Why I love flying in winter….

While some people avoid winter flying as much as possible, I find winter and summer to be the best times to mileage run. Summer is great because of high loads which lead to bump opportunities, while winter has lower loads but unpredictable operations, which lead to cancellations and delays, which also lead to bump opportunities.

Coming into this weekend I was looking forward to finally trying the reconfigured 767 as well as an uneventful mileage run, along with a few laughs due to the shirts I was wearing. What I got was much, much more, despite the reconfigured 767 being swapped out for an old one.

A lot of these stories would be funny in person but would probably come off as lame here, so I’ll stick to the highlights:

— While waiting for our flight from Richmond to Chicago, six TSA agents (with gloves!), a police officer, and a supervisor, surround the gate. They approached a lady and surrounded her, and after a few minutes of arguing the police officer went to the gate agent and said “she won’t be flying today.” I have no clue what happened, but it was interesting.

— The Chicago to San Francisco flight got swapped out from the new configuration to the old one. As if that wasn’t bad enough, this 767 was in the worst shape I’ve ever seen. Nearly half of the seats had serious problems. The seat in front of mine wouldn’t stay up, my legrest and TV monitor were broken, my seatmate’s legrest was broken, and that’s only the beginning. It was truly disgusting, and it’s scary to think that some people actually paid full fare for this product on the previous flight from Europe.

— My friend Gray scored a $600 bump from an earlier SFO to JFK flight and managed to get on the redeye I was on. Let’s just say the “Glenn’s Gotta Go” shirt paid off on this flight…. I’ll leave it at that. The purser was fantastic.

— The real fun started in New York. The earlier flight from JFK to IAD was cancelled two days earlier, so this flight was zeroed out and there were a lot of passengers that were never informed of the cancellation. There were tons of infuriated passengers. Not only that, but the plane was weight restricted down to 45, which made the situation worse. One passenger explained the weight restriction: “Yep, this makes sense, I flew the same plane last week and the brakes were broken, so I guess they want the plane to be light so it can land and stop before it crashes off the runway.” I was the only passenger that volunteered, and the agent had to take six IDB’s.

People just wouldn’t stop cussing at the gate agent, making foul comments, saying how much United sucks, etc. I just stood there smiling at the gate agent, telling her to take her time, and that I was in no rush. She wanted to process my VDB first since I was a 1K, and I just kept commenting on how professional of a job she was doing handling the situation, how bad I felt for her, how rude the other passengers were, etc. I asked if I could do travel credits instead of a free ticket, and after calling a supervisor she agreed. She rebooked me on the Delta flight nonstop from JFK to TPA, which got me in two hours later. While I wasn’t necessarily opposed to that since I thought I still had a shot at an upgrade on Delta, I would have only gotten $200 in travel credits (which she stated as the amount).

I decided to see if she could route me through ORD and get me a cab over to LGA, as an obvious attempt to increase my travel credits to $400. She said “Are you crazy, you really want to go through Chicago and get home at 8PM tonight???” I mentioned how United was so good at taking care of their customers and it’s the only airline I choose to fly, and she chuckled and agreed. I also mentioned that I wanted to save United money by staying on their planes as opposed to flying Delta. She once again said “OK, so $200 in travel credits is fine?” I said “Well, my delay is about five hours, so isn’t that $400 in travel credits?” Her reaction was priceless. She couldn’t stop laughing and said “wow, you’re smart, you got me, you obviously know this game much better than I do. I’m impressed.” She wasn’t the slightest bit offended and we both left laughing. I said “thank you,” she said “thank you,” I said “no, thank you,” and then she said “Sir, we could go back and forth all day, but thank you.” I love her.

— United paid for my transfer to LGA (via limo no less), and I got there, had lunch, and went through security. The TSA pisses me off, although I’m sure that’s not much of a surprise to anyone. 2/3 of the agents were standing around doing nothing (literally standing in another area talking, playing with their phones, etc.), but yell over to the passengers that they should hurry up. In the meantime no agent was removing the containers from the belt. Let’s just say I had a little word with one of LGA’s finest TSA agents….

— The LGA to ORD crew loved the shirts, and the captain even came out to comment on it. As luck would have it he lives in Florida and I sat next to him on ORD to TPA. That made for a fun flight with some interesting stories.

— As I was walking through the concourse at ORD I got tons of comments on my shirt from crewmembers, and even more laughs.

Overall it was a great weekend filled with nearly 10,000 EQM’s, $400 in vouchers, and a skykit or two. Fun times!

Filed Under: Mileage Runs, United
  1. I’ll trade you a GGG shirt for a BRT shirt. Deal? :>)

    How did UA obtain a limo for you in NY? Do you mean a towncar?

    FYI, a few years ago I volunteered to fly JFK/SFO when they were having problems on LGA/DEN/LAX. The agent wouldn’t pay for a cab, but when I suggested the she up my bump offering, she complied to the tune of $50.

  2. Might have to take you up on that offer, hammer. 😉

    I meant a towncar, sorry about that. They called them to pick me up, gave me a voucher to give to them, and told me to wait outside for it, and sure enough it was there within minutes.

  3. Great job Lucky! And to think, I was excited about my lil’ old bump on MSP-LAX over on NW this morning. Pretty run of the mill, as compared to your story, though they did agree to bump me a full hour before departure. (Though it did short-circuit a DTW-MSP-LAX-SLC-DEN DL/NW combo, which I was sort of looking forward to…)

    And don’t feel bad about missing the upgrade chance…. I cleared 1/3 upgrades on this most recent NW/DL adventure. Sheesh.

  4. Yes I did, Justin. I spent something like $30 for this ticket (I used vouchers), and earned about 30,000 miles and $400 in vouchers.

  5. I notice you are college student? I am a grad student that flies every other month or so on United back and forth between SFO and BOS to see my wife (also a grad student in Boston).

    Is your ability to turn a profit what makes it possible for you to travel so much as just a college student? I often wish I was flying “home” to Boston every weekend, but such frequent travel just seems so costly.

  6. Justin, I don’t think lucky does this to make a profit. Sometimes crap happens. Lucky just likes to fly and if it’s on UA even better 🙂 Bumps happen, but it can be so unpredictable. In my 8 years of flying United I’ve been only bumped once and that’s after flying almost 670k revenue miles.

    Some FF junkies do some crazy stuff and traveling the most direct route isn’t usually one of them!

  7. Coins,

    Not sure that I can make Saturday in NYC.
    I have a medium and a large BRT t-shirt left. I wear a large. If I can make it, I’ll let you know. We can do a GGG/BRT exchange. :>)

  8. I was over the moon with my weekend travel experience because my upgrades cleared the whole way there, all of my flights were on time, loads were light, and my checked bag came out first with priority tags. I had no idea what Lucky was up to what with the bumpfest, meeting up with other FTers, hobnobbing with captains, seizing vouchers, and riding in towncars! Now I am jealous!

  9. As a newbie I would like to know the difference between “travel credits” & “vouchers” pls. And when u get the vouchers do u have to ask for a 1st class upgrade to be included w/ this/is it part of the deal. I noticed that u asked for the credits when u had a 5hr layover. And the towncar-did it drive u from one airport to another?

  10. mommafrica,

    United issues two types of compensation for denied boarding: travel credits and free ticket vouchers. The free ticket vouchers are good for travel within the lower 48, but they don’t accrue miles and aren’t upgradeable. Travel credits, on the other hand, are basically like money towards travel on United. You’ll get a voucher worth either $200, $400, or $600, depending on the length of your delay due to the bump, and you can apply that towards a ticket on United. Many of us prefer the travel credits because travel booked with them can accrue miles and is upgradeable.

    As for first class, you can sometimes negotiate first class on the next flight as part of your compensation. It all depends on the agent and how desperate they are for volunteers.

    Yes, the towncar was arranged to drive me from Kennedy to Laguardia. United arranged it and they gave me a $30 voucher to give to the driver.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions.

  11. Thanx alot Lucky. U cleared a whole lot up for me-especially the upgrade part. One other question. Do u know if Delta/AA uses the same credit system?

  12. This post was very helpful. I didn’t know that there were 2 different type of bumps. Is it suffice to say that it’s better to ask for the credits as opposed to the vouchers. I also read a blog where a person said that as soon as he reaches his gate he runs direct to the agents to request a VDB. How do the agents feel about this? W/ an IDB, is it hard to get the credits/vouchers?
    So far, the closest I ever came to a VDB was DL giving out a comp drink (how ridiculous & know I didn’t accept like everyone else). I don’t mean to ask too many ?’s but I need to know these things before my next flight. And more importantly to be like u someday.

  13. I’m always happy to answer questions, so ask away. 🙂

    Yes, in general travel credits are the better option. The exception might be if you’re offered $200 in travel credits. In that case a free ticket is probably worth more.

    If a flight seems to be oversold (based on the loads), I’ll typically approach the GA when I get to the gate and nicely ask whether s/he thinks they’ll need volunteers for today’s flight, and explain that I have a flexible schedule. If they say they might I just ask to be added to the list, and if they say no I just say thank you and walk away.

    With an IDB they’ll typically try to offer you vouchers since the alternative is cash.

  14. Do u have a choice in choosing the credits/the voucher/ must u take what is offered? In other words, can I say to the GA what r my chances of a “free voucher.” How do u know if the flight is oversold? Do u ask this as u check-in?

  15. They can choose to give you one form of compensation or another. Just ask for what they’re offering (they’ll usually say a free ticket), and then later ask nicely if they could offer travel credits instead. As for seeing if the flight is oversold, you can check via the airline’s website directly to see how many more seats they’re selling, which is a good indicator. If they’re not selling anymore seats they’re sold out, and if they’re only selling a few more seats there’s a chance they’re already oversold.

    I made another post a while back talking about the best way to negotiate with agents. It can be found here:

  16. That was a heck of a blog (great).SkyKit-definitely something new for me. What is an “e-certificate?”
    When I went to Mexico, a major hurricane was on the way. The airport there was overcrowded b/c planes were dropping off people even though they weren’t supposed to. A DL agent graciously put me on an earlier flight w/out my asking her to. After that I spent many hrs in a Texas airport. Should I have been comped for that/does the weather supercede this delay in Texas?

  17. An e-certificate is basically an electronic voucher which is good for a certain amount of $$$ off a ticket. For example, UA issues e-certs as compensation.

    In your situation you shouldn’t have been comped, since weather is outside of DL’s control.

  18. If ur phoned at home & told ur being put on a later flight, can u be compensated for this & how? If its an hour/2/4, how does this work?

  19. It depends on the circumstances, mommafrica. In general, unless it’s a substantial delay (like 24 hours), you won’t get compensated if you’re still at home. Also, chances are that if they call you the delay was outside of their control, like weather, the plane being stuck somewhere else, etc. You can always write the airlines and hope for something, but chances are you won’t get much.

  20. lucky,
    If I do LAX/BOS run same day turn around
    And what if I miss the return BOS/LAX due to my inbound late arrival.
    Would UA pay for hotel and reschedule for next day free of charge?

  21. @ first — If you’re on the same record they will protect you on the next available flight. As far as hotels go, it all depends on the cause of the delay. If it’s caused by something outside of United’s control and you’re not a 1K you’ll probably be stuck paying for your own hotel, though.

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