I got bumped twice in one day from overbooked Delta flights, and was compensated by receiving a two travel vouchers, one for $400, and one for $800! The experience of Voluntary Denied Boarding, or VDB, was a new one for this jaded traveler, and I hope I can repeat it many times over in the future!
I had been planning a trip to Salt Lake City (SLC) for a couple of weeks. The original plan was to fly nonrev from Atlanta (ATL) to SLC if there were open seats. I am the parent of an airline employee, so I can fly stand-by on a space available basis. As the dates of travel approached, there appeared to be a number of open seats on the day that I wanted to fly. But as it often happens, the evening before I was to leave, the “cockroaches,” came out of the woodwork, and flights started to fill up. As usual, I wondered, “who are all these people who can afford last-minute tickets?” I thought about changing plans, but I hadn’t been out to Salt Lake for a year.
I checked for award availability on American Airlines, and I found a ticket at the “saver” level for 12,500 miles on US Airways, with a connection in Phoenix. Unfortunately there would be a $75 close-in booking fee with this award. There were award tickets on Delta for 32,500 miles on exactly the same flight that I had planned to list on (fly nonrev), even though these flights were “not looking good” according to my Delta contact.
I really wanted to travel, so I booked the expensive (miles-wise) Delta ticket. I had been wanting to try to get bumped off a flight for years, but had never had the opportunity. Here was my chance. I could see no seats available on the Delta website. My contact told me the flight was looking terrible for stand by travel. I had the award miles. I was traveling alone with no set schedule. The planets were aligning! I bought the award ticket.
When I went to check in online about midnight I saw that the flight was oversold and that they were asking for volunteers to take later flights.
When you click yes, this next screen comes up, where you place a bid for compensation.
This is not a screenshot of what I saw. My choices were $100, $200, $300, and $400. But you don’t have to choose. Notice the very small window to the right of the $125 button on the screen. This is where you can put the amount that you are willing to take. I put in $800! I printed off my boarding pass, which had no seat number. It said “Seat assignment will be made at the gate.”
The above two images are from the blog www.pointsmilesandmartinis.com, who had the foresight to take screenshots while actually checking in and making bids!
I arrived at the gate about an hour before boarding and made sure I was on the VDB list. Before they started boarding my flight they announced that the flight was oversold and wanted to know if there was anyone will to take a $600 travel voucher to travel on a later flight. I just sat there. About 10 minutes later they asked for volunteers willing to take $700, and I again sweated this one out. Finally about 10 minutes before take-off they called me up and gave me an $800 voucher, and put me on a flight with a connection in Cleveland. This would have me arriving in SLC at 9:30 pm instead of 4:30 pm.
I was feeling pumped up and successful, so when I got to Cleveland, I went to the gate for the CVG-SLC flight and asked if they needed any volunteers. The gate agent said that they might, and asked me to have a seat for about 10 minutes while she researched the flight. She said that if I agreed to be bumped, I would have to take a flight the next morning, but that they would provide a hotel. I thought this scenario would probably work out better for the person picking me up in SCL so I agreed. After everyone had boarded, they called me and another traveler up to the desk, and asked if we wanted to be bumped. The compensation was $400 and an overnight hotel. It was take it or leave it, no haggling about price. So I took it. At this point I had spent 32,500 miles, but had a ticket to SLC and $1200 in credit for future travel on Delta.
The gate agent sent us over to the Delta service desk for an “overnight kit.” This is just like a first class amenity kit, except it includes a T-shirt for sleeping.
I spent the night at the Microtel and took an 8:30 am flight, arriving in SLC at 10:30 am. We spent several wonderful days doing day hikes in the Wasatch Mountains. Since I was in no hurry to return home, I flew nonrev back to ATL on Delta. I only had to wait three hours at the SLC airport for a seat on a flight back to ATL.