When Airlines Offer, Take the $$$
The recent United Airlines dust-up over the passenger who wound up injured after refusing to give up his seat generated all kinds of advice about crisis management and other topics. For me, it brought back all kinds of memories.
The most prominent: the time I declined a $400 travel voucher. Like Dr. David Dao, I was bound for Louisville. Like him, I wanted to get home. Regret set in soon after I landed.
Now, there were valid reasons to say “no.”
In pre-TSA PreCheck days, check-in at major airports included a routine recommendation to arrive two hours in advance.
I wasn’t too concerned that day. My ride dropped me off at the Atlanta airport at 10 a.m. for a flight that would begin boarding at noon.
However, a string of failed tries to get a boarding pass when I slid my credit card into the self-service terminals served as a harbinger.
Finally, I found one that worked, but that didn’t speed up the snail-like pace of the screening lines. I never dreamed so many people would be heading out somewhere on a Saturday.
Chance of a Lifetime
I’d had experiences arriving 90 minutes or more ahead of time and making it through screening in a fraction of the time.
This time, however, I was grateful for two hours. As the minutes inched by and the lines moved like a blood through a clogged artery, I wondered whether I would make it to my gate on time.
The clock there read 11:55 when I finally did get there, grateful that I would soon get some relief for my tired feet.
Just then, the call went out, asking for four volunteers who were willing to give up their seats in return for a $400 voucher on a future flight.
I had never been the kind of points-laden frequent flyer who gets first-class upgrades. But at that time I was flying off somewhere three or four times a year, so the discount could have come in handy.
Missing a Game
I thought it over momentarily. Scanning the boards, I saw the next flight departed at 6:30 p.m. Wearily, I asked myself, “Do I really want to spend another six hours here?”
It wasn’t just spending all afternoon in the airport that made me hesitate. I especially didn’t want to miss that evening’s Final Four basketball game between the University of Louisville and Illinois.
From the second round of the NCAA tournament, my wife I and three other couples had started gathering at each other’s homes to watch U of L. With the tip-off six hours away, I just didn’t want to miss the game—or gathering with friends.
No crisis developed that day. Four other passengers accepted the offer and I made the flight, arriving home in late afternoon, well in time for the 6:10 p.m. tipoff.
Then, I watched in dismay as Louisville played its worst game of the year, losing by 15 points. The excitement and anticipation I had felt fizzled out quickly. Our friends felt the same way.
“I could have had a $400 voucher!” I thought as we drove home. Fortunately, I learned my lesson. A few years later, I had the chance to get bumped twice, collecting enough vouchers to dramatically reduce the cost of flying to Denver to visit our son.
So, regardless of the size of the size of the offer, any time you face such a decision, imitate fictitious sports agent Jerry Maguire and say: “Show me the money.”