New compensation for involuntarily bumped airline passengers

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Airline passengers who are involuntarily bumped from their flights are set to get a little more respect from the offending airlines.

Let’s say you’re at the gate and your plane is oversold. Typically, the gate agent will make an announcement asking for volunteers. If they don’t get the volunteers they need, they’ll start pulling people off the plane. Those who got bumped in the past were offered very puny compensation.

But under new rules, you’ll get double the value of your ticket up to $400 if you’re pulled off a plane. If the delay is longer, your compensation can go up to $800.

Of course, a lot of people would say the money is not worth it because you need to get where you’re going. But I follow a different strategy. When they ask for volunteers, I go up to the counter and find out two things: The amount of compensation they will pay and when will I get to my destination.

I love volunteering. It’s a whole different drill than being involuntarily bumped.

Here’s a key tip:  if you’re at that gate with only a seat request card in hand because you can’t get a seat assignment, it’s a good idea to volunteer. What you get as a volunteer is almost always greater than what you get when you’re involuntary bumped. Plus, when you’re sitting there with a seat request card, you’re likeliest to be made into an involuntary bumpee since you don’t even have a seat assignment yet on the plane.

In addition to increased involuntary bump compensation, airlines will now face big fines for leaving U.S.-bound international flights sitting on the tarmac for long periods of time. We’ve had that protection for domestic flights, but now it’s being expanding to international ones too.

If it takes the Department of Transportation to enforce these rules, it’s pretty clear to see that what’s missing in the travel business is treating others as you’d want to be treated yourself. There’s a certain Ivory Tower mentality in the offices of the full fare airlines.  Did you know full fare airline executives have special cards that let them at any time with no reservation walk onto a plane and sit in first class by bumping a paying passenger?

The full fares have a privilege that leads to arrogance. That’s why here and overseas, they’re becoming dinosaurs. And you know what happens to dinosaurs, right? Eventually they become extinct.

For more information on the voluntary and involuntary bumping compensations and other topics, visit the Department of Transportation’s Fly-Rights/A Consumer Guide to Air Travel.

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