Would You Blow Off Dinner With Friends for Denied Boarding Compensation?

Lucky is taking some heat over on his One Mile at a Time blog for planning to meet some folks for dinner taking a bump instead, blowing off plans and friends for $400 in vouchers.

Now, in fairness to Ben he actually thought he’d wind up making the dinner, maybe 15 minutes late. Because of another flight delay and some additional flight changes, he wound up with a second voluntary denied boarding. (Read the whole story, he was very creative and had a great strategy — worth learning from.)

I used to take bumps all the time years ago, I haven’t taken any in a really long time, I’m almost always wanting to get where I’m going with enough commitments on the other end and downline consequences for missing a flight, that the compensation rarely seems worth it at the time.

But that’s not a moral judgment about taking compensation for yourself and not keeping plans with others. It’s that the compensation amount isn’t enough to meet my reserve price.

It’s reminiscent of the apocryphal Churchill story

Churchill: Madam, would you sleep with me for five million pounds?

Woman: My goodness, Mr. Churchill… Well, I suppose… we would have to discuss terms, of course…

Churchill: Would you sleep with me for five pounds?

Woman: Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!

Churchill: Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price

I wouldn’t have taken the first bump, but if I had had foreknowledge of two bumps it’s hard to imagine that I’d have said no.

I would, however, have texted a credit card to buy a round of drinks for the group I was missing, to make up for skipping out on dinner. Call me a Coasian if you like, I’d have bought off the objections by dipping into my double VDB gain.

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. See my post. Yes. Ben buys for everyone. I would. Dinner and drinks. I would be happy to see him next night for free food, drinks and to enjoy him tell his story or any story face to face! I think the world of all you guys….

  2. He did not blow off dinner with friends. He was the host/organizer of the event. Big, big difference IMO.

    So I guess he should not have written about it on his professional blog. That I think is the indiscretion that he might learn from. He should have kept it among friends /colleagues who were suppose to be attending the dinner with.


  3. Excellent solution Gary re: buying everyone drinks. The “heat” lucky took was for a cavalier attitude towards an event he helped organize / your cc run shows the proper consideration.

    On the other hand, lucky is 21 and I think this tiny life lesson will be valuable for him

  4. I would be pretty pissed if I went to this “captain” event to meet lucky and he decided it was more important to take a bump than live up to his commitments. Not sure a round of drinks would make up for it.

  5. There’s a reason why I stopped reading Lucky’s blog – you can be a millionaire in miles and certs, but you can’t use them to buy or replace friendship or trust.

  6. I think Lucky certainly has a fair bit of growing up to do. This isn’t the first time he’s proudly blogged about some pretty rude behavior of his, and it certainly isn’t the first time he’s taken lots of heat for that behavior.

    Some of it can be chalked up to immaturity and lack of life experience, but there is a certain amount that I think can be credited to his personality. Some people are just spoiled and entitled, and not a lot will change that.

  7. “I can’t believe such a silly topic is getting so much play.”

    Yet it is worthy of both your attention and comment.

  8. @Tim- Hmm…well, it is a new topic in a blog I read. So, it’s kind of tough to know it’s drivel before reading it, right? Let me ask you: let’s say there is a topic you think is a waste of time in a blog you regularly read. How do you know not to read it? I’d love to learn your trick.

  9. If I was hosting a larger event, I wouldn’t even consider taking a VDB. Arriving to the event on time (actually, early), would have been my primary concern. There is more to life than VDBs.

  10. Making it you commitment is more important then taking a VDB. I would never skip a dinner with friends or clients for VDB. Later in life he will realize that the dinner he missed is worth way more the VDB compensation he got from United.

  11. @BostonFlyer “Later in life he will realize that the dinner he missed is worth way more the VDB compensation he got from United.” Hmm… do you pick up a $400 check every time you’re out with friends? Just trying to push the logic here. If you aren’t willing to spend the $400 then that probably menas it’s not worth more than the VDB comp. What about $800 in comp? What about $5000? I always find the moralizing a bit suspect, I’d rather ask “at what margin?” See, I wouldn’t take the $400 VBD. But the $800…

  12. Right…because United routinely gives $5,000 for a bump. Lots of people, myself included, have turned down bumps with upgrades to business class on the next flight (“worth” thousands of $$$$$) to go home with their family instead.

    I don’t see the problem moralizing because (a) he posted it on his blog, which just invites scrutiny, and (b) Lucky’s previous post on his blog was his pontifications on airport etiquette. Etiquette lectures work both ways!

  13. @Jack I have no problem moralizing I’m just asking the question “at what margin” which was sort of the point of my post. I wouldn’t have taken the $400 either, but I would have at $800. You say $5000 doesn’t matter because United doesn’t offer it, but that’s really beside the point, at what price will you sell your ‘morals’ because it really is an ‘at what price’ issue not a right/wrong issue IMHO.

  14. First, he gets a lot of karma points from me for telling the truth.

    Second, if there’s a group that would understand 15 mins late for a bump voucher, that’s the group.

    Third, if there’s a group that would understand missing an appointment due to a mechanical delay, that’s the group.

    The griping seems odd to me. I understand disappointment and see why there was some confusion, but I see no reason why the folks that assembled could not have had a good time with each other’s company and just raised a glass to a frequent flyer whose plans didn’t work out.

    If I were him, I’d be thinking $400 worth of vouchers or dinner with a bunch of whiners. No brainer, here.

    Or, to put it another way, it’s only a social dinner. A bit more perspective might be warranted.

  15. I was at the DO and was unhappy with Lucky for taking the bump. Lucky did make it to dinner, but very late (not 15 mins.late). By the time he arrived, we had already paid the bill and many people had already left Max’s. I hope he learns from this disaster.

  16. I would say that if he was just having a casual dinner with friends it wouldn’t be a big deal. Lucky did have 2 reasonable flight options as his back up.

    But knowing that it’s an event that he was the host of; no, it wasn’t the right decision. Anytime you have a real commitment (not to say dinner with my friends isn’t real) you need to have a buffer incase of issues with the flights.

  17. @Gary: Picking up a $400 check is not an appropriate analogy, because $400 in flight vouchers is not $400. Even for someone like Lucky, who is practically guaranteed to make optimal use of these vouchers, the value has to be discounted by the alternative of not flying (since Lucky’s flights are predominately discretionary). I’m not sure what the value of $400 in vouchers should be, but it’s definitely less than $400.

  18. @Ron I agree, value of the voucher is less than $400 cash even for Lucky who will choose to fly more because of the icremental voucher rathre than replacing cash exactly that he would otherwise have spent.

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