On a recent flight from Atlanta to Chattanooga, our flight was oversold. The gate agents made an announcement asking if there were any passengers who would be willing to take a flight later that evening for $250 Delta Dollars. Sharon and I looked at each other as if to say, “Should we?” I said we shouldn’t because I wasn’t familiar with how Delta Dollars worked and I wasn’t sure if we could ever use them. I left to go to the restroom and in the 5 minutes that I was away the offer increased from $250 to $350, then $500, $600 and eventually to $700. At this point I was walking (quickly) to the gate to take the offer but before I got back they found the four people they needed to take the later flight.
Remember that the flight is only 45 minutes long and they were offering a seat on the flight 3 hours later. We could have taken the $700 each and waited or even rented a car and drove the 4 hours to Tennessee. 🙂
So why was Delta so generous and why didn’t I jump at the offer?
Why Did Delta Offer So Much Money?
The answer here is simple: Dr. Dao. Ever since the incident where United dragged Dr. Dao off a plane in Chicago when he was involuntarily removed from a flight, the practice of involuntary denied boarding (IDB) has been a hot button topic. No airline wants to be the next one on the news seen kicking a passenger off a flight so airlines have changed policies to increase the amount the airport agents are able to offer to “make it worthwhile” for passengers to give up their seats voluntarily.
Delta, for instance, has increased the amount their gate agents can offer to get passengers to give up their seats. The new limit for gate agents has been increased to $2000 (up from $800) and supervisors are allowed to offer up to $9,950 (previously $1.350). This gives the airport agents the freedom to get passengers to voluntarily give up their seats and avoid any possible PR nightmares.
These new limits were put to the test when Delta oversold a flight from Atlanta to South Bend, Indiana earlier this month. Delta’s problem was that the University of Georgia football team was playing Notre Dame in South Bend and it was likely that everyone on the flight wanted to get to the game. They eventually found someone willing to give up their seat…..for $4000!!!!!
Airplanes are leaving full so the chance of being on an oversold flight are pretty good. Since we gave up the opportunity to get $700 for each of our seats, I decided it would be a good idea to learn about Delta Dollars and how to use them.
Why Didn’t I Take The Money For a Later Flight?
I didn’t take the money because I didn’t know the system. I wasn’t sure how difficuly (or easy) it would be to use Delta Dollars. When US Airways still existed, our friend Steve received a voucher for a free round trip when he was willingly bumped to a later flight. The problem was that every time he tried to use the voucher, he was told there were no flights he could use it on. He even went to the airport one weekend and said he would take any round trip flight they could book him on, as long as he would be back by Sunday evening. Nothing. In my mind, getting a voucher you can never use isn’t worth the paper it’s electronically printed on.
When I wrote about the $700 offer to take a later flight on Facebook, I got several replies from people who have used Delta Dollars with no issues. Since I might volunteer for them in the future, I wanted some specifics. So I went to Delta.com to see what they had to say.
What are Delta Dollars?
Delta Dollars are transportation eCredits that can be used to compensate customers who have given up their seats on overbooked flights. Every airport location has information on Delta Dollars and on compensation for denied boarding.
The Delta Dollar transportation vouchers are good toward the purchase of any published fare on Delta Air Lines, Delta Shuttle™, Connection Carriers, and Delta designated codeshare flights. They are only valid for the payment of tickets and government-imposed taxes and fees. They are not valid towards other types of fees, and they do not have any cash value.
If the cost of the ticket is less than the value of the voucher, any remaining value will be credited to a new Delta Dollar voucher in the name of the original recipient.
The one thing missing from this is an expiration date. Based on memory of announcements made at the gate and from what I’ve read the vouchers are most often good for 1 year. It’s also important to know that you can only use Delta Dollars for yourself and only one voucher can be used per ticket. So if, let’s say, you have two $200 vouchers, you can’t combine them to buy a $400 ticket. You could only redeem 1 of the vouchers for $200 and pay the other $200.
The use of Delta Dollars seems pretty straightforward, with a few restrictions. I’d be more willing to take them in the future, if we had flexible travel plans.
With the amount of money being offered to give up your seat on a plane increasing, I’ll be paying attention to the announcements at the gate and listening to hear if the agents are asking for people to give up their seats for compensation. If the offer goes up to $700 for one of our flights again, I’ll be on my way to the counter.
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