Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Court Awards Compensation to Bumped Passenger

Over booked flights are a part of the airline business.  The no-show factor is so high, that airlines justify selling more seats than are available on a plane in order to ensure that seats are filled, and profits are made.
Most situations are resolved through a voluntary bumping process.  Passengers agree to not travel on a particular flight in exchange for a package that the airline is offering.  This could include hotel and meal costs, free tickets, or anything else that an airline may be offering as an inducement not to fly.
The involuntary process is a nightmare.  It creates stress for the airline employees, and they are not the people who have made the decision to overbook a particular flight.  It results in angry passengers, and can cause them to miss connections or lose deposits on vacations.
USA Today reports how a recent involuntary bump resulted in a small claims court decision in favor of the passenger:
Thatcher A. Stone, an aviation lawyer, was awarded $3,110 by a Manhattan judge for his expenses and inconvenience after he and his 13-year-old daughter were kept off a Continental Airlines flight at Newark Airport on Christmas Day 2004.
Read the full story for details.
On a personal note, I had friends who were flying out of Newark that day, and they said it wasn't a pretty scene.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I understand all sides of this issue. When I was a gate agent for Delta, many years ago, I was amazed at the number of no shows during a typical day. Now that I travel for a living, I would advise anyone purchasing a ticket to make sure you get an assigned seat at the time of purchase. No seat assignment means you could get set up for bumping. After 15 constant years of traveling, this happened to me for the first time last year, under unusual circumstances. The Delta agent on the phone confirmed that I was on a flight but she was unable to assign the seat. The flight was operated by Comair, part of the infamous "Delta Connection" of regional airlines. When I arrived at the gate, the agent never cleared me. When I asked her about it, she said, "I don't have time to deal with this right now". Typically I NEVER rely on third parties (Comair, ASA, American Eagle, etc) for customer service as I have discovered that many of their agents lack training in these sticky issues. So I went to Delta who told me that it was a Comair problem. So I got bounced back and forth between them and neither one of them took owneship of this issue. I just gave up and forfeited whatever compensation I was entitled to. It's not worth the hassle some days.

It is my opinion that reliance on third party carriers (ASA, Air Wisconsin, etc) is giving the entire industry a very black eye. These people simply are very well trained in customer service problems and the parent carrier (Delta, United, etc) doesn't want to hear about it.

Bring back Piedmont please!