New program allows overbooked flyers to resell tickets up to five days in advance.
In an attempt to prevent chaos due to overbooking, United Airlines is using technology to help flyers “sell back” their seats. The Chicago Tribune reports the carrier will roll out a new “flex-schedule” program this week, in order to address aircraft overcrowding.
The program is a partnership between the Chicago-based carrier and Volantio, a marketing company focused on international commercial aviation. Travelers can opt-in to participate in the “flex-schedule” program during the booking process, in case the flight becomes oversold or overcrowded.
If a flight is at risk of being oversold, flyers will receive e-mail notifications direct from United asking if their plans are still flexible. Those who continue will have the option to select different flights arriving and departing from the same airports, along with a travel voucher for up to $250. Those who cannot be flexible do not have to participate in the program.
According to United, opting into “flex-scheduling” will not automatically grant travelers an option to receive a travel voucher. Furthermore, only those who book directly through United are eligible – those who book through online travel agencies or third-party programs cannot participate.
The move is a step forward to prevent future customer service gaffes that have hurt the carrier this year. In April 2017, a passenger was forcefully dragged from a United-branded aircraft when he would not leave after the flight was overbooked. In July 2017, the carrier sold a seat belonging to a toddler, forcing the mother to hold her child for the duration of the three-hour flight.
United is not the only one looking at this technology to make flying easier. According to the Tribune, Alaska Airlines and Qantas are all looking at “flex-schedule” technology to replace seat auctions on overbooked flights prior to departure.