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The only thing better than first class: free first class…

If you ask Allison Preiss about her day yesterday, she’ll probably tell you it was a bit of a mixed bag. It started by being involuntarily “kicked off” an oversold United flight, but it ended up with her netting $10,000 worth of United vouchers, more than enough for four international business class tickets from the ordeal. These are the stories that make your head spin, so let’s take a look at a play by play…

a white airplane flying in the skyThe Issue

Northeast weather impacted flights yesterday, with virtually all flights full, or oversold. Allison Preiss had a confirmed ticket on United Airlines, checked in on time, but at the gate – United made a compensation offer of $1000 in vouchers to passengers. Clearly, the flight was oversold. No one took the offer, at which point United announced that a passenger would be automatically offloaded from the flight, based on lowest fare. A seat on the aircraft was broken and therefore someone would not be making the journey. This is ‘involuntary denied boarding’.

Lowest Fare

Allison quickly learned that she was traveling on the lowest fare. Well done, Allison. She probably used these tips. As the lowest fare passenger, Allison was automatically chosen to be offloaded from the flight. This would technically fall under the category of involuntary denied boarding, and Allison correctly realized how presented a major bargaining chip. She declined to sign a piece of paper which stated she was voluntary offloaded. Very, very smart. She also live tweeted, which was highly amusing.


United did not want to pay cash out in this situation. Department of Transportation rules would mandate that Allison was to be owed up to 400% of her one way fare, up to $1350 in cash. United clearly was more comfortable handing out their own play money, and Allison successfully got the pot sweetened to the tune of $10,000 in vouchers for her troubles. This is the highest we’ve seen.

a row of seats in an airplaneHow To

Taking a bump for compensation, either by choice or being offloading is usually triggered by a few factors. The first is traveling alone, since usually only one seat is required. Not having any checked luggage, elite status or an expensive ticket can also help your case. Airlines always want to take care of their “most” valuable customers, so having elite status rarely works in your favor with bumps – though it’s great for just about everything else. If you have flexibility, getting a bump can be one of the greatest ways to unlock free travel. Why not, right?

Have you ever taken a bump? What did you receive as compensation?

HT: ViewFromTheWing

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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