slots number 2 and 3, respectively. Two other solo passengers filled up the 4th and 5th slots.

As boarding commenced, one of the gate agents confirmed the oversold nature of the plane, and began working to rebook the couple (#2 and 3), since they needed to be re-ticketed on a United flight, due to scheduling of later flights. Because their situation was the most complex, she assured me she would start on my ticket after theirs, since their re-booking was going to take some time since she needed to call United. After about 10 minutes, she was able to issue them tickets. By this point, most of the boarding process was complete, and the second gate agent began to look at the final counts. In astonishment, she noticed 2 more seats open on the aircraft. She ran down the jet-bridge, and onboard to confirm the 2 empty seats, and came back up to tell me to get on the plane.

At this point, I was a bit frustrated since I was told I would receive a $500 voucher, and the couple who was now flying on United was issued tickets prior to me. The agent who had worked with them, and now was working with me was apologetic and assured me that she’d get me my voucher. After some back and forth between her and the other agent, there was a clear disagreement of them issuing me the voucher. In the end, they let 2 standby passengers on – passengers who should have never gotten on the aircraft to begin with – and let me go on the next flight with a $500 voucher.

It was an odd turn of events, but there are several things that improved the outcome for me:

  • My elite status was noted, and she didn’t want to turn away me over another passenger with no status.
  • I was #1 on the list, and had been so ever since I entered the AAdmiral’s Club.
  • She had made the mistake of re-booking the two other passengers first – even with their complex itinerary – she should have technically done me first.

So, I walked away with a $500 voucher, 2 meal coupons, and a confirmed First Class seat on the next flight to DFW. Apparently, it’s as easy as that to get a good discount on your next AA flight…

Has anyone else ever experienced a similar episode on an airline whereby they received a voucher, but there were still seats on the plane?

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Comments

  1. Boston Flyer says

    Yes, I’ve had this happen at least twice that I can recall:

    Once on a CO flight from IAH to BOS. It awas a situation a little like yours where they had gone back, and forth about whether volunteers were needed. In the end, the red coat on duty directed the gate agent to give me the voucher and accommodate a revenue standby in the empty seat.

    Its also happened on WN where they think they are oversold based on the count of people checked in, but at the very end, all the pax checked in do not board the aircraft. I’ave had it happen at least twice where they encountered this situation, let me keep my voucher, and just rebooked me on the originally thought to be oversold flight. It might seem strange but it helps them get the flights out on time since they have sorted volunteers early. I’ve heard from airline employees that the most important thing is getting a flight out on time and if they issue 1 or 2 $500 vouchers so be it. The vouchers are like candy and not like issuing cold hard cash. If they issue us each $5,000 of vouchers they are just giving up on the cash we might have paid them in the future.

    A long time ago on spring break out of EYW, if they had standby passengers who wanted to fly, sometimes agents would try to find volunteers if they needed to accommodate a regular revenue standby especially if the standby was an elite customer. Usually they could easily find volunteers with EYW spring break travelers pretty easily. 🙂 I think a similar scenario has also happened with UA.

    SO again this might be a much more common practice than conventional wisdom would have you believe, and I say yay! Bring it on!

  2. Juno says

    Flying back from HNL to IAD, My wife and son were offered $500 each in United voucher to switch seats with a couple two rows back because one of their flat bed seats on this 767 flight would not go flat by the button, because they complained enough to delay departure. Technicians couldn’t get it to work so the GA came to offer us the choice. (They obviously knew we are on an award flight) But after switching, the FA told us that they can make the bed go flat manually when she was ready to sleep, which worked out great with very little inconvenience. When the plane landed, the FA gave us a bottle of wine as an extra thanks. $1000 voucher + wine on an award flight.. can’t beat that 🙂 And we weren’t even bumped.

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