Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Bump, what’s it all about?

Have you heard the term “bump”? Essentially aka VDB (Voluntarily Denied Boarding), you give up your seat back to the airline company in order to exchange some future travel credit, vouchers or anything lucrative to you.

Let me give you an example, 10 years ago, my wife and I were waiting in a long queue and preparing to get our boarding pass from PEK-YYZ (Beijing to Toronto). I heard the broadcasting of looking for two volunteers that giving their seats and changing to next day flight. I immediately reported to the gate agent and started to negotiate the “compensation”. Since they were looking for two, our one booking confirmation fits perfectly. I secured the deal of
1.      $1000 Air Canada credit each
2.      One night hotel stay. (I didn’t accept, instead of a round trip taxi fee from airport to downtown my parents’ home)
3.      We can check in in first class counter the next day to expedite our waiting time.
4.      Two lounge passes we can use within 12  months

We purchased our flight with ~$1000 each, so we not only will take the flight back to YYZ next day, also a free around trip to Beijing from Toronto in the future. J all we have to do is to hang-in with our parents with one more day. (I don’t think my in-law were really concerned about this. ;-) )

Why airline companies do that?

They do this all the time, primarily “oversold”, to make most of profit, airline company is inclined to oversell 20% of their flight capacity if possible. Secondly, there are always full refund customers don’t show up and reschedule, since they pay 2x or 3x times then the cheapest T class, airline companies are very grateful to honor you a few hundred dollars to accommodate those bigger spenders. J (every ticket can easily make $2000 profit for airline companies)

How do I qualify?

Unlike priority boarding or some other elite benefits, everyone can be qualified, it’s just matter of the following criteria

1.      You need to be flexible, if you are catching an important business or you can’t afford the delay, don’t bother. A few years ago, I was in a thanksgiving evening from SFO-SEA, everyone seemed concerned to go back home on time and nobody wanted to take the VDB. I took it for the morning flight and $400 voucher plus a very comfortable hotel stay.

2.      You need to ASK. When you check-in in the computer, there might be a prompt whether or not you want to be a volunteer, take it, it doesn’t guarantee you, but you are recorded. See below picture. If the computer doesn’t have this info, most likely the flight is not full. You can always press the change “seat” when you check-in, if you see the plane is full, now you know you don’t have to change seat, but you need to ask gate agent.

Negotiate the compensation

If you are lucky enough to be on the first volunteer list, the gate agent will offer their compensation, here are tricks
1.      the international flight is better than domestic, typical $400 for domestic (or free ticket) and $800~1000 for intl’
2.      the longer or more inconvenient of the changed flight, the better offer. Say, they put you in the flight in 2 hours later, $400 is pretty good, 6 hours later, I’d ask for a bit more for sure.
3.      you need to know how many volunteer, the more, the unlikely they want to negotiate. Last time, in SFO, there was no volunteer at all besides me, I was in a good position to talk, right?
4.      The closer to departure time, the better offer. The same principle, airline companies don’t want to delay their flight.
5. the important point is if you dislike the offer, you don't need to take it.


Don’t be greedy, if you think the offer is reasonable, take it. If you think you can’t afford the reschedule, don’t even ask. For others' experience and how much they got, take a look at here and here

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