April 8, 2013 at 2:46 PM
Poll: Is overbooking a welcome chance for a windfall? Or just bad news?
While Virgin America grabbed a headline today as the best-performing airline in a new government report, the back story from the same report is that airline consumers are getting grumpier and complaining more as seats shrink and “involuntary denied boarding” of properly ticketed passengers is on the rise.
Denied boardings happen when airlines overbook and too many passengers show up. Typically, gate agents will ask for volunteers to take a cash reward, free ticket or other incentive to catch a later flight.
I know friends who’ve been happy to play the game and have enjoyed free trips for just an hour or two of cooling their heels at Sea-Tac. But that was then. Now, with flights running full, there may be no seats on later flights either, fliers are learning, so nobody volunteers at any price. Some get turned away with no good option to get where they planned to travel.
To keep it in perspective, the average of stone-cold turnaways remained at only about 1 passenger in 10,000 last year. But the numbers showed a 24 percent increase over 2011 — of people who didn’t get to their reunion on time, or missed an annual meeting, or started their vacation on a sour note.
Does it need fixing? Take our poll, or click on “comments” and share your personal story of getting bumped off a flight.
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