Delta Offered $10,000 To Flyers Willing To Give Up Seats On Oversold Flight

Confronted with an overbooked flight last week, Delta flight attendants channeled Vito Corleone and tried making boarded passengers an offer they couldn’t refuse: Give up your seat and receive the princely sum of $10,000 in cash, not flight credit.  

The shock of that number is compounded by the fact that this wasn’t a long-haul international flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg or LAX to Sydney. We’re talking about a 90-minute hop from Grand Rapids to Minneapolis. 

The episode first gained public attention via a tediously-written, first-person account by Inc. tech columnist Jason Aten. (Lured by a Buzzfeed-grade teaser headline—”On This Flight, Delta Just Did Something Unheard Of“—readers had to endure EIGHT paragraphs of nothingness* before actually finding out what the flying f— Delta had done on Aten’s flight.)

Flight attendants were looking for eight people to change flights to a later date. “If you have Apple Pay, you’ll even have the money right now,” Aten says one of them declared.

Another passenger, Todd McCrumb, told KTVB that Delta’s bid started at $5,000, a sum that likely would’ve generated headlines on its own if things had stopped there. He said the offer sounded so far-fetched he asked fellow passengers if the crew was joking. 

The juicy offer came as the airline industry is beset with cancellations and delays driven by a shortage of pilots and understaffing at the FAA. Seeking to minimize problems during the July 4 weekend, Delta this week offered customers the option to rebook without change fees or even fare differences.  

Apparently not wanting to show its cards to future travelers, Delta declined various media outlets’ requests for comment on the specific $10,000 offer. Speaking more generally, a spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch, “The ability to provide compensation on full flights empowers our employees’ efforts to care for customers and get aircraft out on time.” 

In 2017, CNBC reported that Delta had boosted the limit for enticements for “voluntary denied boardings.” At that time, the standard limit became $2,000, but the real maximum—subject to various rules and authorizations from management—grew to $9,950. 

That Delta policy change came after a spectacular, reputation-bruising episode in which a seated United Airlines passenger, 69-year old Dr. David Dao, refused to relinquish his seat in favor of an airline employee who needed to fly. He was violently removed, with cell phone video capturing his bloody face and broken eyeglasses. According to his lawyers, Dao’s was concussed, had a broken nose and lost two teeth. 

Dao, a lung specialist, told USA Today he refused because he was about to oversee the opening of a clinic he founded to serve veterans, as his way of expressing gratitude to service members: The U.S. Navy plucked Dao from the ocean as he fled Communist Vietnam some 44 years earlier. 

At first, United’s CEO called Dao “disruptive and belligerent,” but apologized after public uproar. Dao sued and received an undisclosed settlement. We’re guessing it was far north of $10,000.  

*You’re still here, Zero Hedge reader? Congratulations, you’ve unlocked a special July 4th Weekend BONUS FEATURE—an elaboration on Jason Aten’s aggravatingly exhausting essay at about his first-hand experience of being offered $10,000 to change flights.

Don’t forget the clickbait title: “On This Flight, Delta Just Did Something Unheard Of“. Unlike our deeply respected Zero Hedge readers, the poor saps who read Inc. were being held in suspense deep into the article. (To our credit, we prefer to center our occasional clickbait indulgences on tastefully tempting imagery.) 

How did Aten manage to fill EIGHT paragraphs before telling readers what remarkable thing Delta did on his flight? His feat started with providing Inc readers this deeply insightful crystallization of the airline business: 

“You sell tickets on flights between cities based on some kind of schedule. People buy those tickets, and in exchange for the money they pay, they expect to end up on a plane flying to wherever it is they wanted to go.”

Across the nation, Inc readers’ jaws dropped in a shared moment of exhilarating clarity: At long last, they finally grasped the commercial air travel value proposition that had hitherto bewildered them. 

Part of the excruciating journey to Aten’s $10,000 punch line included an explanation of the concept of overbooking. Apparently, Aten thinks that too is an alien concept to a business magazine readership with an average household income of $419,000.  

Written as if he’s paid by the word, Aten’s lesson even included this elaboration on the concept:

“Obviously, a plane with 200 seats can’t hold more than 200 people. If you sold 210 tickets, and everyone who bought a ticket shows up for the flight, some of them aren’t going anywhere.”

By that point—not even realizing I was still five paragraphs from the revelation—I was yelling “What the f— did Delta DO?!” and wondering why my exceedingly well-read college chum would send me this article and subject me to Aten’s enhanced-interrogation-technique-level tedium.

By the time I finally saw the truly extraordinary Delta offer at the heart of the story, it was too late. I was a broken man…ready to tell Jason Aten that Saddam Hussein and I presented gift-wrapped, Nigerien, yellow cake uranium to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Muammar Gaddafi’s living room, our feet casually propped on high-strength aluminum tubes as we helped ourselves to the Colonel’s gilded snack bowls brimming with pre-genocide, recreational Viagra

If only Inc. had declared Aten’s column overbooked and offered me $4 to get off. 

Read further at ZeroHedge

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