United Airlines has had a tough couple of months--a really tough couple of months. There was the flight from San Francisco to Honolulu that lost part of its engine. Then the airline caught a lot of heat because of the death of dogs and other pets in its care--racking up the worst record for animal deaths and injuries in the industry. And then there was news that 30,000 United Airlines employees would be required to take compassion training.

But as the month draws to a close, United Airlines has provided us with a feel-good story like none other when just a few days ago it bumped Allison Preiss off a flight in exchange for a $10,000 travel voucher.

In case you didn't know, United Airlines made a major policy change after the incident when 69-year-old Kentucky doctor David Dao was knocked out then dragged off a United Airlines plane when he refused to give up his seat on an overbooked flight from Chicago O'Hare to Louisville, Kentucky. In April 2017, United announced that it would offer as much as $10,000 to customers who volunteer to give up their seat on an overbooked flight.

Of course, now everyone is going to want their own $10,000 travel voucher the next time United tries to bump them off a flight. While it's unlikely the airline is going to issue very many of these golden tickets, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of landing one.

1. Get on an overbooked flight

Of course, before you can even be offered compensation for getting bumped, you've got to end up on an overbooked flight. Certain United Airlines routes are busier and have a higher incidence of overbookings than others. If you end up on one of those routes, your chances of being bumped--and earning the $10,000 golden ticket--are increased significantly.

2. Be the lowest-fare passenger

According to a tweet by Allison Preiss as the events unfolded, the United gate agent said they would offer a $1,000 travel voucher to the lowest-fare passenger on the flight. As it turned out, Allison was the lowest-fare passenger. So, to become eligible for the golden ticket, you'll also need to be the lowest-fare passenger on your overbooked flight.

3. Demand cash

One interesting facet of the new United Airlines policy that allows up to $10,000 in compensation for a bumped flight is that it doesn't specify the form in which it will be given. In other words, you can ask for cash instead of a travel voucher. That was the strategy that Allison pursued. Clearly, United didn't want to give their passenger cash in exchange for her seat, so they continued to up the ante by increasing the voucher value.

4. Don't take the first offer, or the second or third one

Allison continued to demand cash instead of a travel voucher in exchange for her seat, first rejecting the offer of $1,000 and then $2,000 in flight credit. Apparently the airline gate agent briefly offered $650, but then quickly boosted the previous offer of $2,000 in flight credit to the maximum of $10,000. Allison accepted.

5. Be polite but be persistent

Of course, you've got to be polite but persistent throughout your negotiation. Stay calm, cool, and collected, and remember that above all,  United Airlines does not want a repeat of the David Dao incident. If keep your emotions in check, your chances of a happy ending are greatly increased.

Again, United Airlines probably won't be handing out too many of their $10,000 golden tickets. But they can and do, so there's no reason why you can't get one too.

Published on: Mar 28, 2018
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