In response to its recent publicity crisis — spurred in part by the forcible removal of a ticketed passenger so an employee could take his seat — United Airlines has been trying to change how it handles overbooked flights, while still maintaining its bottomline. Now, United wants to pay travelers for their seats on popular flights — so it can turn around and sell that ticket to someone else for more money.
United recently revamped how it compensates passengers being bumped from flights before boarding, with a policy that allows travelers to receive up to $10,000 for their seat.
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But because it probably doesn’t want to spend that much every time it wants to resell a ticket on a full flight, United is launching a new Flex-Schedule Program that offers buyouts to travelers up to five days in advance of their flight, Bloomberg reports.
Here’s How It Works
United is teaming up with a third-party aviation tech company called Volantio to send email notices to travelers, asking if they’re flexible in their travels.
For example, a subject line may read, ““Are You Flexible with Your Travels to Los Angeles?” notes Bloomberg.
Passengers can then sign up for the program and will have to opt in for marketing messages to be eligible. If United thinks your ticket will be a hot commodity, it may then email you and offer the opportunity to change your itinerary for $250.
You will not have to change dates of travel or airports, and seating preferences will also carry over. However, you may be downgraded to from Economy Plus to regular Economy.
If you accept, you’ll be rebooked within 24 hours.
Right now, the pilot program is limited to certain group of MileagePlus members. Signing up for the program doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get an offer, however.
A Win For Everyone?
Though you won’t be in the running for $10,000 in compensation — which could be a long shot in any case — this could be good for all involved.
Willing passengers will get a travel voucher before they even leave for the airport, while last-minute travelers will have more chances to get a ticket on a popular route.
It could also bring down the stress level at the gate, as customer service staff won’t have to deal with desperately trying to find volunteers to accept vouchers at the last minute.
And of course, there’s a clear plus in all of this for United: It can charge more for the hot ticket than it did when the seat was originally sold.