My flight from Los Angeles to Newark on Thursday night was so full I was unable to get a seat on it.
That, in and of itself, is not all that unusual during the busy holiday travel season. The flight was not only full, but oversold. What shocked me was how much trouble United agents had soliciting volunteers.
I’ve been buying more same-day tickets lately and found out Thursday afternoon I had to be in New York on Friday. I’m so close to 1K that I’m sticking to United only for domestic travel. Unfortunately, though, both United redeyes to Newark were not only sold out, but badly oversold.
I did the next best thing: I booked a ticket on the 6am Friday morning flight and then went standby for the nonstop the night prior. I thought with my status I would clear. Surely, I reasoned, there would be no-shows on a 777-200 high-density plane, with 364 seats.
There were not. The first flight went out full with no standbys cleared.
The next redeye looked more promising, according to the agent. It was was “only” oversold by five passengers. But when it came time to board, everyone had checked in except for one passenger. Four volunteers would be needed.
The agent began soliciting at $600 (voucher for future travel) and got one taker, a college-aged traveler who agreed to relinquish his seat when the agent promised hotel and meal vouchers as well.
But she could not get anyone else.
A Rapid Increase in $
Within five minutes, the bump amount offered had risen to $2,000. Within 30 seconds it had risen from $1,00o to $1,500 to $2,000.
At $2,000, she was able to secure two additional volunteers. The flight boarded and two passengers did not show up before the 15-minute boarding cutoff, so only one additional volunteer was finally needed.
Both volunteers received the $2,000 even though the first volunteer had agreed to accept $600.
Meanwhile, look at #1 on the standby list–
Yep, I wasn’t getting on this one.
This was the first time I’ve seen United’s new progressively rising VDB payout in play. It’s a far better system than in the pre-Dao era.
Later, though, I want to discuss why there were not more takers for the $2K bump.