United Airlines downgrades fliers, pays $90,000 in travel vouchers

Published on : Wednesday, February 26, 2020

United Airlines had to change a Boeing 777 aircraft for a Saturday flight from Newark to Hawaii, which led to a reduction of business class seats.


So the airline offered miles to passengers willing to sit in a lower class of seating on the Boeing 767-300 for the 11-hour plus direct flight.


Nine passengers accepted $10,000 in travel voucher compensation each for a total of $90,000.


“Occasionally we have to change aircraft at the last minute and when that happens, we try to do the right thing and make the impact to customers as minimal as possible,” United spokeswoman Maddie King said.


King confirmed that nine business class passengers volunteered to sit in a “Premium Plus” cabin, which offers passengers more legroom and other benefits not found in a regular coach cabin.


But she declined to confirm the compensation amount, which the “View from the Wing” travel blog reported as $10,000 worth of travel vouchers per passenger.


“I do think this is a lot of money, but it doesn’t surprise me,” said Peter Sasaki, who’s flown more than a million United miles and has invitation-only elite Global Services status with the airline. (The exact qualifications for this program aren’t published, but it’s given to some of the airline’s most profitable customers.)


“It is probably better to get the pax (passengers) to their destination at any cost rather than bump them and risk the cost of food, lodging, a rebook and bad PR, given how full flights are this time of year.”


Passengers don’t always know their rights when they’re bumped.


Travellers involuntarily bumped from US flights can be entitled to compensation if they have confirmed reservations, check in to their flights online, arrive at the departure gate on time — if their airline can’t get them to their destination within one hour of the original flight’s arrival time, according to the US Department of Transportation.


Passengers on US domestic flights experiencing a one to two hour delay in their arrival times can receive compensation equal to double the one-way price of their bumped flight — up to $675.


Domestic passengers experiencing more than a two-hour delay on flights will receive payments of four times the one-way value of their flight — up to $1,350.


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