Ok, confession time. I made a huge blunder yesterday that cost me $1,000. I underestimated something very important, but have learned an important lesson that I want to pass on to you.
My Choice To Visit An Airport Lounge Cost Me $1,000…
I have been in Pittsburgh for several days and flew home yesterday afternoon on United Airlines via Houston to Los Angeles.
When I checked in for my flights, I saw that the Pittsburgh to Houston flight was oversold and United was offering a number of alternate routings or an opportunity to add myself to the voluntary denied boarding (VDB) list. In essence, by joining the list I would indicate a willingness to give up my seat in exchange for compensation plus alternate routing.
Unlike last time when this opportunity arose, this time I had some extra time…not because I did not want to get home, but because I could have connected in a different hub and still reached home around the same time, but with a generous flight credit in my pocket that could be used to offset my family trip to Europe this summer (which I still have not booked, as I watch award space in dismay).
I got to Pittsburgh quite early and went to The Club, a Priority Pass lounge, simply to pass the time. This was my thought process: my name was already on the list and we would not know until 45 minutes before departure (check-in cutoff) if there were no-shows. I assumed United would not proactively bump me until it was confirmed that more passengers checked in than there were seats available. In fact, I figured that even if everyone checked in, I’d have to wait around until everyone boarded, just in case any stragglers missed the flight. Furthermore, I did not even think there would be a gate agent working the flight more than an hour before departure.
So I sat in the lounge for an hour, then proceeded over to the gate an hour before departure. I thought that left me plenty of time.
Since the flight was full, one of the gate agents was soliciting volunteers to check baggage for free, and there were about a dozen takers.
When the line emptied, I went up to the gate agent and identified myself as a passenger on the volunteer list. That’s when my heart was broken.
“Oh, Mr. Klint. We’ve been paging you. That’s a shame because we would have sent you home via Newark with a $1,000 flight credit. Now I can’t get you home same-day.”
My heart sank, but I clarified, “So you would have preemptively bumped me and rebooked me via Newark?”
Yes, said the gate agent.
You know what made that realization that I was too late even sadder? I was flying via Houston on two 737 jets. Had I connected in Newark I would have been flying home to Los Angeles on a 777 with a lie-flat bed.
“Do you still need me?”
“Well, probably not, but if we do you’re the man. We sort VBD priority by status and you’re the only 1K who volunteered.”
(1K is United’s top-tier elite status in the MileagePlus program)
As expected, there were a few no-shows and no volunteers were ultimately needed. However, that does not change the fact that had I been at the gate a bit earlier, I would have been on my way home with a lie-flat seat and $1,000 in future flight credit.
Since the David Dao incident, United has (wisely) empowered gate agents with more discretion. Bumping someone early on a heavily oversold flight makes a lot of sense, even if it ultimately would not have been necessary, because had there been no volunteers late, an involuntarily denied boarding situation would have cost more cash and potentially delayed the flight.
Thus, I could have been the insurance policy. And yet I was sitting in a lounge instead.
Now, I know. A very painful lesson, indeed.
So next time you want to get bumped, show up to the gate more than an hour in advance and see if you can take care of things proactively.
p.s. my flight ended up being delayed…
Guess what that did for my connection to LA?
On a potentially over sold Delta flight, a Seattle gate agent told me to return to the Sky Club and wait for a call. While in the club I was called to the counter and the gate agent told me my seat was needed. After the flight closed the gate agent came to the club and gave the paper work for the alternative itinerary I had chosen and a $1,200 voucher for a gift card of my choice. Perfect communication. Easy peasy.
To be fair, United does not have a lounge in PIT; I was using a Priority Pass lounge not affiliated with UA.
I hate that lounge – they still have pierogies but no kielbassa anymore…
I noticed though but did not even eat anything (I just had coffee). How are they?
Dry, bland and rubbery. Sour cream would have made them better but they didn’t have any – unbelievable oversight.
You people are disgusting!!! Crying over petty little things like sausage and They didn’t come to the club to get me… So pathetic it makes me cringe. Reading this story about self centered snowflakes while so many people struggle with real problems and you’re crying about your luxuries! Shame on you!
…and that’s when Mike realized he needed even more guns
At least you were not out 1000.00 from your own money. You could have been given 1000.00 if you agreed to give up your seat earlier. No loss really. Just that feeling of missing out on the opportunity. Which is a crummy feeling.
News to me they sort VDB by status
They couldn’t simultaniously page you via the app or text?
I don’t get why the agent even broached the subject of the credit and re-routing with you. At the point that you presented at the gate, that ship had sailed. If it were me, I’d have just responded, “No bumps are needed at this time, sir.” and spared you the unnecessary disappointment.
That’s fair, but this was a great gate agent and I appreciated the candor.
Bummer! So sorry. They should have texted you! You have helped us with your story, though. Status matters for the list and hang out near the gate.
This did not cost you $1,000. You did not have to spend that money. Instead, you lost the opportunity to get $1,000.
You just lost the opportunity to earn a 1,000 dollars but the title made it seem like you lost a 1,000 of your own money. This is click-bait to be honest.
The way I see it, I already agreed with United to take the bump on the app, United agreed to bump me, had the money ready to go, and only withheld it because I was missing. Thus, this was a lot more than a potential $1K.
Yeah the title does sound like he spent $1,000 to visit a lounge…
First time on the internet?
You must be new here…
Interesting story and a lesson for us too.
Thanks for sharing it.
I fully understand the desire to stay in a lounge than at a gate. You couldn’t have known. Don’t feel bad. It could’ve happened to an of us.
How frustrating! Maybe next time….
Great read (but sorry it ended badly for you)! Got to get a $1000 of clicks and you can break even ! 🙂
Global Services is the top tier in United”s mileage program not 1K. Could quibble that you cant directly earn GS status but someone with it would have priority in this scenario.
I guess I should have said top published tier. Other than 4MM status, there is no published path to GS status.
Dismay is right. Summer award prices are through the roof – UA, AA… even formerly trusty Miles and More with their massive surcharges has next to zero availability from LAX. Economy prices are at the level of 2019 business class. For the day I need, the lowest-priced United business class award to Europe is a 30 hour itinerary through Boise.
You mentioned your difficulty finding summer award space to Europe. I don’t know your specific destination but I just checked and AA has a pretty good amount of award space from LAX to FRA this summer for four people. It’s in coach but if nothing else you could hold something to see if something better shows up.
Thanks. I’ll check again. We would do this trip in coach if necessary, though I’d like to review new airlines if possible. I specifically want to try Austrian in economy class.
Why did you believe your replacement flight would be on time? You were flying United.
What a sh*tty airline.
United mandates you to give them an email address and a phone number, and you probably had their app running, and they resort to … paging? Are we in the 1980?
Oops I asked similar questions. Paging is so archaic I agree with you! I can’t hear/understand the paging even if I’m at the gate!
Or you can be like me and bid 100K miles for voluntary bumping and never get picked, lol.
This did not cost you $1,000.
Perhaps you should entertain learning the definition of “cost”.
Perhaps you should entertain thinking a bit more broadly about what cost actually means.
You still don’t know what cost is quite obviously. Opportunity cost still isn’t actually $1k because it would not have been used where without it you would have truly spent $1k of your own money. You can be an arrogant t*** all you want but this did not cost you $1k and the fact that you derped away in the lounge for only 45 minutes preventing you from this opportunity shows that you are a moron.
Lol. Thanks for the laugh honey.
The very definition of first world problem. Zero sympathy from this economy class cruiser.
I wasn’t looking for sympathy.
Click bait at its finest.
But a great story too. And instructive. Thanks for your click.
People can be so rude. A little civility goes a long way. Matthew I appreciate you.
Why would they have not sent you a text or notification through the app? Also, I thought they selected volunteers based on people that bid the least & not on status. Ugh UA is always changing the rules sorry that happened to you!
I thought it was based upon bid as well (and I did have to place a bid), but this is what the gate agent told me. As always YMMV.
A great read on over confidence and laziness tied in together.
Perhaps. I’ve learned my lesson!
If you had bought Apple for a $1 a share you would be a billionaire. Look at all the money that cost you!
Wow! I thought this was a valuable lesson to pass along and you used a catchy title to get my attention. And, I thank you. What is wrong with people? Why must they be so contentious ?
Thank you, Paula.
Wow. You have a “job” that enables you to fly 200,000 miles a year and visit 135 countries. Poor guy, having to miss out on this perk.
I’ve had this happen before. I usually will skip the lounge if there is any chance at an oversell, or I’ll try and be there an hour before boarding. Agents tend to start opening up a gate about an hour before, especially if it is a potential oversell.
Wow who cares. Sorry you were too comfortable in a lounge. Waste of 1 minute of my life.