My plan for this blog is to alternate between posts
explaining the basics of frequent flyer programs and more advanced techniques
for those military members that are already proficient at maximizing your
benefits. For this post, I am going to
talk about both involuntary and voluntary denied boarding.
If an airplane has 100 seats, the airlines will actually
sell more than that, say 105, based upon a statistical analysis of the number
of people that actually make the flight.
That is, they know there will always be some people that are late or
cancel at the last minute, but they don’t want the plane flying with only 95
people so they “oversell” the number of seats.
Occasionally, the statistics will not work out and more than 100 people
will actually show up for the flight.
When this happens, they will try to offer you compensation to
voluntarily give up your seat in exchange for a voucher for either a free
future flight or $200-$400 off a future flight (known as voluntary denied
boarding or VDB). In frequent flyer
speak this is called getting “bumped”. If they get no volunteers, the will use a
system to involuntarily pull someone off the flight (known as involuntary
denied boarding or IDB)
Again, we must go to the reg for what the government allows
when traveling officially. When you are
traveling on your own dime, you can work whatever deal you want and don’t be
afraid to bargain.
Here is what the JTR says about denied boarding, in typical
government obscure language they call it “Seat relinquishing”:
1.Voluntary. A traveler may keep payments from a carrier for voluntarily vacating
a transportation seat. However, no additional expenses (per diem or reimbursable) may be paid as a result of
the traveler’s delay.
Additionaltravel expenses incurred as a result of voluntarily giving up a seat are the
traveler’s financial responsibility.
*2. Involuntarily. If a traveler is involuntarily denied boarding on a flight, compensation for the denied seat belongs
to the GOV’T (59 Comp. Gen. 203 (1980)). The traveler must request that the carrier shows the “Treasurer
of the United States” as payee on the compensation check and forward the payment according to Service directives.
See the key difference?
If you take a VDB YOU get to keep the benefits, if IDB then Uncle Sam gets them (and you get to do the paperwork). So if you ever get into a situation where they look like they will make you take an IDB, volunteer! One important note as shown in the bold
italicized text, If the airline asks you to take a VDB the next day, you cannot charge the government for the hotel costs, extra day’s pay or per diem. Not to worry, most of the time, the airline will give you a VDB voucher and put you on the next available flight on that
same day. However, don’t use this delay as an excuse of why you reported late. I have had many times where a VDB was offered, but I just didn’t have the latitude to accept a delay. Remember to train your spouse and others about these rules.
It took me a little while, but now she jumps up at the first mention of “Are there any volunteers…” and received free vouchers.
One more thing to note when doing a VDB is that you can bargain. If it’s going to cause an overnight stay, demand a hotel room as part of accepting the deal. You can ask for other things too such as a free upgrade on the next flight. All they must give you is the dollar value (usually determined by the amount of time you will be delayed) of the voucher, everything else is up to you. Some advocate waiting until after the plane has left to do your bargaining, but I think you are in a weaker position then. I say get the deal you want up front by
asking first, all they can say is no. Sometimes they will get no volunteers and keep upping the offer until someone accepts. Another war story: I was on a US Airways flight heading from PHX (Phoenix) to ANC (Anchorage) on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend and they asked
for volunteers. They started at $200, no takers, then $400 still none as there was only one flight a day meaning a 24
hour wait. Finally, almost everyone was boarded when the Gate Agent (GA) came on and said they would offer a free
international ticket to anywhere US Airways flies. That was enough to get a couple of volunteers who jumped quickly at that offer. Why
didn’t I take advantage of that? I was heading home to Alaska after demob at Ft. Bragg. Nothing was worth keeping me from my family for