Guru Travel Tips of Facts about Bumping

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Work with the airline’s counter personnel to book another flight.  A friendly, understanding attitude will bring better results than hostility and anger.  It's OK to let them know that you are upset, but don't turning your anger on them. There are written guidelines, which are required by the Federal Aviation Administration, that protect passengers who have been involuntarily denied boarding.

  • Ask reasonably, to be protected under the airline’s own rules in the ticket’s conditions or contract of carriage section,  for dealing with bumped passengers.  Ask that you be given the consideration that you are legally due. This section of the contract is called "Rule 245". Each airline has a section that specifically spells out what action they need take to help you complete your trip. Also, what compensation you are due, if any. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires that a copy be available at the airline ticket counter. Many airlines provide this information on their web sites. You may want to print and take it with you in case it becomes necessary.

  • Be sure that airline has asked for volunteers to be bumped. They are required to ask for volunteers first . There are no specific guidelines for the offers they make, but they should offer compensation of some form to encourage volunteers before they deny you a seat.

  • Check to see if anyone else in your party belongs to a VIP club that might help to get you special consideration.

  • If you have checked luggage to go on the "bumped" flight, make sure measures have been taken to protect those bags.

  • Try to get them to guarantee you a seat on another flight.

  • Ask if they will find you a seat on another airline.  Their contract may allow them to try to first find you a flight on their own airline, most will, if they fail to do so, try to find you a seat with another carrier. Many airlines limit your choices of other airlines only to certain "partner" airlines, with which they have agreements.

  • The contract of carriage may allow you to an involuntary refund for any unused portion of your ticket, even if you purchased a nonrefundable ticket. Check it out. 

  • The contract also specifies what, if any, other compensation you are due because you were involuntarily denied boarding of the flight. Some is regulated under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines. It will vary depending on why you were denied boarding and the amount of time you were delayed.  Compensation guidelines for U.S. domestic flights also vary from flights with an international portion. You may be entitled to vouchers for meals, overnight stays, long distance phone calls, and/or ground transportation in addition to travel vouchers or monetary rewards.

  • Retain all receipts for any expenses caused by being involuntarily bumped. No matter what the agent says, you can always appeal to the airline’s customer service department later and you’ll need receipts as back up. Always send the airline copies of the receipts and keep the originals yourself.

  • If it appears that a lot of people are going to be stranded, consider booking a hotel room and/or a rental car before everyone else beats you to the punch.  Sometimes airlines provide vouchers for hotel rooms and ground transportation.  Check with them before making your own arrangements. You may also be entitled to meal vouchers.

  • Remember to update any ongoing reservations with airlines, hotels or rental cars that will be affected by the delay.

  • Avoid airlines that have a history of over-sales and the reputation of bumping many of its passengers.

  • Keep current with the news to learn whether your carrier has any upcoming labor negotiations. If they are, you may want to choose another airline to avoid a possible work stoppage or slowdown.

  • Be aware of weather conditions that are common along your route. Try to plan your trip to avoid periods when weather may cause delays or cancelled flights. Delays and cancellations cause other flights to fill up and that cause the need for an airline to bump passengers.

  • Try to avoid peak travel times, when possible.

  • Use nonstop, direct or flights with the least amount of connections possible. Every time you land and take off, you increase the chance of being bumped. If connecting flights are necessary, try to use less congested airports. Less stops will also help you to lessen the possibility of misconnections or delays.

  • Try to fly early in the day before congestion of flights builds. That way you'll have more options if you do get bumped.

  • Avoid booking the last flight of the day. On peak days many flights end up being overbooked. Usually, fewer people will volunteer to be bumped from the last flight of the day.  Your chances of being involuntarily bumped on late flights are greater so plan to arriving for that last flight of the day even earlier than you would for other flights. Many airlines are reluctant to pay for a hotel at the flight’s origin if you are delayed overnight.

  • Never buy standby or unreserved tickets for travel during peak periods.

  • Consider using a paper ticket over an E- ticket. If you must transfer to another carrier on the continuation of your trip, a paper ticket will time. Most airlines are not equipped to transfer passengers on E-tickets without re-issuing to a paper ticket, which takes time and is a hassle.

  • Get seat assignment when you book your flight, whenever possible.

  • Confirm your reservation ahead of time and verify that the airline has the complete information.

  • Although not cheap, first class, full fare or business class fares will give you a better chance at not being left behind.

  • Consider membership in the VIP,  mileage club or frequent flier program of your airline.

  • Try to always arrive early and re-confirm your seat assignment.  The last to check-in will likely be left out.

  • Inquire about the flight when you check your bags.  If the flight appears to be overbooked, go directly to the gate. Just checking in, won’t guarantee you a seat.

  • Board immediately when your row is called.  Any delay might cause the gate agent to think that your seat is open and board a standby passenger in your place.

If you volunteer, you will be stuck with whatever deal you negotiate.  If something is agreed upon, don’t expect it,  even if it is something that you later need.  Know all the details of the offer before agreeing to accept it.

  • Find out if a seat on the next flight is guaranteed and confirmed and when is is it  scheduled to leave?  If you agree to fly on standby you may get stranded.

  • What if they can't find me a seat on the next flight or if the flight is delayed or cancelled ?

  • What happens to my checked bags?

  • What considerations are available if I volunteer for bumping ?

  • What are the limitations on a free ticket or travel voucher?  What is the expiration?  Are there any blackout dates?  Can they be used for international travel? Can I make a reservation? Are there any minimum or maximum stay requirements? Are they good for only coach or a restricted class of service ?

  • What happens if I can't get on a flight today and I have to spend the night?  Will the airline pay for a hotel and transportation to and from ?

  • Will a meal voucher, long distance phone credit or hotel voucher be provided for my delay?  What, if any, are the restrictions ?

  • Can I get other premiums such as entrance to the VIP lounge while I wait?  How about free headset or drink  vouchers ?

    Getting bumped" is the common term for being denied boarding on a flight.  There may be no room on the plane despite having a reservation.  Airlines often "overbook" and sell more than the actual number of seats on a particular flight because they know that there will be no-shows.  When everyone does show up this may mean that there aren't  enough seats for everyone and someone is going to be left behind.  Passengers left behind have been "bumped" and will have to wait for a later flight.

    With voluntary bumping you may choose to give up your seat for some form of compensation (often travel vouchers or cash). With involuntary bumping the passenger is forced to give up his seat. There is an important difference between these two types of bumping. Those involuntarily bumped are protected under Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, that dictate the minimum amount of compensation and other protection that passengers can expect.  If you choose to be voluntarily bumped, you are agreeing to negotiate a deal from the airline. This transaction is not regulated and depends on the airline’s degree of desperation and your negotiation skills.

    www.dot.gov

  • On the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Air Travel Consumer Report web page. This contains information on flight delays, mishandled baggage, over-sales or overbooking of flights, consumer complaints and disability complaints for the ten largest U.S. Airlines. Each section provides information to assist the traveler in evaluating which major airline will provide them with the best service.

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