Delta Lets Passengers Bid for Bumps

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Airlines have become notorious for overbooking flights and then bumping passengers in response, but Delta thinks it has found a way to minimize the chances of forcing anyone to move to another flight.

The airline will now hold silent auctions where passengers essentially bid on bumps to later flights. Passengers are asked at the check-in kiosk if they would be willing to take a later flight in the event of overbooking. They are then prompted to enter the amount of compensation (in travel vouchers) they would accept for the inconvenience.

A tag underneath the prompt lets passenger knows that the lowest bids will be accepted first. The bids, however, aren’t binding and passengers can pass up the offer if they find that a replacement flight is insufficient to meet their time constraints.  

Should this occur, Delta accepts the next lowest bid and offers that compensation to said passenger. However, Delta insists it isn’t doing this to save money.

“By soliciting volunteers early, our goal is to avoid inconveniencing anyone,” a Delta spokesperson said on the company blog.

In addition to reducing the number of involuntary bumps, Delta said the new procedure allows the airline to eliminate the “auction” process at the gate, lets passengers decide how much value they place on changing their travel plans and gives its agents more time to rebook bumped travelers and get the flight out on time.

Currently, most airlines wait until all passengers have been checked in and then, if needed, entice volunteers to take a later flight by advertising the compensation they are offering and the replacement flight that is available.  

Delta rolled out the new procedure without much fanfare in November and is now looking for feedback on it. Those with thoughts can leave a comment here.

From a customer service standpoint, we have conflicting thoughts on the new procedure. On one hand, it does seem to benefit the airline, which can guarantee that it pays out the lowest amount possible when it overbooks a flight. On the other hand, it helps avoid flight delays, which is a win for consumers. Not to mention passengers who are willing to get bumped technically get to set the price for the inconvenience.

Of course, those who want to make sure they get their money’s worth can always stick to Delta’s standard policies when entering their bids. According to the blog post, the airline provides up to $400 in compensation when passengers are forced to take a flight that arrives 1-2 hours later than the original arrival (1-4 hours later internationally) and up to $800 if the replacement flight is scheduled to arrive more than 2 hours later than the original one (more than 4 hours later for international).

How can you work the system? Check out MainStreet’s look at how to make the most out of getting bumped.

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