July 14, 2017
United to Offer Vouchers on Overbooked Flights 5 Days in Advance
United got into a PR nightmare back in April when it bloodied and dragged Doctor Dao off a flight. The airline needed to get several flight attendants to Louisville at the last minute to work another flight. When no one volunteered to give up their seat, United had Dr. Dao forcibly removed. Since then, United has been implementing a series of changes to ensure that a similar incident doesn’t happen again.
Bloomberg is reporting that United will soon roll out a new “Flex-Schedule Program” designed to minimize involuntarily bumping passengers off flights. Here’s how it works:
- United will initially test the program with flyers who’ve purchased their ticket on United.com and have opted in to receive newsletters from the airline.
- Customers on overbooked flights will receive an email up to five days in advance with the option to modify their flight plans in exchange for up to a $250 United voucher.
- You won’t be asked to change your travel date or airport, and your seat preference (aisle, window etc.) will carry over to the new itinerary. The airline will essentially be routing you to your destination via a different flight time or a different connecting city.
- If you accept United’s offer, you’ll be rebooked within 24 hours.
Surprisingly, this idea looks like a win-win for customers and for United. Customers will have the option to change their flights for compensation in advance, so presumable those with flexible plans will choose to do so. This should reduce the number of flyers being involuntarily bumped at the airport and having to make last minute flight changes.
This is great for United because it’ll likely be able to offer less money to entice passengers to switch flights several days in advance than it currently has to offer shortly before boarding. United would also be able to use this system to buyout a customer’s ticket and resell it at a higher price to a business passenger willing to pay more.
For example, United could offer to pay you $250 to put you on another flight, thereby freeing up your seat, and then resell your seat to a last minute business traveler who’s willing to pay more to get to that destination. United can also keep overbooking seats like it’s been doing all along. Several other airlines, namely Tiger Airways, Alaska Airways, and Qantas have also signed on to test similar programs later this year.