Disabled flights have become the new normal.
So far this year, 23% of all domestic and international flights in the US have been delayed or disrupted, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware. On the Friday before the Fourth of July, that number rose to nearly 30%.
This means that the number of customers who pay more than the available seats on planes – and passengers benefit by giving up their seats on overcrowded planes, To the tune of thousands of dollars Piece. Airlines simply won’t give you that much money off the bat, Willis Orlando, chief aviation expert at Scott’s Cheap Flights, says. Instead, he says, you’ll need to negotiate — and he has some advice for any adventurous traveler willing to sacrifice their itinerary to get the most money.
The airline display will usually start with a sound over an intercom. If you haven’t boarded the plane yet, you’ll hear the gate agent offer a sum of money to give up your seat. If you are already on the plane, it will be a flight attendant who is looking for volunteers to get up and return to the airport.
Orlando’s first tip: Express your interest quickly, but never take the airline’s starting price.
“If you’re flexible, and you want to have that extra cash in your pocket…run ahead and ask them what the last person gets,” Orlando says. “It’s always the sweetest show.”
You can also sweeten other parts of your rebooked experience. Orlando says airlines are often willing to let you into their exclusive lounges or let you choose a higher-value seat near the front of the plane on your rebooked flight. All you have to do is ask.
“They want to have guaranteed numbers…just about whatever it is,” Orlando says. “Volunteering to get off puts the negotiating ball in your court.”
Orlando says airports in major cities like Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles are more likely to experience flight disruptions than others, since they are frequent hubs for layovers. He adds that the airlines that often bump into involuntary passengers are Frontier, Southwest and American Airlines.
Orlando says the above-average dollar numbers are likely for two reasons: ensuring the plane takes off on time and preserving the airline’s reputation. If not enough passengers volunteer to get off the flight, airlines have to “bump” passengers with force, often resulting in a customer service nightmare.
“If a plane is delayed by two hours because of a problem with getting passengers off the plane, there aren’t enough crews and pilots to ensure it doesn’t ripple through their entire network,” Orlando says. “Before the pandemic, they weren’t risking their entire network having one or two trips down.”
If you experience involuntary shock, you’ll at least be compensated for it: Federal law requires the airline to pay you up to four times the fare, up to $1,550 depending on when your rebooked flight departs.
Orlando says planes are usually overbooked due to airline optimism. This is especially true this year: When spring came, airlines scheduled large numbers of flights in anticipation of the high demand for summer travel.
Orlando says that demand forecast came true, but the airlines didn’t anticipate a different problem: A Shortage of available staff for employees on those flights. Some crew members who left or fired during the pandemic’s peak, others who lost flights due to Covid-19 infections, are no longer returning through the country. Extended omicron wave.
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