Delta Airlines paid one family $11,000 to give up their seats
This week, United Airlines violently removed a passenger who refused to leave an overbooked flight. That landed the airline at the center of online outrage—but at the same time, Delta Airlines was giving a family a huge payday for stepping off one of its own overpacked planes.
In an essay for Forbes, writer Laura Begley Bloom told the story of how Delta paid her and her family $11,000 to simply not fly to Florida that weekend. Strikingly enough, she published the essay on the very day the United customer was physically dragged off his plane.
Bloom was traveling from New York to Florida with her husband and daughter, and she was already worried, since Delta had recently canceled thousands of flights because of bad weather. And her concerns were valid: her flight was delayed for hours, and the scene started to get nasty, with people screaming at the staff. Delta started offering money for passengers who were willing to give up their seats.
Here's where Delta differed from United when a flight was overbooked. While United stopped offering money at the $800 mark, and then picked travelers at random to boot from the trip, Delta kept offering more and more money. It got up to $900 per ticket in gift cards, and Bloom's husband decided to haggle. He offered $1500 per ticket, and the ticket agent countered with $1,350. (According to Travel + Leisure, that's the maximum amount an airline can legally compensate a passenger.)
The next day, when they showed up for their rescheduled flight, the same problem happened, and Bloom saw a money-making opportunity. The reward for giving up seats went up to a whopping $1300 per person, plus lunch and taxi fare. That gave them another $4000, which leads them to $8050 for missing two flights.
And then, the family was told all Delta flights were overbooked until that Tuesday. Bloom and her family offered to cancel their trip entirely for another $1000 per person. Delta said yes, and also refunded the tickets, and that's how the family ended up $11,000 richer for skipping a trip to Florida.
Bloom says she knows her situation is unique, because she wanted to visit family, but it wasn't urgent. (The United passenger was a doctor who needed to be at a hospital the next day.) "I felt a bit guilty making so much money off the situation, but other passengers pointed out that we were freeing up seats for people who really needed to get somewhere," Bloom told Travel + Leisure. "Many passengers actually thanked us for doing this."
After spending two days inside LaGuardia Airport, the family missed out on their vacation but ended up with $11,000 in American Express gift cards. And Bloom told Conde Nast Traveler she considers it payback for a lifetime of travel nightmares. "People have criticized me for taking the money," she said. "The way I look at it, this was back compensation for previous travel costs and hassles—and for giving up our Florida vacation." Another travel hassle? Her family's luggage made it to Florida without them.