Targeting Overbooked Flights - just for comps

Old Nov 1, 11, 3:23 am
  #1  
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Targeting Overbooked Flights - just for comps

Until Jan, I have time on my hands. I took 4 flights last week on SWA. Only one was overbooked in LAS, and I volunteered to give up my seat. I was not the lucky winner, but would have gotten approx $500 for waiting 4 hours in vegas. Not bad in my opinion.

Anyway - my question is this: other than looking at which flights are often delayed on the SWA website, or looking for flights that have high initial costs because they are close to fully booked, is there an easy way to uncover and book flights that are overbooked - with the intent of initially booking the flight and then giving up your seat in order to obtain the offered comp?

Someone has to have tried this, or be thinking of a way to sort it out.

I do have one idea. Book last minute, pay the full high fare, go to the airport with no intention of flying, try to get the comp, if it's not offered then skip the flight, then go the front desk and cancel. Because SWA is nice, you can just get a "store credit" voucher and use the value on your next flight.

I don't love that idea for two reasons: it takes advantage of SWA's kindness on a good flight rebooking/refund policy, and it could cost me a bunch of money upfront as I hold onto SWA vouchers and they hang on to my cash.

Thoughts?... and by that I mean on how to get the comp, not moral dilemmas.
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Old Nov 1, 11, 5:23 am
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Since you don't want to hear about moral dilemmas, I have nothing to say to you.
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Old Nov 1, 11, 6:02 am
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I used to work with a guy who was in industrial sales and had customers all over the US. He lived in Connecticut and would schedule the first flight Monday out and last flight Friday back out of a York Airport every week just to get on the fullest flights and have the greatest opportunity to take a bump. He was very successful at this and always had tons of credit that could be used for leisure travel.

The difference to what the OP has suggested is this person actually had business and intended to fly. He just did not have to be at his destination or back home exactly on time. Second, he usually took his scheduled flight even in a highly likely to overbook situation. The OP plan may work occasionally, but overbooks are more rare than one might think and most times are cleared with people taking low offers.
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Old Nov 1, 11, 11:47 am
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An FTer reportedly did this nearly five years ago and was prohibited from accepting any additional VDB compensation:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/south...cklisting.html
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Old Nov 1, 11, 12:34 pm
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If you do get bumped and rebooked, your new rebooked reservation has a zero dollar value. They basically take your money and give you a free flight so good luck cancelling and getting your money back.

For example:

* Buy a $200 BS SAN-SFO confirmation AAA
* Get bumped and given a $400 travel credit and rebooked onto BBB
* AAA ticket is now gone
* BBB ticket is valid for a later flight but zero dollar credit

You end up with a $400 travel credit and a reservation for a flight SAN-SFO that has zero residual value (i.e. can't be cashed in).
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Old Nov 3, 11, 12:04 pm
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My first reaction is that Southwest is a lousy airline to try this on for one reason: they're very, very good at filling planes without leaving themselves in a position to bump lots of people.

I've flown 'em 40-ish segments this year, mostly prime Friday and Sunday flights, and only even seen them *ask* for volunteers maybe twice. Once I volunteered and it turns out they didn't need anyone.

Moral dilemmas and skylane's practical observation aside, you'd spend a lot of time at airports for nothing.

Even on the majors, I don't see as many easy VDB's anymore. Gone are the days when my regular AA Friday flight out of ORD was a 727 overbooked by 35 that usually ended up bumping 10-15 pax at $400-500 a pop. I don't know exactly what changed, especially considering how high loads are these days in general.

My only guess is that the airlines have better data, better statistical models, faster computers, etc. I would say that the severe change rules on the legacies lock people into their flights but that doesn't explain on WN is so good at getting it right on the money...
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Old Nov 3, 11, 12:37 pm
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Originally Posted by skylane View Post
If you do get bumped and rebooked, your new rebooked reservation has a zero dollar value. They basically take your money and give you a free flight so good luck cancelling and getting your money back.

For example:

* Buy a $200 BS SAN-SFO confirmation AAA
* Get bumped and given a $400 travel credit and rebooked onto BBB
* AAA ticket is now gone
* BBB ticket is valid for a later flight but zero dollar credit

You end up with a $400 travel credit and a reservation for a flight SAN-SFO that has zero residual value (i.e. can't be cashed in).
When did they make that change? A couple years ago, my DTW/MDW flight was oversold and I decided to take the compensation which was I believe $200 plus the value of the one way ticket. My friend I was meeting up with had his flight canceled due to weather irrops in NYC and wasn't in the mood to go for one day since they couldn't get him out until Saturda morning. I was able to get the hotel to cancel the reservation with no charge and I just drove home. The full value of the original confirmation was there to use as well as the voucher. I did very good on that deal.
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Old Nov 3, 11, 1:22 pm
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[QUOTE=jamesteroh;17385463]When did they make that change?[QUOTE]


I ran into it about 6 months ago. I was booked SAN-SFO and got bumped and rescheduled SAN-SFO a few hours later. I decided to change it to SAN-OAK myself online and found out that I couldn't since the value of the ticket went to zero. I had a gate agent change it for me and found out that is what happens (bumped tickets have a zero value).
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Old Nov 3, 11, 2:31 pm
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I wonder if they'll make exceptions. Let's say I'm doing a daytrip somewhere - one of my regular trips to visit a project site. I accept a bump because I don't really *have* to make the trip at all....I'll just make the trip a couple weeks later.

Unless the agent has some reason to think I'm a chronic bumpee - there with no real intent to fly - would they allow you to either hold the value in the ticket or reconfirm to a flight weeks later instead of the next one out? Call it a "trip in vain" or whatever...
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Old Nov 3, 11, 9:07 pm
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Just as a baseline:

I fly about 30 round trips a year on WN. I almost ALWAYS ask if they need volunteers to give up their seats.

Out of 60 flights, I would estimate that they say "maybe" 10-15 times, and take my name. But, the actual number of volunteer bumps I have taken this year is 3. That's about the average for any year.

YMMV
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Old Nov 4, 11, 2:03 pm
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Good Dialog Folks.

In general, I think my concept is greedy, and because I do love SWA, my free ticket run is out. I just got excited last week when we traveled together and were offered $900 to sit at the airport for 4 hours (didn't happen).

That said, my conscience is clear by fully intending to travel but booking a flight that is almost full, with the intention of accepting an offer should I get bumped. My wife and I average 60 RT flights with WN per year, and our "strength of schedule" varies. Sometimes we can take the bump, sometimes we can't.

I'll just keep an eye on flight prices and such. I haven't heard anything that would clue-me-in on specific flights/routes to take or other methods for pinpointing which flights are full.
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Old Nov 4, 11, 2:47 pm
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Originally Posted by A-Train View Post
I haven't heard anything that would clue-me-in on specific flights/routes to take or other methods for pinpointing which flights are full.
Probably just common sense. Fly Friday at 3PM, and your flight will be full. Fly Tuesday at 8PM, it probably won't.

Even when I used to get bumped often on AA (and to a lesser extent, UA) and actually had the ability to look at detailed fare buckets, I never could quite figure it out unless I knew ahead of time the flight was showing F0 Y0. A lot of times I'd go to the airport with the flight showing Y9 (perhaps with all other fares at 0) and they'd still be over by 20.

In other words, they were happy to sell another full fare in exchange for giving another guy like me some funny money.

But those days are mostly gone. I've never seen any real pattern with Southwest, even when I fly on Fridays to/from one of their bigger stations.
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Old Nov 5, 11, 7:09 am
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Spring break and Christmastime at MCO are pretty good bets. Book maybe the second flight of the day out and keep cascading flight to flight, getting bumped repeatedly. Have not done it, but have heard stories.

Not aware of anything like Expertflyer that could give insights, but would love to hear of something.
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Old Nov 5, 11, 8:23 am
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I don't understand how you would cascade. They will certainly let you go stand-by on the next flight, but they are only going to book you on the next open flight.
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Old Nov 5, 11, 1:30 pm
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Originally Posted by lougord99 View Post
I don't understand how you would cascade. They will certainly let you go stand-by on the next flight, but they are only going to book you on the next open flight.
Couldn't tell you; that's just what a couple people told me they did. One guy said he had 4 bumps in a day.
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