The One Time Getting Bumped From My Flight Was Actually Great
“Again, would anyone be willing to volunteer to give up their seat and fly out tomorrow instead?” the agent asked over the gate PA for the second time. This time I was paying attention. “Oh! Oh! I volunteer as tribute!” I piped up. Had a week in New York City made me lose my marbles? Nope, I realized the perks were worth the delay.
Perks, you say? Yes, perks. Normally, once I pack up to head home from a destination I just want to get home. No dilly dallying. This started off as no exception. I was tired, had spent the previous 12 nights in 5 different beds and really just wanted my own. This particular direct flight between NYC and St. John’s with United had always been a bit of crap shoot for getting in on time, or at all. FYI: they’re since suspended the route altogether.
An Issue With United? You Don’t Say?
So you can say I wasn’t all that surprised to hear that there was an issue on this flight. The weather in St. John’s was iffy and the plane needed to carry more fuel, just in case, so had to bump 14 of the 72 scheduled passengers. Well…shit. I was less than impressed until I heard what I’d get in exchange for spending a night in Newark, NJ. The delay was a pain in the ass but it wasn’t all for naught.
What was United offering? A first class seat on the next day’s flight, lounge access, a hotel room, meal vouchers, and here’s what tipped the scales for me… a $500 USD voucher. That’s nothing to sneeze at. That would be enough for another return ticket to New York. Or say, a good chunk of a plane ticket to Nicaragua. Since I was being bumped for a safety issue, I wouldn’t have been entitled to cash and people who were bumped involuntarily were only being offered $150. Sold. I volunteered.
I work for a flexible company who was ok with me working another day remotely from New York so I didn’t have to stress about that aspect, which was a relief. I texted my friend who was cat-sitting and they agreed to drop in one more time to feed my adorably odd orange furball. All systems go.
The major hitch with this whole thing, was that I wouldn’t be getting my checked luggage back that night so I’d have to make due with whatever I had in my carry-on bag. Thankfully, I always travel with a minimum of a change of underwear in my carry-on so I could manage.
Pro tip: always pack the bare necessities in a carry-on bag when you fly. Underwear, toothbrush, comb, etc. If you’ve got the room, throw in a spare shirt and socks too.
Time Consuming But Worth It
The whole process of getting the vouchers and waiting for the hotel shuttle was a bit mind-numbing but I kept reminding myself of the $500 USD compensation I had in my wallet. The next day I worked out of the United lounge, taking advantage of their cubicles, snacks, and a glass of wine before boarding. Travelling in first/business class was a treat with more wine and a light meal. Everything was great until I found myself alone at the luggage carousel in St. John’s willing my red suitcase to come around the bend. Nope. No luggage. Well…shit.
I’ve been here before so I know the drill. I filed my claim with the agent on site and headed home, hoping to get a call the next day saying that my bag was on its way. 24 hours later and I hadn’t heard from anyone so I went online and filed a claim on United’s website as well. Not long after I got a phone call that my suitcase was just put into a taxi and we’d be reunited shortly. w00t!
Ten days later I got an email from United, apologizing for the inconvenience my delayed luggage cost me. That was nice. They also issued me another flight credit for $100. Was not expecting that.
Know Before You Go
You should know that if your flight is delayed or cancelled, the airline isn’t obligated to give you any kind of compensation. If you ask nicely, some may provide meal vouchers or other such things. If, however, you get bumped from a flight because it was oversold you’ve got some leverage. If you volunteer, you can negotiate with the agent to get the most compensation that they’ve been greenlighted to give out. However, if you’re involuntarily bumped, you’re still entitled to certain minimums. Check out the Consumer’s Guide to Air Travel and know before you go. There is currently no legislation in Canada regarding these issues so be sure to read the airline’s policy when you book your ticket.
So I now have $600 in credit burning a hole in my pocket and my passport itching to be stamped again. All because I got bumped. It certainly could’ve been worse.