So, you’re at the gate and want to VDB….

Before I post which flights are commonly oversold and frequently VDB people, I figured I would make a quick post about how to tell whether or not they’ll need volunteers while you’re at the gate. I’m sorry that this is United specific, but this is really the only airline which I’d consider myself a bump expert on.

Most United airports now have the monitors at the gate which show lots of information when it comes to figuring out how full the flight is. First of all, if the flight looked full before you got to the airport (based on looking at the load on seatcounter, for example), add yourself to the list as soon as you get to the gate, or better yet, at check-in. The list is prioritized just like any other waitlist, first by status, then fare class, and then the time added to the waitlist. That being said, there’s typically not as much competition among top elites for the VDB list as there is for the upgrade waitlist. šŸ˜‰

Anyway, if you’re at a gate with one of those fancy monitors, there are only two things that matter when it comes to the flightĀ being oversold: the number of seats remaining, and the number of names on the “confirmed awaiting seats” list. While they have a screen which shows the number of passengers checked in, I’ve found it to almost always be inaccurate. Just last week I took a bump on a flight that showed as being checked in under capacity on that page.

The number of seats remaining can be found on the right side of the standby list, while the “confirmed awaiting seats” screen follows shortly thereafter. From there it’s a simple subtraction problem. If there are 12 passengers confirmed awaiting seats, for example, and the number of seats remaining is 10, that means they’re over by 2. Keep in mind that the number of names on both lists should continue to increase until the check-in cutoff, because it only accounts for those passengers that already checked in.

So, practically speaking, here’s an example: Last night I was hanging out at SFO with a FlyerTalker who was on one ofĀ the SFO-IAD redeye. We went to the gate over an hour before departure, and they were showing two seats remaining and 23 passengers confirmed awaiting seats. That was easily the most oversold flight I’ve seen in a very long time, and as it turned out they bumped 20+ people.

It’s worth keeping in mind that there are almost always a few no shows, so if there is one passenger confirmed awaiting seats and zero seats remaining according to the standby list, they probably won’t need volunteers. At the same time, if you’re on a domestic 777 with 325 seats and they have ten passengers confirmed awaiting seats with zero seats remaining, it’s perfectly plausible that they won’t need volunteers since there are almost certainly going to be some passengers that oversleep or no show.

Lastly, generally speaking business flights and early morning flights are going to have the most no shows. That’s because people either oversleep or business travelers change their travel plans last minute. A redeye on a weekend, for example, will have almost everyone show up (assuming the weather is nice and there aren’t a bunch of misconnects), given that it’s mostly leisure travelers that are going to show up at the airport with ample time. Therefore being over by 20 on one flight might not be a lot, while being over by three is a lot on another flight.

Questions? Comments?

PS: If you’re interested in securing travel credits instead of free tickets when taking a bump, check out this post. Reader feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Is it time for a testimonial page? šŸ˜€

Filed Under: Advice, United
  1. Excellent post. I concur that those oversold early morning flights rarely lead to bumps because of the no-shows. My bumps have all come on Saturdays and Sundays, most recently LAX-IAD, SFO-IAD, LAX-LIH, BWI-ORD.

  2. One day, I’m going to meet/see u at an airport just so that I can learn this system (can everyone pls stop laughing at me now)!

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