United Airline's recent publicity woes have made one thing clear to fliers everywhere: That ticket comes with fine print. Jimmy Rhoades says that to play the game, you've got to know the rules. He met up with Christine Sarkis of SmarterTravel and Rod Rakic of FlyOtto to get some important travel tips.
1. Contract of Carriage
When you click "agree" you're signing yet another contract that you never bothered to read. The airline reserves the right to downgrade passengers and you would get reimbursed for the fare difference, but you wouldn't have the seat you expected. There are some unexpected gems hidden in those contracts, too. United Airlines is not liable for seafood. You can assume that there was a good backstory when they added that one.
2. Minimum Compensation
If you are bumped from a domestic flight, and placed on a subsequent flight that arrives one to two hours after your original scheduled arrival, you are entitled to 200 percent of that one-way fare, up to $675. If the flight arrives more than two hours later, compensation increases to 400 percent of the one-way fare with a cap of $1,375.
Those are for involuntary bumps made by the airline.
3. Play the Game on Purpose
Get ready to volunteer. Start by knowing who bumps the most. Delta stands out because they had the most number of bumps at a 130,000, which is a lot. They turn it into a bidding process. So they ask the passengers at the gate, "What is it worth to you to get bumped?" They're trying to get you to throw out that first number, which weakens your negotiating position.
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