United Just Gave One Passenger $10,000 to Give Up Their Seat

After the snowstorm in the Northeast plenty of flights were zeroed and some even oversold. Center for American Progress communications staffer Allison Preiss was on a United flight that was full, but had a broken seat, and they were looking for volunteers to give up their seat in exchange for a travel voucher. The offer was $1000 but no takers.

She was the passenger on first on United’s list to be involuntarily denied boarding. She has no elite status with United and had the lowest fare class. She likely didn’t have a seat assignment either.

And she won the airline lottery because of it, too.

As if $10,000 in future travel isn’t enough, the passenger also get (2) $10 meal vouchers. (But they wouldn’t give her lounge access.)

So much for topping out at $800, or DOT-mandated denied boarding compensation (cash). In the aftermath of the David Dao dragging incident in April, several airlines revamped their policies around paying denied boarding compensation. In September Delta paid out $4000 in travel credit to a woman flying to South Bend, Indiana for a Georgia Bulldogs – Notre Dame game. She still made it in the night before the game.

American it seems even paid out as much as $250,000 on a single flight when they swapped aircraft to a smaller plane (something that would have exempted them from paying DOT compensation).

Of course had it been an entirely different United crew they might have just insisted she fly in the overhead bin.

(HT: Rob F.)

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. Couldn’t happen to a nicer person. CAP pushes back against the Trumpanzees and redneck baboons who have by fluke seized the country and are trying to hand it over to Russia.

    Fortunately we have no history of allowing dictators so no matter how ignorant these hicks are to support a traitorous thug dictator, all modern people are about to rise and smack them back to know-nothing land.

  2. Travel credit is bullshit. Is she ever going to spend that much money flying United? Does the credit expire?

  3. I got 3K credit for giving up my first class flight IAD to SAN in favor of an economy plus aisle.

  4. And it turned out there was no one in the middle seat, so to me this was almost equal in value to the seat in the front.

  5. I read the twitter thread and another Boarding Area Blogger asked for permission (I didn’t see it granted) Why did you post it with her name and Twitter screen shots. Would you confirm that you were granted permission to use.

  6. Those liberals always clamoring for free stuff! But seriously, good for her.

    Also, I don’t see any ethical (and certainly no legal) reason Gary would’ve needed permission to post this. She put it out in the public and it’s newsworthy (within the context of our niche subject matter here).

  7. @tommyleo how is it bullshit? Business class return Denver to Melbourne Australia is $10750. So, round trip in business class for 1/2 the price of an economy ticket.

    Or Denver -> Paris for two people for $8800 in business class.

    Or a half-dozen long-haul economy flights.

    It would be easy to spend $10K

  8. @rob: All those business-class examples are of flights she would never fly with her own money. And it’s equally unlikely that she would have been planning to book $10k in economy long-haul flights on United anytime soon.

  9. @tommyleo – Ok you might not want to take the $10,000 credit in similar circumstances but I would. Unexpected long weekend in Paris anyone?

  10. @tommyleo >Travel credit is bullshit. Is she ever going to spend that much money flying United?

    She ACCEPTED their offer. Obviously it was worth it to her, especially given her jubilation over it.

  11. I would have insisted on the money, and even taken less to get the cash. That voucher, ‘up to $10,000’ could be not so dazzling once UA makes up their restrictive T&C’s attached to it. Take the cash and run, every time!

  12. Awesome! Good to see the pendulum swing back the other way. Now if we could eliminate bogus hotel “resort fees” we will be in good shape.

  13. If I’m given a 10K travel voucher, it doesn’t matter if there’s a destination I would not have normally considered…nothing is going to be off the table at that point. In fact it would make it more likely for me to jump on such a route precisely because I would have ruled it out paying my own money.

    When you don’t have to spend a thousand (or more) flying to some exotic destination, that opens up more possibilities of doing the trip because then the cost is just room and board and you can do room and board fairly cheaply if you are willing to compromise.

  14. As long as we’re bragging, for $10,000 I’d simulate Evel Knievel by jumping off the Grand Canyon with a firecracker up my butt.

  15. Don’t try to use both of the meal vouchers at the same time. Read the fine print: one voucher per person.

  16. Overbooked Sunday flight from DFW to Mexico City several years ago. Business appointments weren’t until Monday so accepted the $400 offer from AA. The next flight out to Mexico City was also overbooked so took another $400 in flight vouchers from AA. The 3rd flight got me into Mexico City about 6 hours later than I had originally scheduled. The 2 flights I took a pass on both ran into weather and were diverted to Acapulco. Those passengers were given a bus ride into Mexico City and finally arrived later than I did on my substitute flight that afternoon.

  17. Some additional information — the Gate Agent tried to be sneaky and trick her into signing a form which said she volunteered to get bumped and also tried to give her vouchers. That is a violation of CFR 250.9 which says the airline is required to **immediately** give the passenger a written explanation of why they were chosen to be IDB and to pay cash, not United Monopoly Money.

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