13 Delta Passengers Receive $2,000 – $4,000 As Agent Begs Them To Take Later Flight

Delta Air Lines paid 13 passengers on an overbooked Boston to Rome flight up to $4,000 each – plus covered their hotel rooms for the night – to get them to give up their seats.

The flight had already boarded when an agent came on board still looking for volunteers, and she ran an auction. You can hear her raising the price to $3,500 begging someone to “take one for the team” and “go shopping.” Two people appear to stand up at this point and walk towards the front of the aircraft.

It’s almost certain that they made a nice profit, considering they’d still get to fly and Delta pays out actual gift cards and not just their own travel credits like most airlines do.

@onlyinbos 13 passengers on an overbooked #Delta flight from #Boston to #Rome ♬ original sound – Only In Boston

Delta is the only one of the largest U.S. airlines that still offers extremely generous compensation to avoid kicking someone off of a flight when they overbook. They’re willing to pay out far more than the legally required 400% of a passenger’s one-way fare not to exceed $1,550 for involuntarily ‘bumping’ someone.

Here’s an agent literally begging passengers to take $1,300 (not travel vouchers!) to give up their seat and take a later flight, because more people showed up than they had seats. And that’s for a domestic flight, where $1,300 may be more than four times the one way fare.

On Christmas Eve day Delta was offering as much as $8,000 per passenger (before reneging when they cancelled the flight). Shortly after the David Dao dragging incident on United Delta authorized gate agents to go up to $9,950.

Around that time United gave one passenger a $10,000 travel credit for taking a later flight but they eliminated that generosity at the start of the pandemic. American Airlines once handed out $5,000 per passenger on a flight where they weren’t legally required to do compensation at all, because the overbooking resulted from a change in aircraft. Yet they handed out around $250,000 in compensation for that one flight in total. American ceased their generous denied boarding compensation policies, too, leaving only Delta regularly handing out that much cash when they overbook.

Delta still takes the position that when they make a mistake and sell too many tickets, it’s their responsibility to own the cost and make it worthwhile for passengers to take a later flight – instead of ultimately just falling back on legal minimum cash compensation if there aren’t enough volunteers at lower amounts.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. And you wonder why people fly Delta with their Sky Pesos? There may be real American dollars involved!

  2. In this day and age of big data, AI and machine learning, there’s no such thing as selling too many tickets or compensating too generously. All airlines figure out a long time ago that overselling and compensating is way more profitable than underselling. Delta figured out that compensating more generously is a very small cost that pays back many times over in brand equity as well as in retention and revenue from high value customers. It’s also possible Delta serves more HVCs than other airlines which is why you see generous comp more often from Delta.

  3. Too bad they don’t compensate their flight attendants and ground employees like they should. Instead they frivolously throw away money like this and to millionaires like Tom Brady. Their CEO Ed Bastain makes a gross $12M a year. When will they ever learn that happy employees is the true key to success?

  4. The more people know about this occasional practice the more will jump at the chance to claim their cash. They should never have any problems getting people to volunteer. What a solution. To an extent.

  5. Delta continues to have a 0.0% involuntary denied boarding ratio, the lowest in the industry, according to DOT data

  6. @Dwondermeant: It was the police who dragged him off. He was trespassing, and it pains me that he got a settlement when he should have received a jail sentence.

  7. @Christopher Raehl – he absolutely deserved a settlement from the police for the beating, but United was the easier pocket given the state of the law

  8. Damn right airlines should compensate above and beyond. Catching a flight isn’t they same as catching a bus. Most people will book their flights months ahead of time, book hotels months ahead of time, plan months ahead of time, and go through the hassle of arriving early at the airport and going through security. If one is being bumped from a flight due to the airlines greed of overbooking, the it’s up for them to take a loss (which they probably still don’t because they make profits off no shows.)

  9. @Gary: At some point, the police are going to have to use force, and when they do, the chances you get hurt in the process are not minimal.

    We’re not talking about a Rodney King or George Floyd type situation where you have a restrained suspect that the police beat/kill anyway (in which case, NWA lyrics are appropriate), we’re talking about someone who was actively fighting with the police. You’re going to lose, you should lose, and it might hurt.

  10. Why is it legal to sell more product than you have in inventory? If it’s for the “no show” factor the airline has the money so it’s not lost revenue. Overselling your inventory is pure greed.

  11. I was kicked off a SOUTHWEST flight from Phoenix to Orlando at the stop over in Texas. They wouldnt even pay for my hotel. They said they didn’t have any more money to reimburse passangers.. I struggled to find a place to stay. SW refused to help, I had to pay transport to the hotel and back. I found out The passnger in front of me was given a hotel and meal voucher. I only discovered this because he was in my transport bus to the hotel. I appealed it and they reimbursed me less than half the hotel cost.
    Three good friends who only used SW have quit them entirely and now I only use them in a pinch.

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