I’m currently sitting in SFO, waiting for my flight back to LA. The flight’s apparently on time (the first on time flight I’ve had in longer than I can remember!), but oversold…they’re calling for people to switch planes, offering up $200 plus price of ticket and a flight at 9pm. Eh. Doesn’t sound like such a good deal to me, the extra hours of parking in LA would chomp into that a bit.
The one time I’ve taken that kind of deal from an airline it was one of those perfect offers that I couldn’t say no to. I was flying from Las Vegas home to San Jose, and there were terrible storms in SJ. Thunder, lightning, high winds, the whole bit. Our plane hadn’t even been able to leave San Jose yet, it was stuck on a ground hold.
The flight before mine had just been canceled, mine was delayed at least 2 hours, and the gate agent was telling us all that there was a strong chance the flight would be canceled completely. The initial offer was to be put on a flight later that night, and in return get a free round trip ticket on the airline (this was American) anywhere in the continental US. I offered myself up for that one, hell, it was VEGAS, I wasn’t going to complain about being stuck there (didn’t hurt that I had friends who lived there), and my job was flexible enough that the world wouldn’t end if I showed up late in the am. An hour later, the gate agent tells me that the second flight is probably going to be canceled as well, which meant there wouldn’t be any more flights out that night.
Since I’d offered myself up to be bumped off of my flight earlier, they were going to give me a comp hotel room and food vouchers, plus a first class seat on the first flight out in the morning.
Everyone who’d waited and tried to go on the actual flight was shit out of luck – they had to wait until the morning to fly as well, but the airline doesn’t comp things because of weather. Some of them even tried to offer up their seats to see if that’d work, but you kinda can’t offer up a seat on a flight that was canceled.
I was lucky, no doubt. I’d ended up in their system as someone who had volunteered to give up her seat for a flight that was subsequently canceled, which made everything their fault, not the weather’s. It was a little funny seeing all the same faces on the flight that morning as the people on the original flight from the day before. They were all tired and grumpy. Me, I’d had an extra night in Vegas, in an actual hotel, hung out with my friends for 12 hrs, AND got a free round trip ticket.
I’m not an “expert” traveler, but I have traveled enough that I’m getting pretty close. So my one piece of advice – if airlines are asking people to jump flights, think about a few things:
- Likelihood of the flight you were originally booked on leaving
- Likelihood of the flight you will be placed on leaving (if one flight’s overbooked, chances are very good that the whole airline is all day)
- If being placed in a hotel – what hotel, and does the airline fully pay for it. This can be significant, as some airlines only have discount vouchers for dumpy motels, while others will put you up in a “real” hotel.
- Price to you if you don’t get home until the next day. This includes job responsibilities, baby/pet sitting, parking, etc.
- Can they get your luggage off of the current flight? Sometimes the answer is no.
- Where are you. I was once on a flight from O’Hare to Dulles that was delayed on the runway for 6 hours before returning to the terminal for technical issues. After waiting another couple of hours in the terminal we were offered (all paid) a night in the hotel, dinner/breakfast, and a flight out the next morning. No miles, no money. I asked ‘what if we don’t want it,’ and they told me that the plane had to get to Dulles regardless, so it would eventually be leaving. It just may not be leaving until 3am. Well, I truly didn’t want to spend a night in the O’Hare airport hotel, I really wanted to sleep in my old bed, and at this point, I kinda felt like I’d waited for so long that I deserved to go home. So, I waited! Flight landed in Dulles at about 4:30am. The original flight was supposed to leave O’Hare at 4pm. It was absolutely insane, but at the end it was kind of fun flying on a 747 with 10 people on it (everyone else had decided to spend the night).
Another announcement asking people to volunteer. If they gave more than $200, maybe people would take it?
Also, the more desperate they get, the better the deal. For example, the deal here just changed – now they’re offering a 5pm out of Oakland instead of the 9pm flight here.
Me, I need to get back tonight. I could theoretically get back later, but I’d have to get to oakland, and I’d much rather get home at 6 than at 9. Plus, I checked baggage, and I’m always to paranoid to flip flights when I’ve checked a bag. I don’t think I would take this deal, no matter how great it became, I just want to go home.
That’s another big thing for ppl to remember – Southwest, in particular, is a wonderful airline to change flights on. However, if you have a checked bag, you have a good chance of losing it.
I fly from LAX to SFO a lot, and more often than not, San Francisco is fogged in. If I don’t have bags checked (which is most of the time I fly), I go from counter to counter around LAX looking for another Southwest bay area flight leaving earlier than my delayed flight. And 9 times out of 10, I get on a better flight. Now, depending on where I’m going, San Jose can be more trouble than its worth, but Oakland is just as easy as SFO. So ALWAYS check around at the other flights, and especially with Southwest, just ask someone. All the Southwest gate agents are really nice, and extremely helpful.
Now the offer is $200 travel voucher, refund on ticket, and flight out of oakland at 6. Only one person volunteered so far, they need 5. It’s gonna be ugly once they start bumping people.
Aah well, enough blabbering for me, time to close this down and get on the plane!